On Saturday 22 July, more than 400 riders joined the Pedal Power Association in Bryanston, Johannesburg for a memorial ride to Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. There a letter listing concerns about the safety of cyclists and the need for a law to regulate a ‘safe passing distance’ between motorists and cyclists was handed to a representative of the MEC Transport Gauteng’s office, Mr. Freeman Masuku.
For many, the bicycle is the only affordable way to get to and from work or school, while others use the bicycle as a means of recreation or to improve their fitness and health. Bicycles reduce congestion on the roads, and relieve parking constraints. For short trips of up to 5 km, the bicycle is often faster than the car.
Based on geographical and other factors preventing road expansion, South Africa understandably has some narrow roads. Efforts to increase the number of cycling paths are applauded, but when cyclists are killed or injured on our roads, these incidents do not seem to be taken seriously.
For many years, the PPA has lobbied and campaigned for a safer cycling environment in South Africa. In a progressive move, the Western Cape Government in 2013 passed a provincial law that requires motorists to give cyclists a berth of at least 1 meter when passing. “We really hope that Gauteng and other provinces will soon follow suit,” said Robert Vogel, PPA CEO.
“In addition, we’d like to urge the SAPS, the JMPD; and the courts to make sure that the rights of cyclists are understood by all parties involved when incidents do occur,” Vogel said.
“The bicycle is a legal form of transport, and cyclists have a right to be on the roads. The Pedal Power Association would like the City of Joburg and the Gauteng province officials to follow cases involving cyclists in a proactive manner and facilitate where reasonably possible, ‘unblocking’ blockages where they might occur,” Vogel added. “It is critical that momentum is not lost and that investigating officers and prosecutors work closely together to ensure that well-investigated and robust cases are put before the courts.”
The PPA has to date invested millions in a national Stay Wider of the Rider safe cycling campaign, asking motorists and cyclists alike to modify their behavior and do the right thing by obeying the rules of the road. “Behaviour shift is the only sustainable and cost-effective way to make the roads safer. When the traffic laws are broken, we need a zero tolerance approach from the authorities,” Vogel said.
“Cyclists are contributing members of this community. We are family people. We pay our taxes. We ask for nothing more than for a 1m law to be implemented in Gauteng to assist with the safety of cyclists, and for this law to be understood and applied correctly,” Vogel said.