Top Israeli model seriously injured, highlighting growing danger of electric bikes

Andrew Tobin

TEL AVIV (JTA) — A leading Israeli fashion model was seriously injured while riding an electric scooter in Tel Aviv.

After the accident on busy Rothschild Boulevard Sunday, paramedics treated Shlomit Malka and took her to Ichilov Hospital with a head wound. She was sedated and put on a respirator in the intensive care unit. The hospital said she her life was not in danger.

Electric bicycles and scooters have in recent years grown in popularity in Israel, touted as a cheap and environmentally friendly way to get around town without working up a sweat in the Israeli heat. But many have complained that the vehicles whizzing along sidewalks and bike paths across the country are an annoyance and a hazard.

News of Malka’s accident drew immediate outcry on social media. In one Facebook comment on a Channel 2 story about the accident, a woman wrote, “Get well – I’m sorry to catch a ride on this, [but] maybe now they’ll take care of electric bicycle phenomenon and outlaw them.”

Officials and activists have long warned of the danger of electric bikes and scooters. Earlier this month, Dr. Oren Tavor, a physician at Ichilov, told the Al-Monitor news website that the number of people injured in bike accidents doubled in the past five years, from 629 in 2012 to 1,438 in 2016. Among children, injuries almost tripled over that time, going from 89 to 252.

“In no other area is there a similar increase in injuries,” he said.

There have been previous high profile accidents involving electric bicycles, most notably a 2015 incident in which an elderly pedestrian was run over and killed. Later that year, the southern city of Beersheba banned bikes in certain areas. Last March, the Knesset raised the minimum age for riding electric bikes to 16 from 14, and applied regulations on the bikes to electric scooters as well. And last April, Tel Aviv banned all bikes from the city’s sidewalks.

But some have complained of lax enforcement and urged greater regulation of electric bikes and scooters or even the reinstatement of the ban on them, which was lifted in 2010.

According to Hebrew media reports, Malka was injured when she fell off her scooter. Photographs from the scene show the bike path was wet from the automatic sprinklers that water the grass and trees on the boulevard.

On learning of Malka’s injury, friends and family rushed to the hospital to see her. Among them were her new husband, Israeli actor and model Yehuda Levi. The couple recently married in a high-profile wedding.