Michael Dladla’s recent crash during a training ride reflected once again the vulnerability of cyclists on our roads, which has resulted in renewed calls from activists for the government’s intervention to make roads safer for all users. Picture: Independent Newspapers.
Michael Dladla’s recent crash during a training ride reflected once again the vulnerability of cyclists on our roads, which has resulted in renewed calls from activists for the government’s intervention to make roads safer for all users. Picture: Independent Newspapers.

Cyclist counts his blessings amid calls for stricter traffic laws

By Mervyn Naidoo Time of article published May 24, 2020

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Durban - Michael Dladla believes it was only the “hand of God” that prevented him from joining the long list of cyclists who have been killed in road accidents due to the negligence of motorists.

Dladla, 37, who is a high-performance training co-ordinator with KZN Cycling, crashed into a vehicle that stopped suddenly in front of him, while he was on a training ride in Hammarsdale last Saturday.

He landed head first on the tarmac and sustained an assortment of facial injuries, including a few broken teeth, but is on the road to recovery.

The driver of the vehicle, who apparently stopped to chat with friends on the roadside, allegedly fled the scene.

However, in light of the incident, prominent members of the cycling fraternity ramped-up calls, once again, for the government to provide more protection for cyclists.

A bystander assisted Dladla, who had blood oozing from his head and face.

“My life could have ended, like Burry Stander, had it not been for God and my helmet,” said Dladla.

Stander was a champion mountain biker before he was killed during a training ride. A taxi travelling on the wrong side of the road crashed into him in the Margate area, on the KZN South Coast, in January 2013.

With level 4 lockdown rules providing a three-hour exercise window (6am-9am), Dladla was doing ride-work with six cycling protégés last Saturday.

As part of KZN Cycling’s development programme, Dladla is deeply involved with unearthing cycling talent from townships and rural areas and priming them for higher honours.

On the day in question, he was leading the group, which included two teenagers from crime-ravaged Hammarsdale, who have excelled on the local and international cycling scene.

Dladla was riding on Shezi Road when he noticed a blue Toyota travelling on the wrong side of the road and attempting to overtake a taxi.

The driver of the car aborted the overtake attempt when he noticed a speed-hump ahead and trailed the taxi, with Dladla in his rear.

When the driver stopped suddenly to speak with friends at a taxi rank on Shezi Road, Dladla was unable to avoid the vehicle, and he crash-landed after his bicycle got caught on the car’s tow bar.

Dladla said one of the driver’s friends attended to him before police and paramedics arrived on the scene.

When police questioned bystanders about the driver of the car, they got no response.

Dladla was taken to a local clinic for treatment.

Later, he posted a picture of his battered face and details of the vehicle he had crashed into, on Facebook.

Dladla said the driver initially contacted him via telephone and denied that the accident was his fault and was also angered that his vehicle details had been posted on Facebook.

Dladla said the post was necessary because he wanted to track the driver.

“I also asked the driver why he didn’t stop if he was not responsible for the accident.”

He has since reported that the driver contacted him on Tuesday, apologised for his actions, and agreed to pay for damages and Dladla’s medical bills.

Alec Lenferna, KZN Cycling’s chief operating officer, said Dladla was a valuable member of his organisation and a good coach who was well liked.

“Thank goodness Michael only got injured in the way that he did. It could have been a lot worse,” Lenferna said.

Ciska du Plessis-Austin, the president of Cycling South Africa, said she knew of cyclists who had been killed in road accidents.

A "cultural" issue

Du Plessis-Austin believes the problem is a “cultural” issue.

“Motorists need to start respecting other road users like cyclists, pedestrians, bikes and others.

“This has to be driven by the government and the department of transport in particular.”

She said she also noticed the bias towards other road users during the lockdown.

“Even when people were allowed back on the roads, consideration was only given to motorists. Not once did they recognise cycling as a means to commute, a healthy lifestyle alternative, and was not harmful to the environment.

“Yet, in the rest of the world, even in a place like China, cycling is huge,” said Du Plessis-Austin.

Rens Rezelman, chairperson of the Pedal Power Association of South Africa, said it was unfortunate when incidents happened on the roads, and he believed it could not be completely eradicated.

Therefore, his organisation had campaigned heavily for cycling infrastructure on roads.

“All we get is a coat of paint on the road to demarcate a cycling-only lane. But minibuses use it as a drop-off point. So we have to educate cyclists to be aware and understand such occurrences.”

He said the association had also motivated strongly for a 1.5m safe passing distance in the past, also known as the Burry-gap, but it was only legislated in the Western Cape.

Rezelman said it was also an imperative to get courts to have negligent drivers arrested, and offered support to cyclists who had been in road accidents.

Sunday Independent

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