(Image source: Bird’s electric scooters are getting more rugged to handle heavy use)
From tech workers to hipster moms, the electric scooter is fast becoming the new transportation mode of choice of Tel Aviv residents.
Bird, founded in 2017, has broken the record for the fastest company to achieve Unicorn status. A little over a year since its launch, Bird is already worth some $2 billion, and is active in more than 40 cities worldwide, including Tel Aviv, where it launched in mid-August. Tel Aviv is the second non-U.S. city to host Bird, after Paris.
Bird offers an app-based service that lets users locate, unlock and use electric scooters spread around a certain city. Bird’s scooters can be parked at any legal location, without requiring special docking stations.
In Tel Aviv, Bird will first be offered through Tel Aviv University’s student union, and will gradually expand to other parts of the city and the country as the average number of rides per vehicle grows, the company said in a statement.
On the other hand as the number of fatal and nonfatal accidents involving electric bicycles and e-scooters in Israel rises, the country’s Ministry of Transportation plans to implement new restrictions on the use of such vehicles.
The new regulations were announced just one week after 17-year-old Ari Nesher, son of Israeli film director Avi Nesher, was killed in a hit and run. 20-year-old Israeli Premier League soccer player Yitzhak Asefa, who is being accused of hitting Nesher and another teenager who was giving him a ride on his e-bike before fleeing the scene, was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol.
The planned regulations announced by the ministry Wednesday are expected to come into force by Jan. As part of the reform, people between the age of 16 and 18 who do not have a driver’s license for a two or four-wheeled vehicle will be required to undergo a short course and successfully pass an examination to gain permits for using e-bikes. The ministry also intends to increase enforcement of existing laws, which prohibit the use of electric bikes for persons under 16. It further suggests that bicycles ridden by users under 16 will be confiscated and that the eligibility for a driver’s license for riders caught will be postponed for a year.
The ministry also determined a NIS 10,000 fine (approximately $2,745) for modifications to e-bikes intended to enhance maximum speed beyond the current limit of 25 kilometers per hour. Also announced was a “significant” yet currently undetermined increase in fines for violations of general traffic laws, which include using a mobile phone or headphones while riding. Fines for these offenses currently range at between NIS 100 and NIS 1,000 ($27.5-$275 approximately).
Current law requires bike users under 18 to wear helmets at all times, permitting those over 18 to ride without helmets when within city limits. In July, the Israeli government approved a proposal, which has yet to come into force, to mandate that all electric bike riders wear a helmet. The ministry is also considering issuing license plates for electric bikes and requiring users to wear high visibility vests and use standardized headlights when riding at night.
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