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New traffic laws affect cyclists

New traffic laws affect cyclists

On Thursday, 29 November 2012, the Provincial Legislature passed the Western Cape Provincial Road Traffic Act . This Act has implications for cyclists. Whilst much of the new act is largely administrative, it empowers the provincial Minister of Transport to regulate certain matters to increase road safety in the Province.

Amongst others, Minister Carlisle said: “I will also issue a regulation requiring all vehicles overtaking cyclists, to ensure that there is a safe distance of at least 1.5meters between them before passing. This will be accompanied by law enforcement actions against cyclists who do not ride in single file, or who fail to stop at red robots or stop streets. Whilst we have reduced annual cyclist deaths in the province from 57 in 2008 to 35 in 2011 (reduction of 39%), this figure is still too high,” added Carlisle.

When asked for a response by a local newspaper, PPA committee member Lance Burger responded as follows:

When a traffic authority decides where its is going to allocate its resources for enforcement it might be influenced by various considerations. The most significant of these in the present context are probably: pressure from politically influential people, the goal to promote safety, and revenue generation. The first is not a good reason, and neither is revenue generation. The goal to promote traffic safety (i.e. to reduce or eliminate death and injury and to a lesser extent property damage as a result of traffic collisions) should be the primary and overriding consideration.

Cyclists going through stop streets (or red traffic lights) do not kill anyone other than possibly the cyclists themselves. That does not happen, as the instinct of self preservation prevent cyclists from doing so in dangerous situations where they might be killed or injured by motorists. Spending enforcement resources on prosecuting cyclists for the reasons stated is not going to promote traffic safety. It will detract from traffic safety by diverting resources from other more pressing enforcement needs.

There are many motorists who particularly dislike cyclists and are vocal about it. These vocal motorists are part of the affluent minority that own private motor cars. The intended enforcement against cyclists is to appease this group. Before deciding to do so, the traffic authorities should first consider whether it actually promotes traffic safety or not. The traffic authorities should rather spend their resources on enforcement against minibus taxi drivers, who are responsible for a disproportionate number of traffic collisions.

Cyclists riding two abreast do not kill anyone. South African traffic legislation in this regard is also inconsistent with other countries, which allow cyclist to ride two abreast (but no more) and also inconsistent with the provisions of the Paragraph 2(b) of Article 16 of the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic 1949, which allows cycling two abreast. Does it make sense to spend resources to enforce this particular part of South African anti-cyclist legislation, rather than late night and early morning drunk drivers?

It is a small vocal part of the affluent minority who do the complaining, with the resulting political pressure to act against cyclists. Hopefully the traffic authorities will not succumb to this political pressure, and will direct their energies to most efficiently promote traffic safety, i.e. concentrate their efforts on road traffic users who kill and injury people.

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