The popularity of road cycling as a competitive sport and a form of transportation is on the rise. This naturally leads to major safety concerns and serious accidents among both cyclists and motorists.
The National Road Traffic Act and the Western Cape Provincial Road Traffic Act regulates the rights and rules for pedal cyclists and motor vehicle drivers on the roads. The National Road Traffic Act has specific regulations pertaining to pedal cyclists, and the Western Cape Provincial Road Traffic Act has implications for both pedal cyclists and motor vehicle drivers. Amongst others, the regulations in the Western Cape Act require all vehicles overtaking cyclists to ensure there is a safe distance of at least 1.5 metres between them before passing, and law enforcement actions against cyclists who do not ride in single file, or who fail to stop at red traffic lights or stop streets were enacted.
Cyclists have the right to expect motor vehicles to overtake them safely and be on the look-out for them at intersections. The Road Traffic Act is clear where it states that drivers must take other road users into account in whatever they do. Cyclists also have the right to the left-hand side of the road (not the extreme edge of the left-hand side). We tend to forget that there are cyclists around us who are also using the roads as a means of transport. Apart from the recently built cycle-lanes in Cape Town, we do not have dedicated lanes in South Africa for cyclists to use. This means that every day cyclists are fighting for road space amongst often aggressive and ignorant drivers, according to the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA).
While the law states that cyclists must wear protective headgear while riding a bicycle, for many this is a cost that they simply cannot afford, making them almost invisible to the drivers on the road.
Therefore, as a driver, ask yourself what you can do to avoid colliding with a cyclist. The AA provides some safety tips for drivers:
- Yield to cyclists, especially at intersections and circles.
- Check your blind spots and make sure the way is clear before changing lanes or direction.
- Do not drive, stop or park in a bicycle lane.
- Give cyclists enough room when overtaking – at least 1.5 metres.
Changing the behaviour of drivers will assist in the fight to stop cyclist accidents and deaths on our roads. However, cyclists also have to do their part by following the rules and making sure they are visible. Here are some safety tips for cyclists on the road:
- Obey the traffic signs and rules.
- Keep left and keep at least one metre clear of the pavement and parked cars.
- Ride with the traffic and not against it.
- Be visible – wear reflective clothing and a bright-coloured helmet at all times.
- Use lights at night – a white headlight and a red rear lamp.
- Use hand signals when turning or changing lanes.
- Always cycle in single file.
In order to reduce the level of carnage on our roads we need to work together as road users, and this means that both cyclists and drivers need to follow the rules. The first step in doing this is to become aware of the rules and regulations in place to protect and serve the interests of both groups of road users.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.