Electric Bike Cyclists Face $70 Fine for Riding on Tel Aviv Sidewalks

Municipality takes action following sharp rise in fatalities and injuries involving electric bike riders and pedestrians in 2015.

People riding on a Sidewalk in Tel Aviv.
Tomer Appelbaum

Cyclists in Tel Aviv will be fined 250 shekels ($66) if they are caught riding on the sidewalk and not in designated bike lanes, the municipality said on Sunday, with the police focusing primarily on electric bikes.

The municipality added that 1,000-shekel fines will be doled out for other violations by cyclists, including running a red light or riding against traffic, using a cell phone while riding, and interfering with pedestrians at a crosswalk. Moreover, policemen will have the right to deflate the tires or confiscate the battery of an electric bike ridden by anyone under 16.

The new regulations will be enforced after the Passover holiday. The police will enforce them initially, although municipal inspectors will accompany them. This is because legislation giving inspectors authority in this area has yet to be passed. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan proposed a bill three months ago that would give local inspectors enforcement authority against those riding bikes on the sidewalk.

The municipality has launched a publicity campaign aimed at warning cyclists about the plans, including billboards, sidewalk markings and flyers. City hall is also calling on pedestrians not to walk on the bike paths.

The enforcement campaign is being launched following numerous bike-pedestrian accidents that have occurred on sidewalks. According to data compiled by Prof. Kobi Peleg, director of the National Center for Trauma and Emergency Medicine, the number of people injured in accidents involving electric bicycles over the past four years has skyrocketed: in 2015, four people were killed in such accidents and 483 were injured, compared to 16 injuries in 2012. Some 10 percent of those hospitalized suffered critical or serious injuries. Half of the pedestrians and a quarter of the riders injured were children under 13.

Hagit Urian, who started a Facebook page called “Taking Back Tel Aviv’s Sidewalks for Pedestrians,” welcomed the announcement.

“Even when there’s a bike path and even when the road is empty, they ride on the sidewalk. We need enforcement first and foremost,” she said. Still, she noted, the move won’t be enough to prevent the dangerous friction between riders and pedestrians. “There’s no way in the world that they’ll be able to put a policeman at every point all the time. Wherever there’s no riding infrastructure and no inspectors or policemen, they’ll go up on the sidewalks.”

However, Israel Bicycle Association director Yotam Avizohar says enforcement is not the answer. “There has to be safe infrastructure for electric bike riders that is separate from pedestrian and vehicular traffic,” he said.

“There’s no magic solution – electric bike riders have to ride somewhere,” he added. “Instead of giving 250 shekel fines to bike riders, the state should fine the transportation minister for not creating appropriate infrastructure and, in essence, abandoning bike riders to their fate.”