Michael Shine

Michael Shine – Is it possible to walk on the pavement (sidewalk) where you live?

michael shine cyclists in tel aviv

Michael Shine. Many years ago, when I lived in England, it was not unknown to hear comments about the abysmal driving standards in Europe, particularly in Italy and France. Not racial bias, just that they were bad drivers and the taxi drivers in Paris scared the bejaesus out of us. Comments such as this were commonly overheard regarding parking seen in Italy – I heard this woman once saying – “Let’s park here – and walk to the curb”.



Michael Shine.

Michael Shine

It didn’t however prepare me for the worst drivers that I had ever come across, those in Israel. In the last year for which I found statistics, 2012, there were 263 road accident fatalities in Israel – an enormous number for a country with a total population of under 8 million. Traffic accidents caused 37,000 injuries and 424 deaths in children aged 14 and under in Israel between 2000 and 2009, according to a study recently released by the Or Yarok road safety advocacy group


Indeed there have been more deaths on the roads of Israel due to bad driving than there have been casualties as a result of Israel’s ongoing conflict with its neighbours. One finds oneself wondering if some of the millions of dollars given to Israel’s neighbours by the supporters of terrorism (Turkey, Iran and Qatar come to mind), may well have been better spent (in their eyes) by instead of using the money to buy weaponry to fight Israel, they should have been buying a car for every Israeli resident.

I don’t know why it is as it is. In fact the rigid regulations regarding obtaining a driving license in Israel make it one of the more difficult countries in which to obtain a driving license. But once the license is obtained …………. A lot comes down to the culture of not wishing to be taken advantage of (in Hebrew slang – not being a ‘friar’ that is to say – a ‘mug’!) so the concept of courtesy and giving way at junctions or not allowing others to overtake you, or if they do, getting them back and overtaking them back as soon as is possible, just doesn’t seem to exist. Drivers are obliged to give way to pedestrians at crosswalks, but they seem to think that if they can get past before the pedestrian gets to them, they have then won!

Of course the concept of courtesy is not covered in driving lessons, it is something that should have been taught in the home before the driver was old enough to drive, but instead of doing that, what has happened is that a further plague has been rained down on the children of Israel, particularly in Tel Aviv. That is the electrified bicycle and the electrified scooter. A stringent driving test is needed to get a motorbike or motor-scooter (of the ‘Lambretta’ variety) license and there is a minimum age for obtaining one – but for the electrified variety – no test, no lessons, just get on and ride. These vehicles are an excellent and economic mode of transport, great for getting around in the city – and parking is not much of a problem. But, and it is a very big but, because of the poor car driving standards and the danger of being on two wheels in the road, it became acceptable to ride a bike on the pavement (sidewalk if you are American), and generally that was OK – bikes don’t go so fast and cyclists in the main accepted that they were on the pavement to make life easier for them. So what happened? Of course those who had the electrified monsters also took to the pavements, but not as sedately as the cyclists, they whizz along at 30 mph and heaven help the pedestrian that gets in their way. This article appeared in the Israeli newspaper ‘HaAretz’ as long ago as 2010 – http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/tel-aviv-has-lost-the-battle-to-walk-the-streets-1.306283 – and another one appeared last November – and the situation has got worse since then – not better!   http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/.premium-1.556769

However the worst part of all this is, not the adults, who are bad enough in their uncaring attitude to other pavement users, but who might have a sliver of responsibility, and perhaps knowledge, racing along to the risk and detriment of pedestrians, but the children, some as young as 10 who have been spoilt to the point of stupidity by their parents and given a deadly weapon to ride upon. They are un-licensed, untested and uninsured and surely it is time for the law to put a stop to it. In the past three weeks I have heard stories of people, old and young, being hit by a motorized bike ridden by a child, who neither stopped nor cared what damage that they had done. Enough is enough! It is difficult enough living in a country constantly attacked by its enemies, without fear of risking life and limb whilst walking to the shops by the irresponsibility of parents who give their spoilt offspring these weapons, and make no effort to train their children how to use them!

Many of us older people grew up walking to and fro school – sometimes a mile or so of journey. It even kept us relatively fit. The problem of course is, that these children, who have no idea how to ride responsibly, because nobody has taught them, will eventually, and in a short space of time, grow up and take to the roads to be amongst the world’s worst drivers.

If you are a user of ‘Facebook’ keep your eyes peeled for details of a demonstration taking place on Dizengoff Street in two weeks time – the organizers will be marching from Dizengoff circle in the direction of Arlozoroff Street in an effort to bring government and local council attention to this ever worsening problem.

Michael Shine

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