Bicycle hijackings on the increase
Bicycle hijacking syndicates are once again on the prowl north of Joburg - particularly in the Midrand and Kyalami areas - stopping cyclists in their tracks to get their pricey two wheelers.
Up to 30 bicycle hijackings have taken place in these areas since August last year.
The syndicates, armed with knives, pangas or machetes, have been hiding in the long grass along dirt roads and hit as the cyclists pass.
The men have even attacked five-man cycling groups, robbing each of the cyclists of their bicycles.
On Monday, Midrand police arrested two men who have been linked to three incidents in Blue Hills in the Kyalami area. Two bicycles were found in the men’s possession.
The arrest comes 11 days after Lyttelton police arrested another suspect, who they have linked to seven such robberies in the Irene area.
It was not yet known if the suspects were linked.
Wayne Burnett, club captain of Midrand Country Cyclists, said attacks were out of control and seem to have become increasingly violent.
In the latest incident a week ago, comedian Kevin Perkins, better known by his stage name Michael Naicker, was hijacked on Canter Lane in Midrand.
Perkins, who was alone on his daily cycle route, was nearly stabbed by one of the three men who attacked him.
“I was on the uphill, so I was going fairly slowly. Three guys came out of the bushes very suddenly,” he told The Star yesterday.
“Two of the bike-jackers were on my left and one on my right. The one on my right had a knife which he was holding very low to the ground.”
The knife-wielding man grabbed the front of Perkins’s bicycle, taking a swipe at him with the knife.
“I can describe that knife very well because I came very close to it,” joked Perkins, adding that he jerked backwards and fell off his bike.
Perkins escaped by running into a nearby paddock.
While the attacker’s two accomplices held on to the R30 000 bicycle, the man chased after Perkins. He aborted the chase only after Perkins screamed for help to some workers nearby.
Although the owner of the paddock chased after the men in her bakkie, they had disappeared within minutes of the incident.
“I’m angry that they have taken my bike, but I’m more angry that they are prepared to kill for it,” said Perkins.
His bicycle was not insured and he was not prepared to go onto the road again, he said. “I’m very shaken by this incident. It keeps playing in my mind.”
A cycling website, thehub sa.co.za, has been inundated with cyclists talking about attacks.
Burnett estimated there had been between 20 and 30 attacks since August.
“It got worse in August last year. In December it was quieter, probably because people were away. In the last two months, it’s just out of control.”
Burnett said a few incidents took place every week.
He said that initially Irene was a hotspot. These days, Blue Hills, Northern Farms and the Hennops area were being targeted.
“These syndicates don’t even know what they are taking. The average bike these days costs R30 000,” he added.
Bicycle prices range from R15 000 for lower-end models up to R160 000 for a top-of-the-range mountain bicycle.
Troy Pople, whose R75 000 bicycle was recovered from one of the men arrested this week, expressed concern that cycling areas were getting smaller and smaller.
“It’s frustrating. I ride six days a week. I don’t want to go onto a spin bike at the gym and we don’t want to go onto the road, where there are vehicles.”
Pople said mountain biking was supposed to be safer. He said the Blue Hills area, where he had been robbed, had up to 100 cyclists during a weekend.
While Burnett understood it was a difficult crime to police, he wished the police would take the cyclists more seriously.
Lyttelton police spokesman Captain Brian Plaatjies said that after arresting the suspect on June 16, they had managed to link him to seven cases.
Police were observing the target area, which appeared to be in the field close to the Smuts House Museum, and were trying to ensure a regular visible police presence there, he said.
“We want to catch all these men and we will continue with visible policing until we get them,” he added. - The Star