File picture: Jaguar Land Rover via Motorpress.
File picture: Jaguar Land Rover via Motorpress.

Cyclists vs motorists: Your rights and responsibilities as a road user

By Time of article published Dec 23, 2021

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By: Greta Goosen

Johannesburg - Following many months of Covid-related postponements, the 2021 cycling season finally kicked off successfully in October with the 44th Cape Town Cycle Tour. With the next edition scheduled for the 13th of March next year, the country's roads are likely to be laden with cyclists looking to improve their times and PBs, as well as newbies looking to participate in their first race.

While this is a welcome development for the cycling community, it does bring with it additional risks for both cyclists and motorists, who will need to stay alert as they are once again forced to share the road during the upcoming summer season.

Over the past few years this tenuous co-existence has been fraught with difficulty, with hundreds of road deaths recorded annually as a result of cycling-related accidents. In a bid to combat this worrying trend, the Department of Transport revealed a number of proposed amendments to the National Road Traffic Regulations, stating that cyclists should be afforded the same courtesy as their four-wheeled counterparts

Many argue however that road safety is a two-way street, and that while cyclists should be afforded equal road rights, they're also bound by a certain code of conduct, and are obliged to play their part in preventing unnecessary accidents.

Here are a few key pointers for both motorists and cyclists to bear in mind so as to make the road a safer place:


Stay alert and alert others

Particularly when it comes to busy roads, cyclists can't afford to fall prey to distractions. In order to avoid unnecessary incidents, it's best to avoid using headphones, as these can severely reduce your ability to respond to unexpected situations. Equally important is your capacity to pre-empt your movements and alert other drivers when you're changing direction by indicating clearly and using appropriate hand signals. Remember that, the more you communicate on the road, the less likely you are to create potentially life-threatening confusion.

Pedal predictably

Predictability is key to preventing potentially disastrous encounters on the road. The onus on you as a cyclist is to act in a way that doesn't confuse or rattle drivers, which means holding your line and ensuring you always ride in the same direction as the traffic flow. You'd be equally well advised to avoid flitting from the pavement to the road and back, as this type of erratic behaviour can cause confusion and frustration. Remember too to avoid overlapping wheels, as this is essentially the equivalent of riding in somebody's blind spot. As such, aim to ride behind, in front of or beside someone else so as to ensure you're always visible to other road users.

Stick to the rules

Before setting off on the open road, it's important to familiarise yourself with your rights and responsibilities as a cyclist. This means sticking to the rules of the road, paying close attention to road signs and ensuring that you only ever ride in single file. Additionally, it's important to ensure you're always visible to motorists, using reflective clothing at all times and using lights at night to clearly communicate your presence.


Keep your distance

Whilst you might consider cyclists a nuisance, it's important to bear in mind that they are equally entitled to use the road, and as such should be treated with both caution and respect. If you find yourself sharing the road with cyclists, do your best to maintain a safe distance of at least 1.2m, and to allow for ample space when overtaking. When in doubt, yield to cyclists, especially at intersections and circles so as to avoid confusion and possible collisions.

Know the rules

Avoiding disaster is easier when you know how. By understanding what the cyclist in front of you is trying to communicate with their hand signals, you will be better equipped to anticipate their next moves and ease your speed or change direction accordingly. As such, you'd be well advised to familiarise yourself with common biking hand signals so as to ensure you're not taken by surprise.

Remember that, whether you're on two wheels or four, it's important to respect the rules of the road so as to avoid not only potentially calamitous collisions but also to steer clear of any financial obligations that might arise if you're proven to be in breach of the law. Remember too to ensure that your insurance policies are up to date and that your chosen means of transport is roadworthy so as to avoid potential complications when and if the times comes to file a claim.

Greta Goosen is Head of Customer Experience at MiWay Insurance

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