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Safe Cycling Tips

South African roads are public spaces, and we as cyclists have the right to ride our bicycles on them. However, riding your bicycle on public roads is a big responsibility, and it is very important that you are aware of (and always obey) the rules of the road, and handle your bicycle in a safe and responsible manner.

And Remember:

Be visible on your bike.

Always wear your helmet.

A second time: Always wear your helmet

Respect and obey the rules of the road

And again: Always wear your helmet

GETTING STARTED

YOUR BICYCLE TYPE AND SIZE

It is also very important that your bicycle is the correct size for you. If the bicycle is too big or too small, you could struggle to control the bicycle, which could lead to an accident or to you falling over in traffic. In addition, riding a bicycle that is not the right size for a long period can be very uncomfortable and lead to neck and shoulder aches and pains.

 

Firstly, it is important that you choose the right bicycle for your purpose. If you intend commuting on footpaths and gravel roads as well as on tar roads, choose a commuting or mountain bike with wider tyres instead of a road bike with narrow tyres, as the wider tyres will cope better with different road surfaces.

 

How to check the saddle height:
Ask someone to hold the bicycle behind the seat, and sit on it with both hands on the top of the handlebars and your heels on the pedals.

 

Equally, make sure the saddle or seat height is correct for your leg length, so that you can expend optimum power while riding, as well as properly control the bike when you stop.

 

When you look down at the front wheel, the front axle should roughly be in line with the handlebars. If you straighten your leg with the crank arm in line with the down tube, your heel should be on the pedal and your leg should be extended. When standing over the top tube, there should be at least a hand width between the top tube and your crotch.

BICYCLE SAFETY CHECK

Are the tyres free of holes, cuts or any embedded objects? (You don’t want a blow-out on a long descent!)

Are the wheels pumped hard enough? (Check the sidewall of the tyre for the correct pressure)

Are the wheels tightly secured? (You don’t want a wheel to come off while you are riding!)

Check both brakes: Are they working? Are the brake pads/blocks still serviceable?

Are the gears working as they should? (You don’t want to grind to a halt in the middle of peak hour traffic!)

Is the chain clean and well oiled? (A clean, oiled chain lasts longer and works better)

Is the handlebar firmly fixed? Is the saddle firmly fixed? If loose: Tighten first! (You don’t want the handlebars or saddle to fall off while you are riding.. you’ll definitely crash!)

Are there any cracks in the frame or forks? (A cracked frame can break at any time)

Do you have a saddle bag with emergency spares attached to the bicycle, including spare tube, a patch kit, and tyre levers? (You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere, not being able to get home again!)

Do you have lights and reflectors on the bicycle (red at the back, white at the front)

CYCLING GEAR

HELMET

 

Never, ever ride your bicycle without wearing your helmet. Make sure that the helmet is the right size and fits securely but comfortably, and that it is SABS, ANSI or Snell-approved. The helmet must be securely fastened at all times so that it does not come off in case of a fall. Test this by putting on your helmet and shaking your head from side to side and up and down. If your helmet moves, it is too loose and you need to tighten the straps until it fits securely. Ensure that you put the helmet on correctly (the “pointed part” faces to the back)

 

CLOTHES

 

It does not help that you wear the latest fashions (either in commuting or cycling clothes) if the clothes are dark, and other road users cannot see you. The clothes you wear also need to be able to protect you in case of a fall – here wearing a few layers will add protection. In case of a fall, the layers slide over each other, instead of your skin on the road.

 

SO, BE VISIBLE! Wear at least a light or brightly coloured top, or get a bright, reflective vest to wear over your clothes. This will assist motorists to see you in the dark, or in those scary hours early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is fading, or when it is misty or raining.

 

SHOES

 

Sandals are nice and cool in summer but do not offer sufficient protection in case of a fall. Rather wear closed shoes with a flat sole (like running shoes), or cycling-specific shoes. Check that laces are securely done up and won’t get caught in the chain.

 

Wear the right clothes for the conditions on the day: If it could rain, take a rain jacket with you; if it is cold, take a jersey or jacket with you: You cannot control your bicycle if you are shivering with cold.

 

GLOVES

 

Try to get hold of a pair of cycling gloves, and always wear them when you ride your bicycle. In the case of a fall, the hands are usually used to break your fall and wearing gloves will protect your palms from road rash.

HOW TO RIDE SAFELY AND LEGALLY IN TRAFFIC

ALWAYS CONTROL YOUR BIKE

It is important to ride your bicycle in a straight line and in a predictable manner, so that cars and other vehicles can predict where you will be riding and how they must respond to your presence on the road.

 

Ride as far left of the white line as possible and safe.

