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Peres in bike helmet with children370.(Photo by: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Cyclists to ride in support of safety bill
Peres and bike riders from around the country inaugurate cycling path, part of nationwide trail, in Mitzpe Ramon.
Cyclists around the country will take to the nation’s roads on Friday morning, in a mass effort to promote a bike safety bill that will be discussed in the Knesset next week.

Signed and supported by 43 MKs, the bill aims to better regulate bike safety and comfort for Israel’s some 350,000 cyclists by improving path infrastructure as well as encouraging bike storage and showering facilities at work places. Voting on the issue will occur in the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs on Sunday, and then in the Knesset on Tuesday – on Knesset Environment Day.

“The widespread, bipartisan legislative support, the atmosphere that encourages the promotion of equal solutions for everyone that will increase accessibility and will reduce gaps, and the great effort that was invested in reaching agreements with ministries produces a sense of cautious optimism about the prospects of passing the bill this year,” said Yotam Avizohar, head of the Israel for Bicycles organization.

“The mobilization of social, environmental, health and student organizations as well as members of the greater public is definitely encouraging.”

Rides are set to take place on Friday in Jerusalem, Ramat Gan and other cities, according to the organization. In the capital, an affiliated organization called Critical Mass Jerusalem will be conducting a group ride at noon that day in support of the bill, starting at the old Mashbir plaza in downtown Jerusalem and ending at the Knesset.

“This is important for us cyclists in Israel – passing a law that will bring Israel light years ahead in the field of bicycle transportation,” a statement from Critical Mass said.

The organization has encouraged those who are frustrated by the inability to bring bikes on the light rail, the lack of showers in workplaces and the need to maneuver through traffic jams and pedestrians to join in the Friday mass event.

On Monday, hi-tech employees living in Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon, Kfar Saba, Ra’anana, and other nearby cities, participated in an Israel for Bicycles “Bike to Work” event and rode to their workplaces in Herzliya.

According to the text of the bill, the legislation aims to “encourage and increase the use of bicycles for transportation, for public health and environmental protection, by creating a safe and comfortable bike ride, integrating [bikes into] existing transportation systems and creating economic incentives to encourage the use of bicycles.”

The bill would allow for cyclists to bring their bikes on public transportation without additional fares and would require inter-city buses that transport 40 or more people to include a trunk or storage implement that would enable the transport of bikes. Transit vehicles designed to transport 100 or more people should have enough space to allow for one bike per 100 seats, the bill says.

As far as workplace storage and cleanup go, any building of at least 2,000 square meters used for offices, commercial, industrial or educational purposes would be required to provide changing spaces for cyclists. Buildings would be required to provide bicycle parking spaces, as per the regulations to be prescribed by the Interior Ministry.

A critical component of the bill is the creation of economic incentives for employers to encourage their workers to bike to the office. It also includes detailed guidelines for municipalities on constructing and safely maintaining bike paths.

In other cycling news, President Shimon Peres received a “presidential helmet” on Wednesday morning as he inaugurated a bike trail in Mitzpe Ramon. Joining Peres at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority event were cyclists from around the country.

The new bike trail is part of a nationwide 300-km. trail.

Israel doesn’t have much width geographically, said Peres, but throughout its length, it does have the most beautiful, breathtaking, unmatched views. No crater in the world can equal that of Mitzpe Ramon, and no bike trail can equal the unique trail that was just inaugurated, the president added.

Cycling is a wonderful sport, he said, because it allows riders to see the beauty of the country at eye level, and now cyclists from all over the world can come and enjoy the Israel experience.

Peres, who rode a motor bike in his youth, said that he would have loved to join the cyclists on an initial bike ride on the 38-km. trail, but would have to be content with just the inauguration ceremony.
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