Memorial ride for cyclists killed in accident draws 2,000

Organized by the Israeli Cycling Federation, the ride was a protest against unsafe road conditions and dangerous driving culture.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
August 21, 2011 22:20
3 minute read.
Memorial ride for Shalom Grossman and Yitzhak Simo

bike 311. (photo credit: Eyal Dolin)

 
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A ribbon of more than 2,000 cyclists stretched out along Highway 3 on Saturday, as thousands gathered for a memorial ride to mark the week anniversary of the death of two cyclists, Shalom Grossman and Yitzhak Simon, who were hit and killed during a ride on August 13.

Organized by the Israeli Cycling Federation, the ride on Saturday was a protest against unsafe road conditions and a dangerous Israeli driving culture.

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Simon and Grossman were killed and five other cyclists were injured when an 18-year-old driver fell asleep at the wheel and swerved into a group of cyclists out for a weekly ride on Highway 3 last week.

The driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but said he was simply tired after spending the night with friends in Ashdod.

“We want to create a big mass, we don’t want craziness, we don’t want to encourage opposition, we just want to ride, we want awareness, we want every driver that leaves from their houses or places where they’re hanging out with friends, to know that there are riders on the road, that we’re here and that we’re here to stay,” the Federation said on their website announcing the event.

“I don’t have a father anymore, my grandfather has no peace, my mother has lost her partner for life, we have a huge vacuum in our lives,” Nir Grossman, the son of Shalom Grossman, told Army Radio on Saturday.

“I am riding and I will continue to ride carefully. Dad would not want us to stop.”



He added, “Riding a bike is a right, not a consideration.”

Yotam Avizohar, the head of the Israel Bikes Association, called the lack of bike safety a “systematic problem” and noted that all of the relevant bodies – parents of new drivers, the Transportation Ministry, the National Roads Company, and the police – aren’t cooperating and are transferring the blame to other groups rather than taking action.

In the past decade, 35 bikers have been killed in accidents on the country’s highways. This figure does not include the high rate of bike accidents among foreign workers along smaller roads, which is a separate issue that IBA is also addressing, Avizohar said. Twelve of these deaths have been on Highway 4, Israel’s deadliest road for cyclists.

Avizohar pointed out that there is a “bikers' triangle” near Latrun, off Highway 1, which draws thousands of cyclists each weekend. He suggested police and the Transportation Ministry could take steps such as closing down one lane for cyclists, similar to other countries. Riding a bicycle on certain highways, such as Highway 1, is illegal, though cyclists are not always familiar which areas are allowed.

Avizohar suggested a large campaign, aimed at both cyclists and drivers, to explain where it is permitted to ride, and educating drivers how to behave around cyclists. He added that IBA was working on bringing a bill that would implement the United State’s “three feet law,” requiring drivers to stay at least three feet from cyclists at all times. In Israel, this distance would be lengthened to 1.5 meters.

Bike activists are often frustrated and feel that the relevant authorities are not taking biking safety into consideration when planning roads. “These are people that wake up at 5 a.m. and leave their warm beds, in the summer, in the cold winter, every week,” he said.

“They will continue to ride, we just want to make sure they can do so safely.”

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