It's not 'us vs them' - How motorists and cyclists can coexist on South African roads

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• Cycling season is picking up after Covid-19 hampered events for almost two years.

• As such, motorists and cyclists need to get on the same page to ensure everyone's safety on SA roads.

• MiWay Insurance lists several tips on how coexistence on our roads can be achieved.

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Following many months of Covid-related postponements, the 2021 cycling season has kicked off, with the upcoming Cycle Tour set to take place in Cape Town in October. This highly anticipated development sees many more bicycles on the road in the lead-up to the big day. Both motorists and cyclists will need to exercise caution and consideration to ensure the road remains a safe space for all.

Over the past few years, this tenuous coexistence has been fraught with difficulty, with hundreds of road deaths recorded annually as a result of cycling-related accidents. In a bid to combat this worrying trend, the Department of Transport revealed several proposed amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations, stating that cyclists should be afforded the same courtesy as their four-wheeled counterparts.

Road safety is a two-way street, and that while cyclists should be afforded equal road rights, they're also bound by a particular code of conduct, and are obliged to play their part in preventing unnecessary accidents. 

Here are a few key points for both motorists and cyclists to bear in mind to make the road a safer place.

Nic Dlamini
Cyclists competing in a road race

For Cyclists

Stay alert and alert others

Particularly when it comes to busy roads, cyclists can't afford to fall prey to distractions. To avoid unnecessary incidents, avoid using headphones, as these can severely reduce your ability to respond to unexpected situations. Equally important is your capacity to pre-empt your movements and alert other drivers when you're changing direction by indicating clearly and using appropriate hand signals. Remember, the more you communicate on the road, the less likely you are to create potentially life-threatening confusion.

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Pedal predictably

Predictability is key to preventing potentially disastrous encounters on the road. The onus on you as a cyclist is to act in a way that doesn't confuse or rattle drivers, which means holding your line and ensuring you always ride in the same direction as the traffic flow. Avoid flitting from the pavement to the road and back, as this type of erratic behaviour can cause confusion and frustration. Remember to avoid overlapping wheels, as this is essentially the equivalent of riding in somebody's blind spot. Aim to ride behind, in front of or beside someone else to ensure you're always visible to other road users.

Stick to the rules

Before setting off on the open road, it's important to familiarise yourself with your rights and responsibilities as a cyclist. This means sticking to the rules of the road, paying close attention to road signs and ensuring that you only ever ride in a single file. Additionally, it's vital to ensure you're always visible to motorists, using reflective clothing at all times and using lights at night to communicate your presence clearly. 

Cyclist on the road

For Motorists

Keep your distance

Whilst you might consider cyclists a nuisance, it's important to bear in mind that they are equally entitled to use the road, and as such, should be treated with both caution and respect. If you find yourself sharing the road with cyclists, do your best to maintain a safe distance of at least 1.2m and allow for ample space when overtaking. When in doubt, yield to cyclists, especially at intersections and circles to avoid confusion and possible collisions.

Know the rules

Avoiding disaster is easier when you know how. By understanding what the cyclist in front of you is trying to communicate with their hand signals, you will be better equipped to anticipate their next moves and ease your speed or change direction accordingly. Familiarise yourself with common biking hand signals to ensure you're not taken by surprise. 

Remember that - whether you're on two wheels or four - it's important to respect the rules of the road to avoid not only potentially calamitous collisions but also to steer clear of any financial obligations that might arise if you're proven to be in breach of the law. Remember to ensure that your insurance policies are up to date and that your chosen means of transport is roadworthy to avoid possible complications when and if the time comes to file a claim.

Greta Goosen is the Head of Customer Experience at MiWay Insurance.

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Motorists and cyclists need to coexist now that the cycling season is up and running again.
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