Risk your life by walking on the streets of Jaffa. That’s how I feel when I walk out the front gate of our home. The plague of inexperienced scooter drivers has hit the city. Until not long ago most of the companies would lock the devices coming from Tel Aviv so the only things we had to worry about were getting knocked over by a moped. Those things are as powerful as motorcycles.
Now the pay-as-you go scooters are scattered here and there (a few companies like Wind are new) and I need to trip over them on the sidewalks or ride around them after a knucklehead parks them on the bike lane here in Jaffa. I am honestly thinking about how I can throw them into the sea. But they are heavy.
Worse than in a bike lane is parking them in an actual parking spot meant for cars so if you happen to find a free spot in Tel Aviv you will need to find a way to move the scooter without it screaming back at you. And it will if you touch it.
I think it’s important that cities give their people access to smark, safe, cheap and efficient means of mobility. Jerks who own cars who drive to work from Tel Aviv to closeby cities like Herzliya say on Facebook OMG I see the train beside me. It goes right from Tel Aviv to Herzliya! Why do people complain about public transport? But what they don’t understand is the last mile. (Does Israel Rail let bikes on or not, some days, some days no. Check the times. Who can keep track?)
Most people ride those dangerous mopeds and electric bikes because they have problems getting around on the last mile. It’s not the big distances that are hard to cover –– it’s the ones in between. It’s really hard getting to Israel’s central bus station. It’s hard to get there and it’s hard to wait half an hour until your bus comes in. It’s not central at all and no one wants to be there except for refugees who enjoy lost cost housing. It’s also hard getting from one of the Israeli train stations to your home.
I remember taking the train back in the day from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Sure I got to what is technically the outer limits of Jerusalem, but it was so far out of the city that it cost me $25 to get into the city by taxi. There were no buses at the time. So while Israel does have public transportation it is so highly inefficient and not accessible that people would rather scoot around on electric bikes and mopeds rather than take the train or a bus. They are dangerous (Is Israel electric moped hell or heaven).
What’s for sure is that anyone using an electric motorcycle –– (classified as an e-bike – heck I have even seen golf carts on the bike lanes here) or an electric scooter–– needs a license and some form of insurance. They go about 70 miles an hour. It’s impossible that these drivers are knocking grannies and kids off sidewalks and are not liable for any of their actions. Even in Switzerland where I lived 20 years ago we needed insurance to ride a regular bike around town. Israelis can learn from Switzerland and litigious United States that injuries on the road should be compensated. People driving alternative transport should be afraid. Not us the pedestrians. There is a whole legal industry around this motorcycle and moped stuff and hey I would feel safer if people scooting around me and brushing me off the sidewalks had insurance policies. I hardly let my kids on the sidewalks for fear of being killed.
But yeah we have to see both sides. I feel for the people who need local transportation but the best solution I can think about for the city is to ban electric mopeds and scooters on bike lanes and sidewalks –- with a zero tolerance rule and mindset. Cyclists and moms with kids like myself while rarely drive more than 15 miles an hour on the bike lane can continue to use them safely like they are intended. And people who were amazing to this country, lost their life. New policies could save the life of the next Motti Morel.
As for bikes, I use my legs to move the wheels, giving me exercise, caution and connection to the machine that I am propelling forward. It seems like electric cyclists have very little experience and they are apt to do more dangerous things without turning signals or adherence to basic safety laws and concern for other people on the road.
Jaffa is I have to say getting better. Before it was Subaru cars driving on the sidewalks. They are harder to negotiate with. I think all the problems we have in Tel Aviv can be solved with some more policing and smart environmentalists from Holland on the team. But don’t ask this guy.
We are supposed to be getting a rapid light rail train in the next few years in Jaffa connecting us to Tel Aviv. That’s a few bad years coming where all bets are off and there is complete lawlessness on the road. Is that seriously the best we can do? Yes it’s a great city, but it’s not safe. Help us out Ron Huldai. Please.