Nov 15 bike protest.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
There's no avoiding the impression that this country's motorcyclists have fallen in love with their struggle against higher insurance rates for two-wheelers. For months now they have been serially blocking major traffic arteries, invariably during rush hours.
Just last week they deliberately jammed all Tel Aviv entry points precisely when drivers and bus passengers hurried to work. Law enforcement's resolute effort to preempt the siege on central Israel's economic hub involved appealing to automobile drivers to avoid the roads (as if holding down jobs and providing services were dispensable luxuries).
As bikers from around the country converged at excruciatingly slow speeds on the city, bringing its usual early morning bustle to a chaotic halt, the police did little more than issue traffic tickets. A few days later, though, it was decided to cancel even these tickets - the most minimal penalty for impudent disregard of the law, the time and the welfare of others.
Besides recurrently causing inconvenience, loss of income and revenue, the motorcyclists' insolence for the law is dangerous, as evidenced at the Nahshon Junction last Sunday when a driver, attempting the bypass the gridlock, struck and seriously injured one of the protesters.
Does the issue at hand really merit putting lives at risk?
AT STAKE is only money, not much of it and no high-minded principle. Motorcycle insurance rates have been raised according to each individual biker's experience and road-safety record. The greater the number of violations, the higher the premiums. In extreme cases the hike may reach 25 percent. Moreover, mandatory insurance rates will be reduced by as much as 20% for motorcyclists who purchase higher personal liability policies. This hardly sounds untoward.
Bikers are involved in more accidents and cause others to crash as well. If they pay lower rates, the rest of us end up subsidizing them. The biker community, additionally, doesn't only consist of underprivileged moped and motor-scooter owners but also of owners of massive macho-machines, considerably more costly than the average family car. There is no reason they should impose higher rates on others.
Few are the Israeli car drivers who haven't barely avoided being sideswiped by a motorcyclist carelessly darting through traffic, weaving recklessly through lanes, passing on the right, knocking off side-mirrors, failing to wait for traffic lights to turn, taking daredevil detours on packed sidewalks and much more. If bikers really wish to pay lower insurance, they should begin by cleaning up their act.
Yet bewilderingly, their very self-serving extortion campaign on the highways has become a cause celebre. Populist MKs and other celebrity popularity-seekers are avidly cheering them on. Assorted trendsetters and their followers dutifully subscribe to the bon ton. It's hard to fathom why this particular pretext to brazenly flaunt the law should become all the rage and be indulged even in high places.
Legislators in particular, charged with formulating and preserving the rules by which all of us are expected to abide, need to ask themselves frankly what their reactions would have been were our cities blockaded by protesters of a different ilk. Odds are they would fulminate with outrage and demand speedy and efficient dispersal of the demonstrators. They would urge that all offenders be arrested and have the book thrown at them. This would be the case regardless of whichever grievance might fuel the lawlessness.
Indeed, whatever one thinks of the substance of ideologically inspired attempts to obstruct the flow of traffic, these were dealt with severely in the past - from the Zu Artzeinu anti-Oslo demonstrations to those by anti-disengagement activists. Idealistic preteen girls standing at the roadsides, whose participation in the protests sometimes wasn't fully ascertained, were jailed. Yet muscular motorcyclists looking out for their bank balances are coddled. Even demonstrating students have received far harsher treatment.
For the law to be respected, as it should be, it must be impartially applied. Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. Motorcyclists troubled by increased insurance premiums are certainly no exception.