Opinion Piece – road safety for cyclists and motorists

Being on the road should be where we display mutual respect for one another’s lives. Whether one is a pedestrian, runner, cyclist, motorcyclist, motorist, taxi driver or truck driver, we each live a life that is delicate and precious. By starting with ourselves, we can make a difference on the roads, no matter how we commute.

Cyclists

  1. Always wear your helmet. The slightest bump to the head can cause major trauma. No helmet, no ride!
  2. DO NOT wear earphones and listen to music whilst cycling. You need to hear screeching brakes and/or police sirens, and you need to be able to take evasive action.
  3. Try not to cycle alone, and at least one of your friends should have a cellphone with all their buddies’ emergency contact information readily available in case of emergency. Notify loved ones or friends of your route and timing.
  4. DO NOT cycle two, three or four abreast. Nothing irks a motorist more than inconsiderate cyclists. And if your dad or uncle doesn’t want to change old-school habits, then let the change begin with you!
  5. Cycle in single file and don’t overlap your wheels. Touching of wheels in a lapse of concentration can cause an accident amongst the bunch, which puts you in danger on the road.
  6. When the roads are narrow, be considerate of the traffic behind you.
  7. Be extra cautious of oncoming traffic as well. A number of accidents are a result of an oncoming vehicle being overtaken. The driver overtaking does not see the cyclist.
  8. As fast as we cyclists think we are, cars gain distance on us very quickly. Don’t hog the road.
  9. Don’t tailgate vehicles while descending. Keeping a safe distance applies to cyclists too.
  10. Cycle with confidence and be sure of your route – how can the vehicle behind you know where you are going if you are unsure yourself?
  11. Indicate to the traffic where you intend going – left arm out to turn left and right arm out to turn right.
  12. Obey the rules of the road. If you’re a motorist, you should be familiar with this. STOP at the stop street, STOP at the red traffic light, YIELD at the yield sign, DON’T take a short-cut and go down a no-entry road – if it is closed to traffic, then the rule applies to you too. DON’T cycle towards oncoming traffic.
  13. Don’t be a trickster and bunny-hop on and off pavements. A motorist has no idea if you are going to jolt into the road next, or fall in front of them with this erratic type of cycling. There are parks where you can play.
  14. Be aware and be vigilant to traffic behaviour. If there is a traffic jam, tempers could be flared so stay clear to avoid adding to the already sensitive situation.
  15. Try and avoid training during rush hour or during other busy road times (near schools when they finish, etc.)
  16. When approaching a stationary vehicle, slow your speed and try and assess if the vehicle is about to pull out, or open their door. It is common for cyclists to crash into opening car doors.
  17. Be mindful of pedestrians and pets, and prepare to take evasive action if necessary.
  18. PLEASE DO NOT use the road to learn how to clip in and clip out of your new cleats. Practice at home or somewhere safe and traffic free.
  19. Wear brightly coloured cycling apparel, and reflective clothing at dawn or dusk, in darkness, or in any periods of poor light. Be clearly visible and be seen.
  20. Ensure you use a powerful headlight and taillight when cycling in poor light conditions. If the cars have their lights on, then so should yours be on.
  21. Wet roads are dangerous for all road users. Cyclists need to be aware of oil slicks, painted road markings, and water-filled potholes. The first two are extremely slippery, and the latter is exceptionally dangerous if you are not familiar with the roads you are cycling.
  22. If we as cyclists are looking for respect from motorists, then we also need to show respect to motorists.
  23. As per an old road safety campaign slogan: PPP – be PATIENT, be POLITE and be PREPARED!

Motorists

  1. As motorists we need to be considerate to cyclists who are in single file and who are close to the curb on a narrow road. DO NOT overtake cyclists on narrow roads while there is oncoming traffic. When overtaking allow for at least a 1.5-metre gap.
  2. Be vigilant and look carefully before pulling off from a stop street or T-junction. Don’t just glance and pull off if you do not see a vehicle – runners and cyclists also use the road and are not as prominent as vehicles. Ensure the road is totally clear before pulling off.
  3. When parking on the roadside, look behind you before opening your door. Cyclists approach quickly.
  4. Judge your driving distance carefully. If you know you’re turning down the next street, don’t race past the cyclists and turn in front of them. It will not take more than 2-3 seconds of your time to let the cyclists pass the street, and then you are on your way again.
  5. When overtaking a vehicle, ensure that you have a clear path of visibility and that it is safe to do so. Don’t just look out for oncoming vehicles, but be aware of oncoming cyclists as well.
  6. As per an old road safety campaign slogan: PPP – be PATIENT, be POLITE and be PREPARED!

Prepared for: SABC News Online

Prepared By: Mylene Loumeau, Cycling SA