Knesset panel seeks to make roads bicycle-friendly

A bill to encourage bicycle use is slated for discussion by the full Knesset floor after an Internal Affairs and Environment Committee meeting on Tuesday. The proposed law includes provisions to create bike-friendly roads, integration with the public transportation system, and economic incentives for biking to work. "This legislation is important strategically because we don't have anything that gives a national answer to congestion, air pollution, weight-gain and a lack of physical fitness," committee chairman Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines said in a statement. The legislation would require bike-stowing equipment on most intercity busses and sherut collective taxis, and parking facilities specifically for bicycles at all central bus stations. As the legislation stands now, all new and renovated roads would have to be bicycle-friendly. What was originally two bills, one from Hadash MK Dov Henin and a more comprehensive one from Likud MK Gilad Erdan, were combined at Tuesday's hearing. Henin was pleased to see the bill move forward. "This is already happening in many parts of the world and Israel shouldn't lag behind," he said. "The reason [for more bicycles] is it is part of the solution to many modern problems." While the MKs at the committee meeting were enthusiastic about the bill, they don't yet know its cost. Paz-Pines asked the Finance Ministry to estimate the expense in time for its first reading on the Knesset floor, which committee spokeswoman Valeria Gaslev said would take place in a few weeks. "Given the discussion from today, it looks positive," Gaslev said. Henin was also confident, saying that after Tuesday's hearing, the legislation will be held over even if there was an early election. He said his own bicycle use gave him the idea to bring advance the legislation, and that he had received help from many environmental groups in crafting it. "I use a bicycle as a means of transportation inside Tel Aviv," Henin said. "Being in Oxford for my first doctorate, I used a bicycle as my main means of transportation." Paz-Pines asked the committee to consider adding a clause to require bike safety education to the school curriculum. The Education Ministry is expected to give a more thorough response to the bill at a later stage in the legislative process, Gaslev said.