Hundreds to protest lack of gov't support for urban biking - in thongs

Ministerial Committee has decided not to support bill to encourage bike-riding as transportation.

Naked Bike Ride 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Naked Bike Ride 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
It's summer time, and even the environmental protesters are stripping down. The Israel Bicycle Association and the Tel Aviv Rollers are staging a protest ride from the Tel Aviv cinematheque to the Russian Bear Club at 10 p.m. on Tuesday to oppose the lack of government support for urban bike riding. Since it's Tel Aviv, the protest will have a unique twist - the riders will all be wearing thongs, and the final stop will be a thong party at the club. Two weeks ago, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided not to throw the government's support behind the bill to encourage bike-riding as transportation. The bill would mandate the inclusion of bike trails in urban plans and would allow bikes to be taken on intercity public transportation like trains and buses. It would also smooth the way for specially designated parking areas for bikes, and incentives to employers and employees who made the bicycle a primary form of transportation to work. The bill suggested a budget of NIS 100 million to build bike lanes and parking areas. If the ministerial committee does not support the bill, the coalition in the Knesset won't support it. The bill was first proposed in the last Knesset, where it was approved for a first reading by 66 MKs. Not content to let the matter drop after the ministers declined to support it, the Israel Bicycle Association, which had a large part in crafting the proposal, has pushed for the bill to be considered by the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee on Tuesday morning. Also up for discussion soon is a correction to the Helmet Law that would require helmets for all riders 16 and under and intercity riders, but would let adults decide for themselves whether to wear helmets for local riding. Since the original law, which mandated the requirement for bicycle-riders to wear helmets, went into effect in 2007, there have been more traffic accidents involving cyclists, and fewer cyclists on the road, according to the Israel Bicycle Association and Beterem, the National Center for Child Safety and Health. The best way to keep bikers safe is not through requiring a helmet, but through making new separate bike lanes, the association contends. The correction will be discussed by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday. "In addition to the two bills currently being discussed, there is also the issue of the government decision from 2008. That decision put NIS 100m. behind bike paths, but since the Tourism Ministry was given charge of the task, the only thing that will be built is paths through the nature reserves and open spaces, rather than in the cities," bicycle association head Yotam Avizohar told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "The government doesn't seem to really understand what biking is - a daily means of transportation for hundreds of people. It's not just a hobby for a select few mountain bikers," he continued. "In the three countries which have a similar Helmet Law to ours - Australia, New Zealand and South Africa - there's been a sharp dropoff in riders. Whereas there isn't such a sweeping law in Denmark or Holland, yet they are serious biking countries," Avizohar added. While disgusted with the lack of support from the government, Avizohar said his organization was actively seeking to craft legislation that met all the parties' requirements. For example, he said, clauses in the bill to encourage biking allow the transportation minister to limit when bikes can be brought onto trains and buses, in consideration of heavy usage times.