Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Criminals using pepper spray to knock people off their bicycles

By Shanice Naidoo Time of article published Mar 13, 2021

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Cape Town - There has been a 75% increase in attacks on cyclists since the easing of lockdown level 4.

This according to the chairperson of the Western Province Cycling Association Sharief Peters.

“Cycling has taken off in Cape Town as means of commuting, sport and recreation. Over the last couple of months, attacks on cyclists have noticeably increased. Previously, we had known hotspots no-go zones, this is not the case anymore. In some cases, riding in groups hoping for safety in numbers has made no difference. We are not safe anywhere on our roads,” said Peters.

He added that some of the attacks resulted in fatalities or lifelong injuries.

“There has been a spate of attacks in the lower Woodstock Road, so we try and avoid that area,” said Peters.

In the most recent attack, an early morning cycle turned into a nightmare for a Wynberg cyclist. At around 6.40am last Sunday, the cyclist was heading into Castle Town Road when he saw two men jump over the fence from the railway line side.

“They were heading towards him with knives, pushed him off his bike, he fell and broke some teeth. His leg and arm were badly damaged. They attempted to stab him but missed and tore his top. They took his bike and cellphone,” said Peters.

The cyclist’s bicycle was recovered after the incident.

Steve Hayward, the chairperson of Pedal Power Association (PPA), said criminals are aware of the value of bicycles and will sell them for whatever they can get, often far below their worth.

Pedal Power is a public benefit organisation committed to promoting cycling and the interests of cyclists.

“There are, however, syndicates that look for top-end bicycles, they sell off the parts or send the items to other countries for resale. The attacks have become violent. Criminals use bricks, knives, pangas, sticks and guns to attack the cyclists.

“They will sometimes pretend to be crossing the road and then attack or attack the slowest rider at the back. Single riders are an easy target,” said Hayward.

He agreed that since lockdown was enforced in March last year, there has been an increase in attacks on cyclists.

“We are urging second-hand bike dealers and the community to be on the lookout for anyone trying to sell stolen bicycles and to report it to the authorities. Furthermore, we are asking cyclists to ride in groups and not go out alone as this makes them ‘easy targets,” said Hayward.

The PPA reports on hotspot areas via their social media channels to alert cyclists of potentially dangerous areas they should avoid.

Some of the identified hotspots by the PPA include Ocean View, Slangkop, Military Road in Steenberg, the R44 close to Stellenbosch Square, Vlottenburg and the R304.

Cyclist and former world champion and world record holder, Wimpie van der Merwe, said now the criminals that are using pepper spray to knock people off their bicycles.

Van Der Merwe said they are looking at various solutions to the current attacks on cyclists in the Boland area. They have different WhatsApp groups that cyclists can communicate on and make each other aware of any incidents.

He added that they would also look into getting the bicycles chipped to stop them from being easy targets.

“They (criminals) go for the smallest person and the person at the back. They are so clever and even attack even if you are cycling in a group. Three guys were acting like they were crossing the road. We were two cyclists. I went to the front and they ripped her off her bicycle she broke her pelvis and had other small fractures,” said Van Der Merwe.

He said they knew what size bicycle they wanted.

“There is the ’lockdown guy’, avoid this person as they fling you of your bicycle. Then there is the ’weapon guy’, who carries the weapons, be aware of them.’’

’’Attackers can also be people in cars. People can watch you ride and see your bicycle and stop their car. Amateurs sell to second-hand shops. The pros sell it to different syndicates or online. Most people recognise their stuff being sold online,” said Van Der Merwe.

He added that sometimes the bicycles would be worth R100 000 and it would be sold for R500.

Keeping to the saying of 'never go alone' Mahdi Kariem (from Cedar Cycling Club) his wife Yasmin Kariem and his friend Faried Stemmet went for a cycle in the Athlone area late last year. Mahdi said they were attacked by four men.

“Two guys were jogging and two were further down the road. They boxed us in. They had this scary look in their eyes. The one guy threw a brick at me. I ducked. They hit my friend and his facial bone had broke. They pointed a firearm at my wife. I got off my bike to help they pointed the weapon at me now,” said Mahdi.

The perpetrators made off with his wife's R6 000 bicycle and left his bicycle.

He said his wife still gets nervous when using that same route and his friend has not been so keen to get back onto his bicycle.

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