A crackdown on cyclists who break the law is looming - just as new legislation is ushered in to protect riders. Western Cape transport MEC Robin Carlisle announced at the weekend that the Western Cape Provincial Road Traffic Act was passed by the provincial legislature late last week.
“While much of the new act is largely administrative, it empowers the provincial minister of transport to regulate certain matters to increase road safety in the province,” he reported. This would include the a new rule long-awaited by cyclists - the regulation requiring all vehicles overtaking cyclists to ensure that there was a safe distance of at least 1.5 metres between them before passing.
But Carlisle also warned: “This will be accompanied by law enforcement actions against cyclists who do not ride in single file, or who fail to stop at red robots or stop streets.”
Co-chairman of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, David Bellairs, said in response: “The vast majority of cyclists who are injured or killed are individuals riding alone and riding responsibly. The message that is developing within cycling circles is ride in large groups and motorists will be forced to notice.”
He was therefore excited about the new “1.5m” law, which he said would protect exactly these lone cyclists. Similarly, he was “100 percent in support of cyclists becoming more law-abiding on the road”.
“In the same way that there are motorists who give motorists a bad name, so that there are cyclists who give cyclists a bad name.
“So, absolutely, there is no question that not obeying the rules of the road is wrong.
“If we as cyclists are going to command the respect of motorists on the road, then we need to be behaving responsibly as the law currently is.”
Bellairs added, however, that he would also like to see some road rules pertaining to cyclists, reviewed.
“What we need to do is look for best practices in terms of motorists and cyclist. In some parts of the world, stop streets and traffic lights should be used as yield signs.”
A Cape Town-based expert in legal matters pertaining to cycling, advocate Lance Burger, questioned the motives of a crackdown on cyclists.
PROMOTING ROAD SAFETY
“The goal to promote traffic safety - to reduce or eliminate death and injury and to a lesser extent property damage as a result of traffic collisions - should be the primary and overriding consideration.
“Cyclists going through stop streets (or red traffic lights) do not kill anybody other than possibly the cyclists themselves. That does not happen, as the instinct of self preservation prevents cyclists from doing so in dangerous situations where they might be killed or injured by motorists,” Burger argued.
“Spending enforcement resources on prosecuting cyclists for the reasons stated is not going to promote traffic safety. It will detract from traffic safety by diverting resources from other more pressing enforcement needs.”\
There were, he believed, many motorists “who particularly dislike cyclists and are vocal about it”.
“These vocal motorists are part of the affluent minority that own private motor cars.”
He alleged that the intended enforcement against cyclists was “to appease this group”.
“Before deciding to do so, the traffic authorities should first consider whether it actually promotes traffic safety or not.
“The traffic authorities should rather spend their resources on enforcement against minibus taxi drivers, who are responsible for a disproportionate number of traffic collisions,” Burger charged.
Carlisle has yet to announce the full details about both the 1.5m law and a crackdown on law-breaking cyclists.
If any road user jeopardised the safety of other traffic users, or themselves, a traffic officer could intervene.
The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said he agreed that any measures to protect cyclists from death or injury should by accompanied by a crackdown on cyclists who endangered road users through their riding.
“We have to get them to take reciprocal steps,” Smith said of drivers and cyclists alike.
“Certainly the Cape Town traffic department will do its best, but we also need to conscientise cyclists about looking after their own safety. And this may mean, in extreme cases, fining a cyclist who brazenly breaks the laws of the road.”
Traffic authorities indicated the average fine for not stopping at traffic lights was R500, and this applied to cyclists too.
HOW GOOD DRIVING WILL PAY
At the same time, Western Cape drivers are to be tempted to behave on the roads this festive season - with hard currency.
This is the latest in a series of drives to “change behaviour” in various spheres of life, and follows a visit by experts from the US earlier this year.
The first project to be rolled out was the “know your status and win” HIV education plan.
Now Cape drivers stand to win R50 000, divided between two lucky draws before Christmas and early in the new year. But they only qualify - and here’s the rub - if they are “fine-free” during the festive season.
JA, WELL, NO FINE
Any drivers who receive traffic fines from any municipality in the province will be automatically disqualified. First, a draw will take place. But the eNaTis system will then be used to check if the winner was fined during December or not - and those fined will be weeded out until a “clean” winner is found.
The provincial government’s spokesman Nick Clelland said the technique was part of “behavioural economics” and was known as “promoting the right identity” - in other words helping to to establish a culture of “obeying the rules of the road”, and thus being “fine-free” the norm.
In contrast, more than 100 drivers were arrested for driving drunk and several fines issued during roadblocks across the city at the weekend.
The roadblocks were part of the city’s festive season clampdown on drunk driving.
The Metro Police and city traffic services arrested 113 drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol in patrols in Khayelitsha, Gordon’s Bay, Langa and other parts of the province.
Metro Police deputy chief Yolanda Faro said motorists were stopped for vehicle roadworthiness checks and driver fitness.
“One driver was also arrested for reckless and negligent driving: the suspect was speeding away from the roadblock after he failed to stop when he was pulled over by the officers. This resulted in a high-speed chase through the streets of Langa and along the N2 highway where he was eventually pulled over and arrested in Mfuleni,” Faro said.
While issuing fines, the officers also rescued an alleged robber from a mob in Graceland, near Govan Mbeki Road in Khayelitsha. Earlier in the week the officers arrested five suspects for the possession of illegal narcotics, ammunition and stolen property during patrol in Hanover and in the CBD.
Faro said drivers should be vigilant and refrain from drinking and driving.
“We are two weeks away from our first festive season long weekend and want to urge all road users -drivers, pedestrians and passengers - not to drink and drive nor drink and walk,” she said. - Cape Argus