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 groups of road users.
Both the National Road Traffic Act and the Western Cape Provincial Road Traffic Act regulate the rights of and rules for pedal cyclists and motor vehicle drivers on roads in the Republic of South Africa. The National Road Traffic Act has specific regulations pertaining to cycling safety and every cyclist should be alert to these regulations. Regulation 311 states as follows:
- No person shall ride a pedal cycle on a public road unless he or she is seated astride on the saddle of such pedal cycle.
- Persons riding pedal cycles on a public road shall ride in single file except in the course of overtaking another pedal cycle, and two or more persons riding pedal cycles shall not overtake another vehicle at the same time.
- No person riding or seated on a pedal cycle on a public road shall take hold of any other vehicle in motion.
- No person riding a pedal cycle on a public road shall deliberately cause such pedal cycle to swerve from side to side.
- No person riding a pedal cycle on a public road shall carry thereon any person, animal or object which obstructs his or her view or which prevents him or her from exercising complete control over the movements of such pedal cycle.
- A person riding a pedal cycle on a public road shall do so with at least one hand on the handle bars of such pedal cycle.
- Whenever a portion of a public road has been set aside for use by persons riding pedal cycles, no person shall ride a pedal cycle on any other portion of such road.
- A person riding a pedal cycle on a public road or a portion of a public road set aside for use by persons riding pedal cycles, shall do so in such manner that all the wheels of such pedal cycle are in contact with the surface of the road at all times.
The Western Cape Provincial Road Traffic Act was passed on the 29th November 2012 and this Act has implications for both pedal cyclists and motor vehicle drivers. The Act empowers the Provincial Minister of Transport to regulate certain matters to increase road safety in the Province. Amongst others, regulations requiring all vehicles overtaking cyclists to ensure that 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 crashes 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.
 93 of 1996
 6 of 2012
 National Road Traffic Regulations, 2000. Government notice R225 in Government Gazette 20963, dated 17 March 2000. Effective as from 1 August 2000 (page 340/389).
Dec 6, 2013 – Province Western Cape: Provincial Gazette 7208.
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.