Rabbi Gafni: Electric Bike Riders Should Be Licensed

A man rides an Electric scooter on a bicycle Trail in Tel Aviv, on December 2, 2015. Photo by Yossi Zamir/Flash90
A man rides an electric scooter on a bicycle trail in Tel Aviv. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM - In the past four years, accidents involving electric bikes have risen some 700 percent, according to Israeli safety organization Beterem – and in response, United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni has proposed that electric bike riders be licensed, like any other “driver.” In addition to the license requirement, the bikes will be off limits to children under 16.

To get a license, a rider will have to participate in a safety course, and take a test showing ability to ride safely. The courses will be taught by private organizations who bid on a government tender. Course costs would be limited to NIS 100 per month. The license would be good for the life of the rider, but could be taken away if the rider commits traffic offenses.

Although there are many positive aspects to electric bikes, said Rabbi Gafni, “including lowering air pollution, helping to lighten traffic, saving money and time, and promoting physical activity, riding them without training or learning the rules of the road and safety regulations can be dangerous, both to riders and passersby.” Over 1,400 people were injured in accidents involving the bikes in 2015, he added.

Transport Ministry officials, police, and other groups have increased their war against electric bikes over the past year. Last December the Ministry instituted new rules whereby enforcement agents began seizing bikes that can travel 25 kilometers (15 miles) per hour or faster, as well as “souped up” bikes that were changed by purchasers to go faster. According to Ministry figures, the vehicles were responsible for hundreds of accidents last year, with many of the accidents occurring on sidewalks, where many of the electric bike and scooter riders insist on riding.

According to the law, electric bikes that travel under 25 kph and have motors smaller than 250 watts are “street legal” without any further licensing or inspection. All the electric bikes sold in the country adhere to these standards, but many of the purchasers of these vehicles, seeking to go faster, have their bikes “upgraded” at workshops to go faster than the legal limit. The Ministry has been taking evidence from owners of these vehicles to track down the locations of these workshops, with the intention of closing them down.

Under current rules, an electronic bike is defined as one that can travel up to 25 kilometers per hour; beyond that, the vehicle is classified as a moped, which requires a license.