Drivers and cyclists are on the same side. We all breathe the same air, live in the same neighbourhoods, use the same shops, our kids go to the same schools– and we all want safer roads.
Speed is a major contributor to the death toll on our roads. Collisions, which exceed 45km/h, give cyclists a less than 50% chance of survival. Even if a cyclist is hit at slower speeds, they face suffering severe injuries. “Always look out for cyclists on the road,” says CEO Robert Vogel of the Pedal Power Association. “There is this belief that cyclists have less right to the road and should keep out of a motorist’s way. Both have equal rights on the road. We need mutual respect and tolerance among all road users,” says Vogel. “Remember that when you need to turn or change lanes, there could be a cyclist next to you. Make an extra effort to double check your blind spot and mirrors, before you turn or change lanes. The motorist also needs to be aware of cyclists approaching from the front, when intending to cross the path of oncoming traffic.
Drivers should not underestimate the speed of a cyclist,” Vogel explains. “ If we all obeyed the rules and showed a bit of courtesy to other road users, we’d realise that our journey is not more important than the journey of any other person. We’d reduce speed, stop overtaking on white lines and skip red lights. Motorists hold the key to making roads safer for everyone.”
What to do in the event of an accident:
If a driver does knock down a cyclist, the normal duties of a driver in an event of an accident as provided by Section 61 of the Act apply:
- The driver must immediately stop and report to the accident to the SAPS
- The driver needs to check for injuries and render assistance if he is capable to do so
- The driver must provide his/her details to the authorities or witnesses
- The driver must report the accident as soon as possible if a person was killed or injured it has to be reported within 24 hours after the occurrence of the accident
- A vehicle involved in a fatal accident may not be removed from the scene unless authorised by a traffic official.
- In the event that a motorist knocks down a cyclist and the State decides to pursue a criminal case, the State will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver is, in fact, guilty in terms of the criminal law.
- Should a motorist be found guilty of reckless, negligent or inconsiderate driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a harsh sentence awaits him/her. This may include imprisonment for culpable homicide.
As much as we advocate for drivers to give cyclists ample space when passing, cyclists need to obey the rules of the road as well. Some of the most important things cyclists should do in order to stay safe on the road include:
- Make sure you are visible.
When you are out cycling, it is safest to assume that the cars around you, won’t be able to see you. Be visible by wearing bright clothing with reflective strips, attach a white light to the handlebar and a red flashing light at the back of your bike. Try and ride in a group. The more of you there are, the more visible you will be.
- Wear a helmet
It’s essential to ride with a good quality helmet; this is without a doubt the most important safety precaution you can take. Aside from it being against the law in South Africa to cycle without a helmet, a head injury can have permanent side-effects. Get a new helmet if yours is materially damaged in any way. Another important safety rule is not to listen to music while you ride; if you can’t hear the cars around you, you can’t avoid potential accidents.
- Obey road rules like any other road user
As a cyclist, you’re expected to follow the same rules of the road as anyone else. Although you have the advantage of being able to cycle in the yellow line or on bike lanes, you still have to stop at stop streets and red lights, giving way when you are required to, and being considerate towards your fellow road users, including drivers and pedestrians.
- Be considerate at all times
Cyclists know that not all drivers are considerate of cyclists, but drivers are still in a position of power compared to a cyclist. Don’t hold on to cars to hitch a lift or keep your balance; and avoid hurling abuse or swearing at motorists for the same reason that road rage is a bad strategy when you’re in your car: things can escalate quickly. Keep yourself safe by keeping your cool.
“Be sure to keep yourself safe on our roads and be the best cyclist you can possibly be; every time you head out, you’re an ambassador for all cyclists on the road. This is a great responsibility; don’t take it lightly. The same goes for motorists. You need to remember, you must give a cyclist a gap of at least 1 metre when passing. A driver is allowed to cross a solid line to give the cyclist the required gap if it is safe for him or her to do so. If in doubt, don’t pass the cyclist and wait for an opportunity to pass safely. Space and time save lives”, Vogel concludes.