Two pedestrians, a jogger and a bicyclist who were injured by bike riders in Tel Aviv are suing the municipality for NIS 2.5 million, claiming the city is failing to protect those who simply follow the rules of the road.
The plaintiffs filed their case with the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, arguing that the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality encourages the development of a cycling culture in the city without ensuring suitable enforcement mechanisms.
While the city’s plans have led to a dramatic increase in riders of both traditional and electric bicycles, these programs have simultaneously reduced the space available to pedestrians and are causing “real mortal danger,” the lawsuit argues.
“Many accidents have occurred in shared [biker and pedestrian] spaces, and pedestrians are forced to examine their surroundings with an eagle eye,” states the suit, which was filed by the Kaner & Co. law firm of Ramat Gan.
The first of the four plaintiffs is Rana Goren, 68, who alighted from a bus on Ibn Gvriol Street in the city on a December morning in 2014.
There is a bike lane right next to the bus stop, making it impossible for those getting off the buses to discern when a cyclist might pass by, the suit says.
Goren was struck by a cyclist in a hit-and-run incident and injured her shinbone. She still suffers from the pain of the incident, particularly when walking and climbing stairs, and will have to undergo further treatments.
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In November 2013, Tzila Elazar, 73, was walking on one of the paths in Yarkon Park in a lane marked exclusively for pedestrians but without any physical barrier between that lane and the biking section.
However, because trees were blocking part of the bike lane, a cyclist entered the pedestrian walkway without reducing speed and struck Elazar, the lawsuit says. Elazar suffered from several broken bones and bruises at the time, and is still limited in her daily activities as a result of her injuries.
The third plaintiff, 42-yearold Ludmila Gorlick, was riding her bike in January 2014 on a marked path in Yarkon Park, when a group of adolescents on electric bikes charged at her from the opposite direction, causing her to fall and lose consciousness, the suit states. Gorlick is still undergoing physical therapy for her injuries, suffers from pain, and struggles at work.
Meanwhile, Victoria Koren, 35, was running in the Yarkon Park in November 2014 on a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists. Suddenly, according to the lawsuit, an e-bike struck her from behind while trying to pass her, injuring her back. Koren still suffers from a number of issues as a result, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, exhaustion and weakness. She still has not returned to work, the lawsuit says.
In response to the case, the Tel Aviv Municipality said it had not yet received the lawsuit, but stressed that “the issue of pedestrian safety is a priority for the city.”
“In recent years, electric bicycles that travel quickly began being used, and unfortunately, despite repeated requests from the municipality, we have no enforcement powers against them,” the statement said.
“In our city, there is a welcome increase in green transportation, with the encouragement of the municipality and enormous financial investments in infrastructure,” it continued.
“The municipality is working on solutions that will ensure a clear physical separation among users. It should be noted that Tel Aviv is Israel’s first municipality to pave a network of bike paths extending for some 140 km.”
Also relevant to the cycling sector on Wednesday, the Knesset passed, in a preliminary reading, a bill proposed by MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu), which would enable traffic police to give tickets to violators on electric bicycles and scooters.
If the bill goes on to pass in further readings, the violations will carry a NIS 300 fine and include holding a phone, sending an SMS or reading one while riding; using an electric bicycle or scooter while under age 14; having a passenger under the age of 14; and riding on a sidewalk that does not have a bike lane. Stores selling the electric bicycles and scooters will be required to give buyers a document with the laws listed on it.Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.
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