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Be visible on the road

With the sun showing its face in Gauteng at 06h55 and in Cape Town only around 07h50, most commuting or sport cycle training currently takes place in the dark.

“It is great to see so many people cycling, but unfortunately we have also witnessed an increase in the number of cycling-related crashes on our roads,” explains Robert Vogel, CEO of the Pedal Power Association.  “This is particularly a problem during the winter months with statistics showing that cyclists are four times more likely to be knocked off their bicycles in dark winter conditions.”

Cyclists need to ensure that they are visible to motorists at all times. When cycling at night, lighting up like a Christmas tree is sensible, but making sure you’re visible is equally important during the day.  

The human eye and brain see and interpret things differently depending on the levels of light. In bright light, we rely on cone cells within the eye, and in the dark, we rely on rod cells (photoreceptors). Cone cells are sensitive to colour, whereas rods are sensitive to light. There are many more rods than cones in the human eye, with the cones grouped in the middle of the eye whereas rods are denser further from the central spot.

During twilight or low-light conditions (e.g. when it is foggy or very cloudy), we use a combination of both rods and cones. It can take up to half an hour for our eyes to adjust from bright to dark conditions, but only five minutes to adjust from dark to light.

Having lights on a bicycle is therefore a must-have, even during the day. This is where a flashing rear bicycle light really works to catch the eye.

During the day, wearing fluorescent colours work best. Tthe sun’s ultraviolet rays react with the colours and make them appear to ‘glow’ and stand out. Neon colours seem to be making a comeback and this trend has already trickled down to the cycling world, from pro cyclists to utility cyclists alike.

The PPA recently launched a national winter ‘safe cycling’ campaign focusing on motorists giving cyclists a wide berth when passing, as well as urging them to  look out for cyclists.

“Cyclists have the right to be on the road and we are asking motorists to watch out for cyclists and respect the rules of the road,” Vogel said.  

The campaign kicks off on Thursday 15 June and this year PPA has engaged in a massive visual drive that includes a digital campaign at BP outlets in Cape Town and Gauteng. In addition, the rear windows of six ‘My Citi’ busses on the Tableview and Oranjezicht routes will display the campaign message. Look out for the large illuminated posters on some of the main routes and hot spots in Gauteng, while a billboard on the M5 at the Kenilworth turn-off will be  visible to least 1.2 million motorists a month.

“We are hoping to change the mind-set of motorists to give cyclists at least a metre when passing. The visual campaign will be supported by a two-week radio ad campaign,” Vogel concluded.

  • In 2014, the PPA introduced a range of top quality fluorescent yellow cycling jerseys to make sure cyclists are as visible as possible on the roads. The ‘Stay Wider of the Rider’ jerseys are on sale online at www.pedalpower.org.za or at the PPA offices in Kenilworth.