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Employees who ride their bike to work will be entitled to tax credits. Their employers will be required to provide them with showers in the workplace, and local authorities will create bike paths, according to a bill to encourage the use of bicycles that is being drawn up by MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), who chairs the Knesset environmental-social lobby.

Khenin touts bicycles as the best environment-friendly solution to urban transportation. Bike riding, he says, does not pollute the environment, promotes good heath and physical fitness, lightens traffic and decreases the need to earmark land for parking. In light of all of the above, he says, it is important to encourage the use of bicycles, and create appropriate infrastructure to this end.

"Nonetheless," says Khenin, "the state treats bicyclists as a public hazard, and the state government and most local authorities do nothing to increase use of bicycles in urban settings."

Among other things, Khenin proposes legislation of special safety laws to protect cyclists and an advertising campaign and a national Transportation Ministry project to promote the use of bikes.

Khenin was critical of a newly passed law on the wearing of helmets. A bill sponsored by MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) mandating the use of helmets passed its second and third reading three weeks ago.

The new proposal requires bicycle riders to wear helmets at all times when riding a bike, but that rule would not apply to minors.

Referring to the law, Khenin commented that "instead of encouraging the use of bicycles, the legislator has chosen to mark an entire sector of the population a moving target, and require the protection of a helmet at all times and in any situation.

In another bill, Erdan proposes that bicycle riders be required to wear helmets in certain circumstances to lessen the danger of head injury, such as in races, cross-country riding, intercity riding and riding with children under 14 years of age.