Fighting the perils of pedal power - How Volvo keeps cyclists safe on the roads

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Cyclist Detection systems like those found in a Volvo warns the driver of an imminent collision and applies the brakes if further action is needed.
Cyclist Detection systems like those found in a Volvo warns the driver of an imminent collision and applies the brakes if further action is needed.
Volvo Media

• Global cities are creating cycle paths for cyclists.

• Volvo developed 'Cyclist Detection' for its vehicles - a system that detects cyclists on the road.

Author John Forester gives five basic principles of cycling in traffic.

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Biking is big! Far bigger than ever before! The Covid-19 pandemic has people worldwide shunning public transport and turning to pedal power instead. The same is happening in South Africa. But, while cyclists may be avoiding the virus, they're facing other dangers…

Covid-19 has changed the way the world moves, and cities are transforming as a result. In response to the coronavirus crisis, Milan is transforming 35km of roads previously designated for cars into cycle and pedestrian paths. Also, in Italy, Rome has announced plans to build 150km of new cycle paths.

Bogotá - infamous for having the world's worst traffic (drivers there lose 191 hours per year to congestion) - created 76km of temporary cycling lanes at the start of the pandemic. Cycling advocates want them to become permanent. In Paris, a plan to create 650km of temporary and permanent cycle paths has been fast-tracked.

Paarl cycling
Cyclists riding in the Cape Winelands

Most at-risk road users

According to the World Health Organization, cyclists are among the most at-risk road users and one of the few groups whose risk is not decreasing over time (unlike car passengers). It states that almost half of the estimated 1.27 million people who die in road traffic crashes every year are pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists. According to the World Bank, cyclists and pedestrians' conditions remain "extremely challenging".

In India, only 10% of urban streets have sidewalks, resulting in high fatality rates for non-motorized transport (NMT) users, it reports. Having said this, the World Bank does point out that more than 1 800 cities have taken action to bolster NMT since the start of the pandemic

However, more clearly needs to be done to protect cyclists and create more cycle-friendly cities here in South Africa. So, what needs to happen?

READ: Routes to ride - Paarl Adventure Trails

One solution could be an improvement in road infrastructure or policing. Another could be the adoption of new technology and products. For instance, Volvo developed the world's first Cyclist Detection with Full Auto Brake feature on cars. Cyclist Detection warns the driver of an imminent collision using the car's cameras and radars to detect cyclists and applies the brakes if further action is needed.

Also hailing from Sweden is an airbag that replaces bicycle helmets produced by a company called Hövding. Worn around the neck, it was developed because many cyclists don't like the idea of wearing a helmet. When it detects an accident, the airbag is activated in 0.1 seconds - and it's more effective than a traditional helmet. The company claims to have protected 6467 people in bicycle accidents with this technology thus far.

Ultimately though, when tech and governance fail, common sense must prevail, and author John Forester gives five basic principles of cycling in traffic:

1. Ride with the direction of traffic.

2. Give way to traffic at junctions with larger roads.

3. Give way to traffic in any lane you are moving to, or when you are moving laterally on the road.

4. Position yourself appropriately at junctions when turning: near the curb when turning off the road on the side you are travelling on, near the centre line when turning across the other side of the road, and in the centre when continuing straight on.

5. Ride in a part of the road appropriate to your speed; typically, faster traffic is near the centre line.

The Winelands’ four passes are a fine collection o
Cyclists riding between Villiersdorp and Grabouw in the Western Cape.
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