 

Also be aware of the draft caused by a truck or bus: Do not get sucked in when a truck or bus passes you, but be ready for the “wobble” that will follow and control your bike accordingly.

 

In windy conditions, you need to practice extra care, so that a sudden gust of wind does not cause you to lose your line and end up right in front of a car or truck.

 

If you ride with a group of friends or behind another commuter, always make certain that your front wheel is at least one wheel length behind the cyclist in front of you, so that you have enough space to take evasive action should the need arise.

 

If you ride with a group of friends or behind another commuter, always make certain that your front wheel is at least one wheel length behind the cyclist in front of you, so that you have enough space to take evasive action should the need arise.

 

Practice how to keep your bicycle under control when you lift one hand off the handlebar to give signals, so that you do not inadvertently wobble into the path of a car or truck. Being able to control your bicycle will also help you when you participate in a funride or ride with a group of friends and want to take a sip of water from your water bottle.

 

TIP: Always tell someone when you go out on your bicycle, what route you will be riding and when they should expect you back.

AVOID THESE ROAD HAZARDS

Oil, diesel or water

Glass

Drain covers, ‘cat-eyes’ and wet paint

Sand or loose stones

Pot holes

TRAFFIC SIGNS YOU SHOULD KNOW

STOP

 

The “stop” sign means just that: Bring your bicycle to a complete halt at any intersection where you encounter this sign, before continuing.

 

YIELD

 

The yield sign means you have to slow down and check for any oncoming traffic before proceeding. If there is no other traffic and it is safe, you can continue.

 

NO ENTRY

 

This sign means you may not enter a specific road from your current position.

 

PEDESTRIAN CROSSING

 

Watch out for people crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing (and especially near a school). Pedestrians have right of way over cyclists and motorists.

 

BICYCLE LANE

 

According to law, you must use a bicycle lane if one has been provided on a specific road.

 

BICYCLES NOT ALLOWED

 

You may not ride where this sign is displayed.

 

FREEWAY

 

You may NOT ride on a freeway. In Cape Town, this includes the N1, N2, N7, M3 (“Blue Route”) and M

 

TRAFFIC LIGHTS

 

You must STOP at a red traffic light. If the light is orange and you cannot stop safely without being endangered by the oncoming vehicle behind you, you can still cross the intersection but only if it is safe to do so. When the light is green, it is safe to go provided there are no vehicles or pedestrians in your way.

 

In addition to road signs, roads are marked in order to assist road users. Intersections will be covered in road markings (including channeling lines and arrows) to indicate which lane you must use in order to get to the place you want to get to, while barrier lines assist the cyclist with basic safety.

ROAD MARKINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

SOLID LINES

 

A solid line down the middle of the road means you may not cross that line, not even in a fun ride. A solid line across your side of the road at an intersection means you must come to a STOP before entering that intersection

 

BROKEN LINES

 

A broken line down the middle of the road means you may cross that line, should it be safe to do so. A broken line across your side of the road at an intersection means that you must slow down and check for other traffic (like for a yield sign) before entering the intersection, provided it is safe to do so.

 

ARROWS

 

A white arrow comes before a yellow arrow and shows you what is happening to your lane. A yellow arrow is similar to a white arrow, but means that you have to obey the arrow. Once you get to a yellow arrow, you may not change lanes and must stay in the lane where you are.

WHERE MAY OR MAY NOT YOU RIDE?

According to the Road Traffic Act, cyclists have a right to the left of the road. This does not necessarily mean the extreme left of the road, as there is often glass or stones etc to be found there. Ride where it is safe to do so.This also means that you must…

 

Be alert. Keep your eyes open for road hazards, and always be aware of the traffic around you so that you know whether or not it is safe to swerve for a pothole or piece of glass without riding into the path of the vehicle behind you. By being aware of what is happening around you, you can often prevent an accident from happening.

 

You must always ride in the same direction as the flow of the traffic.

Ride in single file, so that traffic can safely pass you.

If you have a choice, rather choose a quieter road for commuting than a very busy road.

 

Use the hand signals! By indicating when you want to turn left, right or stop, the vehicles around you can see what you intend doing and react accordingly.

 

After an accident, many motorists say they simply did not see the cyclist. Ride defensively, and assume that you have to “think” for the motorist as well as for yourself

ROAD RIDING TIPS

Slow down and control your bicycle at all times. You cannot avoid a collision if you are hurtling downhill out of control, with faulty brakes, and a young child or a dog runs out in the road in front of you.

When you approach a bus stop or taxi stop, watch out for pedestrians getting off the bus and wanting to cross the road. Often they do not look out for cyclists (or realize how fast a bicycle can travel) before they start crossing the road. Slow down and prepare to take evasive action until you see it is safe to proceed.

