November 21 2013 at 12:26pm By Murray Williams
Cape Town - After a year in the making, the controversial “1m passing law” has been written into the statute books – in the hope of safer cycling across the Western Cape.
Provincial authorities stressed there could be serious legal consequences for motorists who fail to maintain this distance, if they kill or injure cyclists.
But provincial laws have now also caught up with national cycling laws which demand cyclists ride in single file at all times, unless overtaking or during official races.
The Western Cape Provincial Road Traffic Act was passed by the provincial legislature a year ago, empowering provincial Transport MEC Robin Carlisle to issue regulations to increase road safety. Powerful impetus was added to the proposals with the death of one of South Africa’s most-loved cyclists, Burrie Stander, who was killed on his bicycle in KwaZulu-Natal on January 3.
At this year’s Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour, the Pedal Power Association put together a peloton of 80 cyclists, who pedalled in support of the association’s “Cyclists stay alive at 1.5m” safety campaign.
In August this desired 1.5m gap was reduced to a metre, following the example of several states in the US, and confirmed by experienced traffic law officials and some comments received during the public comment period.
An extensive public comment period followed and yesterday the “Safety of Cyclists and Blue Lights Regulations” were published in the Provincial Gazette Extraordinary 7194.
Carlisle described the regulations as “a critical weapon in the ongoing battle against the carnage on the roads”.
“The regulations focus on a reciprocal duty and relationship that must exist between cyclists (who are most vulnerable on our roads when overtaken by faster moving cars, trucks and buses) and motorists alike,” the ministry said.
The introduction of the “1m-passing” law was widely welcomed within the cycling community yesterday.
But many slammed the reiteration of the national law banning cyclists from riding abreast.
“I don’t think people are going to obey at all,” warned Annemie Kruger, a professional cyclist.
“I understand why they’ve passed the law, but people ride in groups for the social side of it, to chat, to train as a team. Riding around in single file will take half the enjoyment out of cycling for many.
“Riding in single file is like riding alone – you just sit by yourself in the slip and pedal, it’s no fun at all. I just can’t see it happening.”
Instead, they should focus on awareness, she said. “Most cyclists drive cars too, so understand their perspective, but too many motorists don’t understand the speed that we often ride at, that you can’t simply turn in front of cyclists.
“Motorists also don’t understand why cyclists often seem to be riding too far out into the road – that there’s often glass and debris in the gutter. A far better idea – than these laws – would be smarter education campaigns. And more cycle lanes.”
Of the 1m law Carlisle said that “the onus will be placed on any violator of this regulation, particularly when resulting in an injury or death, to show why they failed to adhere to the requirement”, but conceded that policing “moving violations” as vehicles past cyclists could be difficult.
Andrew Wheeldon, of the Bicycle Empowerment Network, said: “We’d have preferred 1.5 m, but we’ll take it. Now it needs to be backed up with a lot of enforcement and education. We can’t have motorists saying ‘we didn’t know’.” It needed to be included in the K53 drivers’ rulebook.
- Leave a distance between the motor vehicle and the cyclist of at least 1m.
- Maintain that distance from the cyclist until safely clear of the cyclist.
- Motorists may cross a solid barrier line to pass a cyclist provided that it can be done without obstructing or endangering other people or vehicles; it is safe to do so; and is done for a period no longer than is necessary to pass the cyclist.
- Give conspicuous driving signals as contemplated in national regulations.
- Fit and use effective front and rear lights when riding in the dark and when visibility is limited.
- Not ride on the right-hand side of a motor vehicle proceeding in the same direction, except when passing that vehicle or turning right at an intersection.
- Not ride while wearing a headset, headphones or any listening device other than a hearing aid; or while carrying another person, unless the cycle is specifically equipped to carry more than one person.
Cycling to and from work for 20-odd years, Bertram Windvogel says he is not as scared of reckless drivers as he once was, but would be happier if there were more cycling lanes.
Windvogel, 47, who lives in Primrose Park, Athlone, cycles to work in Paarden Eiland daily.
He supports the 1m passing law imposed by the Western Cape government and said it was more practical than the earlier proposed 1.5m gap.
“I don’t know how they will enforce this rule but 1.5m was a bit big and I don’t think our roads have enough space for the 1.5m space between cyclists and the motorists. I just think as long as you are visible and the drivers can see you then it’s a bit better.”
Windvogel said cycling was one of his passions but the petrol price as well as avoiding traffic encouraged him to cycle instead of drive the almost 15km from home to work.
“I would be happy to see more cycle lanes, but like in my area, I don’t think there is enough space for that. Like the one between Milnerton and Table View, it is dedicated to buses and cyclists, I would like to see more of those.”
Windvogel said he had been in a couple of collisions but that had not deterred him from cycling on a daily basis.
“I was once hit by a bus about four years ago, it just nudged me. The bus and taxi drivers are the most reckless. Also one time I was hit by a car door when a person opened it and in a another incident I hit a woman, who was not looking.”
Besides saving on petrol and time, Windvogel said some of his co-workers admire him for cycling to work which also helps him to prepare for the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour.