It's time to enforce laws to monitor electric scooters - opinion

Electric scooters and motorcycles are a clear and present danger to riders and passengers, as well as to the public.

California-headquartered Bird's shared electric scooters  (photo credit: BIRD)
California-headquartered Bird's shared electric scooters
(photo credit: BIRD)

First, a couple of disclaimers:

This is not my usual turf, as far as the topic is concerned. Also, I do not air “dirty laundry,” if I can avoid it. However, there is a sliver of the population who endangers the public – and themselves – every day.

Bring up motorcycles, bikes, and scooters in conversation in Jerusalem and a torrent of stories will almost always ensue. They are everywhere, not just on the street. They are on sidewalks, in buildings, on pedestrian walkways, on park trails, and in playgrounds. Whether gas-powered or electric, the issue has been escalating.

While noise issues are fewer when considering electric-powered devices, these devices have propagated at an alarming rate. They are a clear and present danger to riders and passengers, as well as to the public.

On March 31, 2022, The Israel Government National Road Safety Authority stated: “About a quarter of road-accident injuries among those riding on electric vehicles are 16 to 24 years old. However, the ages of those being injured has been noticeably rising. Injuries occur in all age groups, even among 65-year-olds or older. In recent years, 17 electric-bike riders were killed on average in Israel including three electric-scooter riders.”

Gas-powered motorcycles, uniquely, contribute to pollution, both in sound and environmental considerations. Engineer Roi Gottlieb, director of noise prevention at the Environmental Protection Ministry, stated on November 28, 2021:

“Noise pollution from motorcycles is a growing phenomenon in recent years, and the Ministry of Environmental Protection receives many complaints about this. The reason for these unusual noises is that people deliberately replace the motorcycle’s exhaust or silencer, causing increased noise from the vehicles. We will continue to carry out such enforcement actions in order to improve the life quality of the residents.”

Our neighborhood “vroomsters” have reached something like Mach 1 by the sound of their engines in the middle of the night. The rules and regulations on the books do not seem to concern riders, whether on the streets or highways.

Pushing for the right-of-way

In Jerusalem, motorcycles and scooters vie with people for right of way. On sidewalks, I am aware of cases of motorcyclists “gently” pushing someone out of the way. Cyclists tend to use pedestrians as slalom poles. If you are taking a stroll, especially if you are deep in thought, one of these two-wheel wonders may startle you – or worse.

If you are waiting at a red light, you must expect any and all motorcyclists in the area to circumvent all the waiting traffic so that they can sit in front of the cars. They can get quite irate if you move your car in or out of the lane while they are doing this. It is like an unwritten law. Motorcycles go anywhere and do not wait in line.

I was surprised to find there are rules and regulations for bikes. For general bike rules from the Israel Bicycle Association, see “Cycling Laws in Israel” which includes such ideal notions as “Riding on the sidewalk is prohibited for both bicycles and electric scooters – NIS 250 fine.” Wow – right? Who knew?

There are some folks in a legitimate rush on these devices including emergency workers or deliverers of urgent messages. However, there are many food delivery people who race around on two wheels, trying to beat the clock for their hungry customers. I often find myself muttering, “He gave his life for pizza.” Or – perhaps a burger. In any case, I am pretty sure that the guys vrooming under our windows at night are just in it for sport.

Many motorcyclists are very kind in that they will slow down considerably as they follow you on a narrow path, or sidewalk, and wait for you to decide to levitate or jump to the side and let them through. However, the noise and the speed of these things are dangerous for children, the elderly, and other living things. As noted above, they are also dangerous to their riders.

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, discovered he could turn a city around by addressing “quality of life” issues. Midtown New York City has laws against unnecessary honking of horns. This would cut down on the cacophony heard in Jerusalem on any given day – not to mention the booming truck horns. 

According to the Prevention of Noise Law, one may not honk a car horn unless there is imminent danger. It would be great if this were generally known and enforced. At the very least, the supersonic jet sounds of revved-up engines should be curtailed, especially at night.

Enforce laws against driving these devices on walkways in parks and sidewalks. Establish and enforce noise decibel levels – especially at night. Raise the quality of life level for all.

The author has served in several capacities in building Israel-US trade relations, including that of trade commissioner/director of trade for the government of Israel to the United States. He currently lives in Jerusalem, Israel, and writes about things that make him angry.