South African Cycling

Safety of cyclists in jeopardy

2014-08-28 15:19
Cyclists stay alive at 1.5m
Cape Town - South African cycling heavyweights have come out in force against the state of cycling safety in South Africa. Cyclists across the spectrum are increasingly under attack from road users and criminals.

From the well-publicised recent muggings and bike-jackings caught on a GoPro camera in the Cape, to the much-maligned 1.5m cyclist leeway battle with vehicles on SA’s infamous roads, something needs to be done.

According to Arrive Alive, the death list reads: Pedestrians, Passengers, Drivers, and Cyclists – in that order. Although cycling fatalities statistics lag by a long way, in a country with a shocking road safety record, the reference point is a dubious one.

Furthermore, according to the South African Insurance Crime Bureau, crime syndicates are targeting cyclists that operate with surprising sophistication. Stolen or hijacked bicycles are dismantled, packed into 44 gallon drums, and moved across the border into neighbouring countries.

Tracker's Ride Free team spoke to cyclists from around the country to get a sense of how this community feels about the situation and the results were not surprising.

SA cycling legend and leading supplier to the industry, Chris Willemse, points out that, as the economic situation in SA worsens, crime increases and criminals see cyclists as ‘soft targets’. “It’s almost impossible for a cyclist to defend himself against a criminal or a group of them,” he says.

As Morne Myburgh, an amateur enthusiast from Gauteng puts it, “We are simply not safe anymore.”

Stephen Saunders, an ex-pro road cyclist and experienced mountain biker with a couple of Cape Epic’s under his belt, echoes the sentiment, calling road cyclists “sitting ducks”. “I try to never ride the same route twice,” he says. Surely, when cyclists have to start thinking like military personnel, there is something very wrong?

One solution is to create safe cycling spaces, an area with kilometres of natural terrain, a choice of trails and which has 24-hour security with medics on standby. While this is difficult to set up for the road user, off-road environments can be earmarked and converted into safe zones. Two Gauteng parks, the Modderfontein and Avianto Ride Free Bike Parks, currently operate in this way and are completely safe and accessible for all levels of cycling enthusiasts.

The company behind the safe cycling parks is Tracker. Chief Marketing Officer, Bronwynn Tippett, explains that the company is committed to enabling driving and cycling freedom. “The very essence of cycling is to embrace freedom of movement, but when movement is limited because it’s unsafe, that right soon erodes. Whether it’s cyclists or drivers, Tracker firmly believes in those freedoms and is committed to initiatives which embody those values.”

Willemse backs the call for the creation of safe cycling zones and Tracker’s role in the process. “A bike park allows cyclists to actually be safe rather than to just feel safe. That’s an important distinction as perceptions are not necessarily reality. I know of riders who thought they were safe on the road only to return one day without their mobile phone and bruised-up after being mugged on their bike.”

In a society that is as passionate about the outdoors as South Africans are, initiatives that protect our right to freedom of movement are critical. Similarly, nobody should be deprived of the right to cycle due to rampant crime or security concerns. Young cyclists need to be able to learn about the sport in a safe environment – and what better environment than a secure bike park with various levels of trails, bike safety clinics and even a bike wash facility?

“We view safe cycling zones, through the creation of world-class, safe and fun Ride Free bike parks as a sustainable solution to the challenges all cyclists face on SA’s roads,” says Tippett. “As Tracker mobilises to expand these facilities across the country we hope, too, that we can bring back the freedom to ride in safety.”

Read more on:    cycling

What To Read Next


Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.
Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Live scoring

Love 2 Meet
Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...


The 2017/18 Absa Premiership season is under way. Can Bidvest Wits defend their title? Will Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates emerge victorious? Or will the bookies' favourites, Mamelodi Sundowns, taste success for a record eighth time? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs

Besides the 'Big 3' of rugby, cricket and soccer, which of the 'smaller' sports in South Africa do you enjoy the most?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.