South African roads are public spaces, and we have the right to ride our bicycles on them. But we need to become ambassadors for our sport and mode of transport. Most of the cyclists who are injured or killed on the roads in South Africa were doing nothing wrong.
“But,” says the Pedal Power Association of SA (PPA), “even if we’re following every rule in the book, we are still at risk of being run off the road, or yelled and cursed at and told to get off the road, ‘where we don’t belong’; which is why we need to know our rights on the road, make sure we’re obeying the traffic laws and taking our road-responsibility seriously, and educate motorists (courteously) about our right to share to road.”
Cyclists’ rights on the road
Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, and are considered vehicles under South African law. The Road Traffic Act defines a cyclist as a driver of a motor vehicle. Thus:
• ‘Driver’ means any person who drives or attempts to drive any vehicle or who rides or attempts to ride any pedal cycle;
• ‘Motor vehicle’ means any self-propelled vehicle and includes a vehicle having pedals and an engine or an electric motor as an integral part thereof or attached thereto and which is designed or adapted to be propelled by means of such pedals, engine or motor, or both such pedals and engine or motor;
• ‘Pedal cycle’ means any bicycle or tricycle designed for propulsion solely by means of human power.
“Therefore, any right that a motor vehicle has, and that does not specifically exclude us, includes us! Cyclists have the right to expect motor vehicles to overtake them safely, and look out for them at intersections,” says the PPA.
As a fellow driver of a vehicle, cyclists have the right to respect on the road, and to be treated with due caution. The Road Traffic Act is clear: drivers must take other road users into account in whatever they do.
What’s the law?
The National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 and the National Road Traffic Regulations 2000 promulgated on 17th March 2000 in Government Gazette #20963 (as amended from time to time) governs the conduct of cyclists and other road users.
Below is a summary of all the bicycle-specific laws that we must obey:
• You must be seated on your saddle;
• You must ride in single file;
• You may not hold onto any other vehicle;
• You may not deliberately swerve from side to side;
• You may not carry any person, animal or object that prevents you from seeing where you are going, or from having complete control over your bicycle;
• You must always have at least one hand on the handlebar;
• If you are riding on a public road where there is a bicycle lane, you must use that lane;
• You must keep both wheels of your bicycle in contact with the road;
• Obey all traffic laws, including stopping at red traffic lights and stop streets. Proceed through the intersection only when it is safe to do so.
Where to ride
You have the right to ride on any public road other than a freeway, or where otherwise expressly forbidden by law. You have the right to the left-hand side of the road (not the gutter, not the extreme left, not the glass-covered shoulder), but the left-hand side of the road (giving due consideration to other road uses —just like they should give to you).
“The law says you must ride on the left of the road” says the PPA, “but that does not mean on the very edge of the road. Ride a safe distance from the edge (international best practice suggests one metre) of the road/pavement to make sure that motorists can see you. If you ride too close to the edge, motorists generally try to squeeze past you, but if you ride further into the road, they will need to wait until it is safe to pass before trying to do so.”
This is how the law puts it (Regulation 296(1):
“The vehicle must be driven on the left side of roadway. Any person driving a vehicle on a public road shall do so by driving on the left side of the roadway and, where such roadway is of sufficient width, in such manner as not to encroach on that half of the roadway to his or her right.
Be seen, be safe
Ride defensively, and make sure you are more likely to be seen by:
• Wear brightly coloured and/or reflective clothing;
• Wear reflective wrist and ankle straps at night;
• Have a steady white front and flashing red rear light.
Ride predictably, and indicate using appropriate hand signals. Make sure that the motorist has noticed your intended action. Smile, be courteous, and thank drivers who treat you with respect.
• Obey all traffic rules, in particular stopping at red traffic lights and stop streets;
• Ride in single file, unless overtaking.
And always carry identification with you. For example, you could store your details and those of your next-of-kin under ICE (In Case of Emergency) on your mobile phone. And, last but not least: always wear your helmet
If you are a victim of road rage, be courteous and concentrate on memorising the details. Take down the licence number of the motorise, report it to the police and press charges. It is your duty to other cyclists.
If you witness or are party to a collision involving a cyclist:
• Report the incident to the local police within 24 hours;
• Send an email to email@example.com and include the following: Date of incident; Time of day; Venue; A brief description of the incident; and, your contact details
Produced for Pedal Power Association by Gail Jennings and Sarah Wilson. For more information, Google “Pedal Power”.