Durban - While angry cyclists around the country have been demanding that a 1.5m safe passing distance be legislated to protect cyclists on SA roads, the Western Cape could be the first to actually get the law – potentially as soon as mid-year.
While provincial Transport and Public Works spokesman Siphesihle Dube confirmed that a bill had been passed here to introduce such a regulation, AA head of public affairs Gary Ronald said the 1.5m distance was already at a national discussion level as part of last year’s suggested amendments to the Traffic Act.
Dube said the regulations here could be published as soon as next month, which would then allow for public participation. Problems with enforcement would be handled as part of the participative processes.
The measure, dubbed “1.5 and stay alive”, is now being called Burry’s Gap. It has gained huge momentum following the death of Olympic cyclist Burry Stander during a training ride in Shelley Beach on Thursday last week, following a collision with a taxi.
Ronald said where roads were wide enough, the rule would work.
“But we have quite a few roads which are narrow, and where it will be difficult to apply without cars moving into the oncoming traffic,” he said.
Carlos Esteves, deputy head of Road System Management at the eThekwini municipality, said the 1.5m gap would not be practical.
“My sense is that it will be difficult, if not impractical to enforce,” he said, explaining that standard lanes in eThekwini were around 3.5m or less wide.
“You can’t achieve a cyclist, plus 1.5m and a motorist without encroaching on the other lane,” he said. What was definitely needed, however, was a general change in the attitudes of drivers. Motorists needed to be constantly aware of cyclists or pedestrians in the vicinity.
“More cyclists on the roads will make it common for motorists to have to accommodate cyclists, and not just as exceptions, as is our current situation,” he said.
In Johannesburg, the 1.5m gap is not law, but Rehana Moosajee, a member of the Joburg mayoral committee on transport, said it was “something we are prepared to discuss with stakeholders.”
As part of their complete streets initiative, the city was insisting on new standards for all new road construction to include pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.
“We are also aiming to progressively retrofit infrastructure on roads that don’t have cycle lanes. In this regard, dedicated cycle lanes are being rolled out between Noordgesig and Orlando, and should be completed in June. A cycling route that connects educational institutions and public transport nodes is also being planned for implementation,” she said.
Meanwhile Greg Stedman, chairman of the KZN Cycling Association, said there needed to be responsibility from both cyclists and motorists for the 1.5m safe-passing distance to work.
“As cyclists, you can’t be riding two or three abreast and expect motorists to pass with a large gap. It won’t work,” he said, adding that motorists should pass slowly and at a suitable part of the road.
Gordon Gillespie, a Pinetown cyclist who started the Safe Passing Organisation seven years ago after the death of a cyclist on the M19, said they were not asking for roads to be specially demarcated for cyclists.
“All we want is that when a motorist sees a cyclist, that the motorist passes by safely at a distance of about 1.5m,” he said.