29 Jul 2014 Cyclists: Don’t be a target for criminals out there
Depending on where and when you ride and your vulnerability, you may be exposed to some risk of assault or robbery while cycling, as was the case earlier this week with a cyclist in Kwazulu-Natal, as well as local cyclists who were attacked near Stellenbosch. The risk is often low but the impact on many people of an assault, robbery or other attack is massive. It can significantly reduce how much you use your bike and the stress-free enjoyment of riding when you do. Consequently, it is worth trying to minimise the risk of assault before it ever happens to you.
“A typical assault on a cyclist is either before sunrise and after sunset or when cyclists are isolated and very few other people are in the immediate area,” explains Steven Hayward, Chairman of the Pedal Power Association. “Thugs will generally also choose a spot that provides limited escape options, where they can block your way and push your off your cycle,” says Hayward.
“Cycling, particularly at speed, can feel less exposed but unfortunately it is very easy for criminals to push you off your bike or grab you as to try to ride past or away,” says Hayward.
Tips to stay safe:
- The major increased risk factor over pedestrians is that your bike and any attached equipment, including cell phones and wallets that are visible in a back pocket, are additional goods a criminal may find attractive to steal. In most places, stealing bikes is not heavily punished and the chances of being caught are low, unlike with car theft. There is no such thing as “Grand Theft Bicycle” even if your bicycle is worth more than a car.
- In high risk circumstances, avoid strangers trying to stop or engage you.
- Avoid groups of people loitering on the street or spreading out in front of you. Pass wide if you can, and turn around if you are not feeling secure.
- If you are not riding from home, park your car in a place that will be safe when you pick your bike up
- Ride with other cyclists. There is safety in numbers
- Find out robbery and assault hotspots on your routes and avoid them. In all urban areas there are always “hotspots” for crimes like robbery and assault.
- At night time, avoid riskier off-road routes and routes with dead zones.
- Cyclists are most vulnerable when unable to quickly turn around or take an alternate route. Evade people trying to stop you and practise emergency manoeuvres like hopping onto a pavement if necessary. At minimum, it is worth practising quickly turning around and sprinting away as this is a critical skill that makes the most difference in whether you can escape situations where people are trying to stop you or knock you off the bike.