Road safety advocate Mordechai Feder warned on Wednesday that amending a law requiring adult cyclists to wear helmets, will put lives at risk. Feder issued the warning in light of a Knesset initiative aiming to do just that.

According to Feder, who is the chairman of Metuna, a volunteer road safety organization, exempting adult urban bikers from wearing helmets will not only cause lives to be lost but will also set a bad example for children.

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Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich and Hadash MK Dov Henin are sponsoring the proposed change.

Feder said the legislation was motivated by a desire to facilitate plans by private companies to rent bikes in Tel Aviv, an initiative that he said is supported by Mayor Ron Huldai. The bill has received support from the government and many MKs, including Science and Technology Committee chairman Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) and Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism). Knesset Economics Committee chairman Carmel Shamah-Hacohen (Likud) also voted for the new proposal when it was approved for its second and third (final) readings, subject to another session for debate.

Strong advocates of retaining the current, tougher, law are Kadima MK Rachel Adatto and Israel Beiteinu MK Hamad Amar.

Advocates of the bill say relaxing the requirement will encourage more people to use bicycles.

They expressed concerns that these drawbacks will harm bike rental initiatives, which are touted for their potential to reduce urban congestion and pollution.

Health Ministry chief statistician Dr. Gary Ginsberg predicted that if the current law is changed, the impact on adult urban bicyclists would be disastrous. He told the Knesset Economics Committee recently that by 2014, there would be 18 more deaths, more than 2,000 more hospitalizations, 6,334 more emergency room visits, 19,383 more ambulatory visits to general practitioners, 297 additional rehabilitation efforts and 36 lifelong disabilities if the bill becomes law.

The cost in medical expenses is estimated at NIS 210 million.

Metuna says that efforts can be made to have the existing law enforced and that there is no contradiction between bicycle rental initiatives and the requirement to wear helmets.

The Finance Ministry has neither voiced its concern about the anticipated additional deaths nor indicated its opposition to the proposed bill due to additional health and rehabilitation costs.

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