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Our cyclists stay alive at 1.5m

26 February 2013 - 02:35 By Crispian Olver
Crispian Olver
Crispian Olver

It's hard to describe the feeling of vulnerability you have as a cyclist on our busy metropolitan roads.

 I've been training for the upcoming Argus cycle tour in Cape Town, and every time I venture out on Johannesburg roads I do so with trepidation. Mostly I prefer to drive the extra hour and cycle in the beautiful Suikerbosrand nature reserve to the south of the city. But many people don't have that option. On my rides, other cyclists I meet are not usually well-heeled middle-class cyclists, but working-class commuters using a cheap form of transport.

Last week, another cyclist was killed when he was hit by a car on the West Rand. The whole country was shocked when Burry Stander was tragically killed by a minibus taxi earlier this year. Almost daily a cyclist os knocked over somewhere in our cities. But what is being done about this appalling situation?

There is, thankfully, some serious civic action around this issue. The Western Cape-based Pedal Power Association on Saturday organised a protest ride from Camps Bay to Hout Bay to draw attention to the issue. "Enough is enough!" ran their slogan. "Get the message out there that cyclists stay alive at 1.5m".

This simple slogan is the core safety issue for cyclists. The minimum distance a passing car needs to leave between themselves and the cyclist is 1.5m. Every cycling event I have been to in the last year has handed out stickers with this slogan. The Pedal Power Association Facebook page has a whole community of cyclists posting about their own experiences, and they have blazoned their message on 12 metro buses in Cape Town.

There has been some push back from motorists, and letters to The Times have expressed motorists' frustration with cyclists hogging the roads. But motorists often don't appreciate how vulnerable cyclists are.

Ultimately it's up to the authorities to put in place the necessary legislation, signage and infrastructure that protect cyclists. Johannesburg has at last started developing cycling lanes in Soweto. Cape Town, by far the most advanced city on cycling issues, has nearly completed the city to Milnerton route. But it's not enough. Hopefully one day, cycling will be everybody's preferred means of transport. In the mean time, please look out for cyclists and give them a wide berth on the roads.