Knesset could spike bill requiring cyclists wear helmets

Some cyclists prefer to do without helmets in town, saying they are a nuisance to carry around – and also mess up hairstyles.

By JUDY-SIEGEL ITZKOVICH
July 14, 2011 04:37
2 minute read.
Cyclists

bikers 521. (photo credit: Shai Giterman)

 
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Adults will probably be exempt from wearing bicycle helmets while riding on urban roads and bike paths after the Knesset Economics committee on Wednesday sent a bill to that effect for a second and third reading.

The committee, headed by MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen, voted down a request by MKs Rachel Adatto, Ophir Akunis and Hamad Amer to keep the existing law requiring everyone on wheels to wear protective helmets, whether in urban or interurban areas.

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The initiator of the bill, MK Sheli Yacimovich, together with fellow MKs Dov Henin, Muhammad Barakei, Hanna Sweid and Afo Agbaria, were allegedly persuaded by companies that rent out bicycles in Tel Aviv – and by amateur cyclists – to forgo the national requirement for helmets to be worn in all areas.

Some cyclists prefer to do without helmets in town, saying they are a nuisance to carry around – and also mess up hairstyles. Companies that rent out bikes were concerned they would lose customers who didn’t want to carry helmets to work and elsewhere.

The MKs presented their bill in February.

It raised the ire of Beterem, the National Council for Child Safety and Health, and senior public health experts, who argued that Yacimovich’s bill would cost many lives. They stressed that wearing bicycle helmets had been proven both in Israel and abroad to reduce the loss of life and serious injuries that occur in bicycle and other two-wheeled-vehicle accidents.

Shama-Hacohen argued on Wednesday that bicycle riding “should be encouraged for its health benefits, for the reduction in air pollution and the easing of traffic and parking problems.”

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Amer reacted by saying it was crucial for bike riders to wear helmets at all times, wherever their location.

“I cannot visualize a situation in which a father – who must serve as an example to his children – won’t wear a helmet, but his child will,” Amer said. “In 2010, 17 people died while riding bicycles without a helmet that could have saved their lives. Falling off a bike can be fatal. Discussion of the Yacimovich bill must therefore be reopened.”

At the end of Wednesday’s debate, six MKs voted in favor of Yacimovich’s bill, while only two – Amer and MK Yariv Levin – opposed it.

Safety helmets are the only means of protecting the head in an accident.

Beterem declared it was very disappointed by the Economics Committee’s decision. The safety organization said there had been a significant increase in the number of bike riders in recent years; by amending the law requiring the wearing of helmets by riders of all ages and in every location, “we are liable to see an increase in head injuries and deaths” among these riders.

“We call on bike riders of all ages to wear safety helmets at all times and in all places, both for their own safety and to serve as a good example to their children,” Beterem said.

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