When approaching a parked car, check to see if the driver is still in the car. Often they open the door without checking first for cyclists, causing you to ride into the door. Slow down, and put enough space between you and the car.

Do not cycle closely (draft) behind a bus. You never know when it suddenly needs to stop!

Look ahead! The further you look ahead down the road, the quicker you can identify potential problems like parked cars, bus stops, intersections, pedestrian crossings, steep downhills, sharp turns, potholes or sand or water or poor road surfaces.

Get a light so that you are visible. You should have a steady white light on the front of your bicycle and a flashing red light on the rear. You can also never have too many reflectors on your bicycle.

Always try to make eye contact with drivers; that way you can see whether they have seen you.

Always thank motorists or drivers who for instance assist you by opening a gap for you to cross the road. Always be courteous.

Do not pedal behind a vehicle where you are in the driver’s blind spot. If the driver cannot see you, he/she does not know that you are there.

Do not jump traffic lights or stop streets. Only cross an intersection when you are certain that it is safe to do so.

And remember to stay off the freeways!

BEFORE YOU SET OFF WHAT MUST YOU DO?

Perform your bicycle safety check

Put on your helmet

Look right / left / right and check for oncoming motorbikes and cars (they are often faster than you think) or pedestrians

Check that you know the hand signals and procedures

HOW CAN CYCLISTS SHARE THE ROAD WITH OTHER ROAD USERS?

Never ride out into a street without stopping first and looking. Always assume that the driver has not seen you

Obey all stop signs and yield to crossing traffic

Check behind you before swerving, turning, or changing lanes

Never blindly follow another cyclist without applying the rules

Before you get on your bicycle, put on a helmet!

BASIC SAFE CYCLING RIDING SKILLS

Ride in a straight line using both hands (a) fast (b) slow (bike control)

Ride on a narrow painted line (try to ride on the line as long as possible, demonstrating bike control)

Ride a figure of eight (demonstrate looking ahead and through the turn correctly, as for a motorbike)

Ride a serpentine (show proper bike control)

Ride in a straight line using only one hand (eg demonstrate proper bike control when you are getting ready to signal)

Ride a serpentine using only one hand

Ride a figure of eight using only one hand

Looking over the right shoulder to check for vehicles while still riding in a straight line (cyclist must show he is checking blind spots)

controlling the bicycle with one hand; carrying eg a full paper cup of water in the other

Looking over the right shoulder to check for vehicles, indicate turning right, then turn

Taking a water bottle in and out of the bottle cage without wobbling

Riding in single file in (a) a straight line (b) figure of eight

Practice efficient cycling skills: Sitting still on the bike without moving hips from side to side; using the correct gears; relaxed shoulders; slowing down before a red light so that you do not have to come to a complete standstill

Correct techniques when riding around a traffic circle

General bike control, including emergency stopping

Riding in single file, correctly identifying road hazards

Riding in single file with the front rider peeling off and going to the back of the bunch (echelon riding)

STAY SAFE ON THE ROAD

October is national transport month and not only does the Pedal Power Association want to see cyclists enjoying themselves on the trails and roads, but rider safety remains a top priority.

 

BE VISIBLE:

Wear bright clothes so that drivers can see you – anything neon is great during the daytime. It’s best to avoid biking at before sunrise and sunset, but if you do go for a ride after dark, be sure to wear reflective gear. When turning, be sure to signal to drivers and make eye contact when possible. Ride in a straight, predictable line so that you don’t take any drivers by surprise.

 

AVOID RIDING IN THE EARLY MORNING HOURS:

We are currently very concerned about the amount of hit and run accidents that happen between 4h00 and 5h00 when a lot of intoxicated drivers return home from a night out.

 

CHECK YOUR BIKE:

Before you head out, check your tyre pressure and brakes to make sure everything’s in order. This way there’s less of a chance of technical malfunction that could jeopardize your safety.

 

RIDE IN GROUPS IF POSSIBLE:

More and more cases of muggings and bike jacking are reported to the PPA on a daily basis. Try to slot in with a local WhatsApp group for your own safety.

 

WEAR AN ID BRACELET:

Most of them have an emergency number to call should you need
medical attention. It also makes it easier to contact your next of kin should you be out riding alone.

 

DO NOT USE YOUR CELL PHONE: 

Just as when you are driving your car, don’t text or call whilst riding. Rather stop to take or make a call.

SAFETY TIPS FOR TRUCK AND BUS DRIVERS

TREAT CYCLISTS LIKE ANY OTHER VEHICLE ON THE ROAD

THEY ARE TRAVELING FASTER THAN YOU THINK

 

A cyclist can easily travel over 30 km/h and sometimes over 80 km/h on a downhill, you need to factor that in when turning in front of an oncoming cyclist.

