Questions are now being asked as to whether or not the drivers were driving under the influence of alcohol.
“Who is allowing his or her inebriated friend to get behind the wheel, in the knowledge that it is illegal? What do the people sharing a home with the drunk driver say when they see the car parked in the driveway and the driver nursing a bad hangover?” asks Pedal Power Association CEO, Robert Vogel. “What can be done to shift people’s behaviour to obey the rules of the road?”
In 2013, a law was passed in the Western Cape which makes it compulsory for drivers to give cyclists a berth of at least 1m when passing, and to maintain at least 1m until the cyclist has been safely cleared. When this ‘1m passing law’ is not adhered to, it can have fatal or severe consequences.
“We have become a lawless society,” Vogel says. “That’s what it feels like when I'm cycling on the road. We have some of the best laws in the world, but they are worthless if they are not enforced, or if the legal system lets down the victims.”
“We are quick to learn that, for both cyclists and motorists, jumping a red light or stop street often brings no legal consequences. From there it’s a short step to that becoming entrenched behaviour.” Sooner or later, a motorist and cyclist will collide at such an intersection, possibly with fatal consequences.
To this end, the Pedal Power Association is asking motorists and cyclists to share the road and show mutual respect, and for all road users to obey the traffic laws.
“We have requested a meeting with the MEC for Transport & Public Works, Donald Grant, to discuss the spike of deaths and the general safety of cyclists on our roads,” Vogel says. “The solution to the problem requires a holistic approach. It is not just about law enforcement, but about taking responsibility for your actions on the road, and doing the right thing.”
The City of Cape Town recently published its draft Cycling Strategy as a component of the broader Non-motorised Transport Strategy. In this, the City expresses the desire to become a cycling city, increasing commuters to 8% by 2030.
“We want to get our kids to cycle to school, instead of spending hours walking. How will we ever achieve that, if the roads are not safe?” Vogel asks. “To create a completely separated network of cycle lanes is near impossible and not practical. Somewhere, cars and bicycles will have to share the same space.”
“Road fatalities (including pedestrians) were up by 5% in December 2016 with almost two people killed per hour every day in December. Road safety awareness campaigns were run over the holidays by various authorities, but seem to have had little effect on the high fatality statistics. Something needs to be done, urgently. Safe roads and justice for cyclists who are injured and killed on our roads is a good place to start,” Vogel says.