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Scooter safety: A Tel Aviv resident’s honest thoughts

CM 11/08/2021 1


Background
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Electric scooters, or as we call them, korkinets. They’re fun, fresh, funky and “young,” provide a fast, easy, and cheap transportation solution in traffic- and construction-ridden Tel Aviv, and are eco-conscious. 
So how is it they’ve become a menace? 
I should note that this piece equally applies to all vehicles which belong on the bike lane (electric bikes etc.) and that not all scooter riders ride poorly or illegally. 

The problem 

There are two main reasons why I, a pedestrian on the streets of Tel Aviv, have serious issues with them. 

Number one – most importantly, they negatively impact every person on the road. They are of course a nuisance to car drivers, who drive in fear on a daily basis trying not to kill korkinet riders as they weave in and out of traffic. 
But my focus is on what I like to call “the weakest link on the street” – the pedestrians. 
Most of the time you will find korkinets riding down the sidewalk reserved (or so we thought) for pedestrians. They are at best disruptive and at worst super dangerous, as so many riders do not look out for pedestrians and treat the road like it is theirs alone. Almost every pedestrian I know, myself included, has been hit, including one friend who permanently hurt her wrist by putting it in front of her body in an effort to protect herself from a scooter riding right into her, full steam ahead.
Walking down the street nowadays often makes you feel like you are part of a (dangerous) video game, as you walk along and try to dodge korkinets as you go. They come out of nowhere, they ding-ding their bell or scream at you to move, often surprising you as they wisp past you, the pedestrian, acting like a sitting, or in this case, walking, duck. 
Gone are the days when taking an evening stroll was an effortless pleasure or walking your dog without a korkinet coming between the two of you wasn’t a thing, or maybe even listening to music without worrying you will miss the infamous ding-ding of the bell before they (almost) hit you. You need to be alert and ready to move out of the way, lest you be hit. While this may seem trivial to some, in an overpopulated city that can often feel like a fast-paced pressure cooker, turning the sidewalks into another stress zone only adds to the existing tension. Let’s face it, when living in a country under threat of pending war, walking down the street should not be on your list of concerns. 
They are also everywhere: Apparently scooter apps have set places where korkinets riders must leave their korkinets once they are done using them, but I am yet to see any semblance of order when it comes to a neatly discarded korkinet. You can find them on bus lanes, entrances to buildings, outside the supermarket – you name it, you will find one there. Once I couldn’t get into my building because there was a pile of three of them blocking the gate, one on top of the other. There is no space for korkinets on the street – moving or stowed. 
Number two – they aren’t great for the korkinet rider. I will keep this one short, as those who ride them should know what they are getting into. Korkinets are dangerous. If I had to guess I would say that 90% of my friends who ride korkinets have injured themselves. Two of them have had to undergo operations, one of the two couldn’t walk properly for over six months and now has metal through his legs, one of them had to have his face stitched up because it was cut in half (yep, the scar is super cool). On a less serious note, when I moved here 10-plus years ago, I remember Tel Aviv being a city of walkers. In a high-density city where everything is accessible, the city is flat and the weather is usually pleasant, people used to walk. Now, people are trading their otherwise healthy legs for scooters, which, in a world where most people sit in front of a computer all day to make ends meet, means that often the only exercise some of these people got is no longer. 

Who is to blame? 

I get it. People are always looking for more efficient ways to get around. When public transport isn’t great, the roads are extremely congested, and traffic is a nightmare – the alternative looks pretty good. And of course, there are environmental incentives – no petrol/gas, a green way to get from A to Z. 
The municipality woke up to the ever-growing problem of scooters, realizing it has to do something. There were bike/scooter/anything-goes lanes for years, for example on Ibn Gvirol, but over the past few months the municipality has taken this to another level, creating numerous bike lanes across the city. This might seem like the solution, right? Wrong. 
Firstly, korkinet riders still need to take into consideration pedestrians who need to walk across bike lanes. 
Secondly, more often than not, even on streets where there are both sidewalks and bike lanes, you can find korkinets riding on the sidewalk literally 10 centimeters to the left of the bike lane. The municipality spent, I don’t know how much money, to enable scooters to ride safely around and they still often do not stay in their lanes. 
Thirdly, no one seems to know the rules when there are no bike lanes. Well here they are. The rules include, among others – no riding on the sidewalk, riders must wear helmets and not using your phone while you ride. Without going through each and every rule, you will have to take my word for it that pretty much no one is keeping to any of them. 

What can be done? 

We have bike lanes, we have rules, what we don’t seem to have is enforcement. 
Like most problems in Israel, it seems like disasters waiting to happen are only retroactively addressed (think Meron on Lag Ba’omer). 
The municipality must employ more inspectors to give out tickets. There are some, but not enough. Given this is pretty much the greatest public safety crisis we are facing in Tel Aviv for both riders and pedestrians, we need to make sure people ride safely, and if they don’t, they are penalized. We have the manpower – we saw this when police officers took to the streets fining people for not wearing masks outside. We could also do with the revenue to cover the costs of the construction of the bike lanes. 
Perhaps korkinets should come with license plates, making it easier for the municipality to hand out riding infringement – they could use cameras on sidewalks and at red lights. Maybe riders should first have to obtain scooter licenses, so they can learn how to ride safely, and if they don’t they will earn demerit points, just like with car drivers.
Maybe the municipality could work on disincentivizing korkinets by making sure we have better public transport. 
I am not sure what the best solution is, but I do know that this is problem isn’t going away any time soon, especially with the municipality’s enabling policies and ignoring tactics. What we can do is band together and contact the Tel Aviv Municipality. We should tell them our stories of being hit. We should let them know which streets are filled with korkinet lawbreakers. We should offer suggestions as to how to tackle the situation. 
We should tell them there is no longer a place for us in Tel Aviv and demand protection for the weakest link on the street – the pedestrian. 
And for the Jerusalem readers, now that your municipality has introduced city bikes, you should take note of these issues before it becomes a major problem in the capital as well. Yours truly, 
An avid pedestrian Those interested in working on solutions to this issue may contact the writer at smoddel@hotmail.com. 
The writer is an in-house attorney working in a global high tech company in Tel Aviv. Originally from Sydney, Australia, she has been living in Tel Aviv for over 10 years and is a pedestrian enthusiast. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

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CM

The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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