 

EXERCISE CAUTION

 

If you’re not sure of a cyclist’s intentions, slow down rather than risking a wrong assumption.

 

AT NIGHT

 

Use dipped headlights when approaching cyclists as you would when approaching any other road user.

 

TRAFFIC CIRCLES

 

Take special care on roundabouts, you must give way to any vehicle, including cyclists approaching from the right.

 

BE PATIENT

 

Rather than squeezing past or getting impatient, be prepared to wait behind a cyclist turning in the same way you would for a car

TURNING & CHANGING LANES

BE ESPECIALLY AWARE AT INTERSECTIONS

 

Most cyclist and truck/bus crashes happen when vehicles turn at the traffic lights or other sections. Cyclists are more vulnerable than other road users and more likely to be harmed in a crash.

 

SIGNAL YOUR INTENTIONS EARLY

 

Use your indicator as early as possible when you want to move left or right. A cyclist right next to you or in front of you cannot see your indicators. Check again to make sure the way is clear and steer gradually into the new lane, maintaining the same speed or gently increase it.

 

EXPECT CYCLISTS IN UNEXPECTED PLACES

 

Especially when you are turning. Watch out for cyclists coming up on your near side when turning left or moving over to the left. Please check your mirrors and blind spots carefully. Remember your vehicle is huge in comparison with a cyclists; an adult may only be the height of your wheels.

 

DON’T OVERTAKE … AND THEN TURN

 

If you are planning to turn, allow any cyclist ahead of you to pass the junction rather than overtake them and turn sharply across their front wheel.

 

BE CAREFUL WHEN SWINGING OUT WIDE TO TURN LEFT

 

Most cyclist and truck/bus crashes happen when vehicles turn at the traffic lights or other sections. Cyclists are more vulnerable than other road users and more likely to be harmed in a crash.

 

LOOK FOR CYCLISTS ON YOUR LEFT HAND SIDE

 

If you even only suspect that they are there, pause to let them get out of your way, especially when pulling away.

 

PLAN AHEAD

 

When driving towards a road junction, look further ahead and scan left to right as you continue to drive forward. That way you will see things through the windscreen before they become lost behind the pillars.

 

STAY ALERT

 

Cyclists may weave through slow traffic.

WHEN STATIONARY

CHECK YOUR BLIND SPOT

 

If you have passed a cyclist just before approaching a robot, driveway bus stop or junction, it is very likely that they will end up on your left hand side or just in front of you. Assume the cyclist is in one of your blind spots.

 

HOW TO FIND YOUR BLIND SPOTS

 

Check and adjust your mirrors to find your blind spots. Turn your head to look over your shoulder before changing lanes, passing, and turning or before opening your door when parked next to traffic.

 

WHEN YOU PARK

 

Check your door mirror and look behind you before opening the door to make sure you do not hit a cyclist.

 

DO NOT PARK IN CYCLE LANES

 

You could be forcing a cyclist into a dangerous situation by making them edge into traffic. You’ll also be committing a road traffic offence if you drive or park in a cycle lane marked with a solid white line.

OVERTAKING

GIVE AS MUCH SPACE AS PRACTICALLY POSSIBLE

 

Give a cyclist at least one metre when overtaking a bike, they may have to move out towards the middle of the lane to avoid hazards like drains, potholes or debris on the road.

 

YOU CAN CROSS THE SOLID LINE

 

Did you know that when overtaking a cyclist (and provided it is safe and there’s no oncoming traffic), you are allowed to cross the solid white line

 

DON’T OVERTAKE IF THE ROAD AHEAD NARROWS

 

Cyclists are often travelling faster than you think and you could end up squeezing them off the road.

 

IN THE RAIN

 

Allow cyclists extra room in wet weather, as surfaces will be wet and slippery.

 

CERTAIN SCENIC ROUTES ARE HIGHLY POPULATED WITH CYCLISTS

 

Roads along Chapmans Peak, into Hout Bay, Cape Point and Camps Bay are often used by cyclists, especially in the summer months. Do not try to squeeze past cyclists the road is not wide enough

AND OF COURSE, PLEASE REMEMBER THE BASICS

STAY ALERT

 

Your life and the life of other road users depend on your alertness and reactions in an emergency. Respect the legal requirements related to driving and rest times. Do not continue driving if you feel drowsy rather STOP

 

ALCOHOL AND DRUGS

 

Please don’t drink alcohol before, during driving or take any kind of drugs or medication. It may impair your driving skills.

 

NO PHONES

 

It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone while driving.

 

ALWAYS MAINTAIN YOUR VEHICLE

 

Inspect your vehicle before each trip and check your brakes regularly. Learn how to inspect your brakes, identify safety defects, and get them repaired before risking your life and others on the road.

The most important part of a moving truck or bus is the driver!