Durban - Durban cyclists will dedicate their moonlight mass ride on Saturday to two-time Olympic mountain bike cyclist, Burry Stander, who was killed by a taxi in Shelly Beach on Thursday.
Rage and shock has spurred South African cyclists to make his death the “Arab Spring” of cycling by demanding law changes to improve safety for riders.
Steve Smith (@SteveSmithZA), Red Bulletin editor and author, tweeted that an “Arab Spring-type social media” should be set up for public marches to put pressure on lawmakers for this change. In another tweet, he said: “We have to draw a line in the sand somewhere & fuel change. This is that line...”
Police confirmed this morning that Port Shepstone police were investigating a case of culpable homicide after the crash, which happened at about 4.50pm in Marine Drive.
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said Stander was riding alone and died at the scene.
“The taxi driver allegedly stopped after the accident until the arrival of the police. No arrest has been made at this stage,” he said.
A witness, Kevin Govender, who works at a nearby Shelly Beach liquor store, said there was peak traffic at the time. He saw a Toyota Quantum, driving from the direction of Port Shepstone, and also saw Stander who was cycling in the opposite direction.
“I then saw the taxi turn into Stott Road and at the same time the cyclist was also crossing this road. There was a bang and I saw that the cyclist had hit the left side of the taxi and a mirror and window had broken,” he said.
Govender said Stander was flung on to Marine Drive.
“He was lying face down and there was blood coming from his head. I rushed there and was trying to call an ambulance. His father was there within minutes and his wife and mother also came and were crying uncontrollably. It was very sad,” he said.
Govender said the taxi driver had been in shock and “seemed like he did not know what to do”.
“He told me it was his bad luck and said that he had not seen the cyclist and did not know how the accident happened,” Govender said.
Watching Stander’s wife clutching his body to her chest and cradling him left Govender traumatised.
“That is one of the saddest things I have ever seen. His mother was completely distraught. I could not sleep as this incident kept coming back to me. It was very sad.”
The Durban memorial ride, dubbed the Third Quarter Moonlight Mass by organisers, Brandon van Eeden and Aroon Patel, starts at 8pm on Saturday from Moses Mabhida Stadium.
Its Facebook page described the event as a social experiment that had been gaining popularity in raising awareness for cycling in the city and the safety of cyclists in the urban environment.
Mass rides were also planned for 6pm on Friday in Pretoria from Fountains Circle; Johannesburg at the corner of Jan Smuts and Bompas Roads in Dunkeld; Cape Town, meeting at the Green Point circle; George at Unity Park, and another ride at 8am on Saturday in Bloemfontein, starting at Horak Street across from the Free State Stadium.
Stander’s Facebook fan page said there would be an official memorial next week.
Mike Finch, editor of Bicycling SA, said that Stander would be remembered as a trailblazer and hero.
“Developing strong, local heroes South Africans can look up to is what fosters development. Burry was world-class and this encourages many young cyclists to keep trying.
“He proved that it can be done,” he said.
KZN Mountain Biking said via Facebook: “We cannot express our outrage adequately regarding the untimely and unnecessary death of Burry Stander... Our deepest sympathies and prayers go to Burry’s wonderful and close-knit family.
“This will be the most difficult time they have ever faced and all we can do is pray that they are able to cope with such a loss. Burry was loved and respected by tens of thousands of people all over the world and they will feel the pain of the family.
“Burry we loved you in life and we will always love the legacy that you have left us in South Africa. You have been our finest mountain biker ever and one of the best in the world. May you Rest in Peace.”
In May, he wed long-time girlfriend and fellow champion cyclist, Cherise Taylor.
Mountain Bike SA head, Brett Coates, said Stander had years of experience and was unlikely to have been riding recklessly. But, he added, cyclists were often treated as little more than road bumps.
“Drivers might slow down for us but they won’t stop,” he said. “We try as hard as we can. We put up signs, wear reflective vests and put on lights, but drivers just don’t see cyclists.”
Barry McCallum, a cyclist and journalist, said police needed to enforce moving violations. “Roadblocks don’t cut it. The problem with motorist-versus-athletes incidents is that motorists pay very little respect for other road users. There is an attitude that being behind the wheel of a heavier vehicle gives you right of way always.
“That said, cyclists and other athletes on the road can be their own worst enemies.”
Last year the death of cyclist Sivuyile Same, of Masiphumelele, killed when hit by a bus, prompted Western Cape authorities to launch fresh initiatives to keep cyclists safe.
Motorists travelling in Main Road between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay where Same died would have to travel at the speed of a bicycle if the 1.5m overtaking distance between a cycle and a motor vehicle became law.
This could be as slow as 20km/h. This is because the road is too narrow to allow 1.5m between the vehicle and the cyclist without the motorist breaking the law by crossing the solid white line in the centre of the road.
In January 2011, South Africa’s top woman cyclist, Carla Swart, 23, died in the Free State during her time-trial when she was struck be a truck. She died at the scene.