Road-safety and accident-prevention groups predicted that the private member’s bill to allow adults not to wear safety helmets while biking within urban areas – which was approved by the Knesset late Wednesday night, before the MKs began their recess – would cause needless deaths and serious injuries.

Children and teens will continue to be required to wear protective gear everywhere, but adults only on inter-city roads.

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The law, approved last month by the Knesset Economics Committee, had been initiated by Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich, who took the side of amateur biking enthusiasts and commercial interests renting out bicycles in Tel Aviv and other areas who thought carrying helmets to and fro would be bad for business. MKs Rachel Adatto, Ophir Akunis and Hamad Amar fought against the amendment.

The law will go into effect when it is published in Reshumot, the official gazette.

The advocates of the amendment maintained that adult bikers should be able to decide for themselves whether to wear protective helmets in the city or not.

They argued that during the four years since passage of the original law requiring the wearing of helmets when cycling, National Road Safety Authority statistics showed that the wearing of helmets declined, with only 19 percent wearing them. But at the same time, the advocates said, road accidents involving bicycle riders actually declined.

Those against requiring helmets for adults in cities, led by Yotam Avizohar – director of the voluntary organization Israel For Bicycling, said the amendment was necessary to increase bike riding to and from work, reduce city traffic and cut air pollution. Helmets, he argued, would deter riders.

For this reason, the amendment was also supported by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz.

Bicycle riders said that ways can be made to increase safety with separate bicycle paths that do not get close to cars, trucks and buses.

Beterem, the National Center for Child Safety and Health, urged the adult bicycle- riding public to wear helmets at all times when riding despite the new law, and to make sure that their children do so as well.

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