Cyclists and Motorists - Let's All Obey The Rules

Let's get something out of the way right here and right now: No one is more important on the road. Motorists, you think it's you, it isn't. Scooter drivers, it's not you either. Cyclists... nope. Pedestrians, sorry but it isn't you either. No one is more important on the road. The most important thing on the road is that no one dies. Seriously, every day you don't die on the road is a triumph. I drive a car. I drive a scooter. I use a longboard on the roads and sidewalks. I am not defined by any one of these things and I do my utmost to obey the law when using any mode of transport. Common sense dictates that when I'm on the scooter and skateboard that I am the most vulnerable and thus obey the rules to protect myself. Obey the rules. Protect yourself. This feels like pretty sound logic. It's logic that people driving cars should subscribe to. The same logic should be followed if you are walking, riding, cycling, skating or swimming down a road. The road rules are there to protect everyone, not just cyclists or motorists. Everyone. Driving a car, riding a bike, skating or walking does not entitle you to different rules. Ever. It's sad, I know, but it's true.

The Situation

Yesterday something happened that inspired me to write this article. Since Nic Harry has started selling cycling socks (and damn comfortable ones at that), I decided that I wanted to engage with the community, explain the situation and spread the rules of the road. I was in my car and was stopped at a traffic light when three cyclists pulled alongside me (right and left side), paused and then cut me off while turning right at the traffic light without indicating. To avoid them, I was pushed onto the sidewalk. With no indication that they were turning, I was avoiding two on the left, one on the right and trying to turn a corner at a busy intersection. I hit the pavement and we all then landed up at the next red traffic light. From here on out, I was bullied and repeatedly shouted at by the cyclists, told to shut up and keep driving. One of the cyclists repeated yelled: "The roads are not just for your cars." Making no sense at all since I was indicating and turning safely (and legally) to avoid them, ultimately causing damage to my car. All three of the cyclists then jumped a red traffic light and turned left, again without indicating. This is not the first time that I've been bullied by a cyclist. Despite being the most vulnerable on the road, cyclists in Cape Town have emerged as aggressive and overly defensive while many motorists are too scared to point out when a cyclist does something illegal for fear of the backlash. This isn't all the time. This isn't a rule. But it is a trend that I've noticed more and more as cycling has grown.   Look, motorists are no better, as we all know. In general I see motorists jump traffic lights, ignore stop signs and routinely put themselves and their passengers at risk. It's insane. We're all insane. I can't wait for self-driving cars to take over so we can all marvel at the mass murder we inflicted on ourselves for decades. Until the robots start driving us around, I wanted to publish the road rules for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists to be aware of.

The Rules of the Road

Here's a great summary of things from Cycling South Africa:
  • It is law that all cyclists are to make use of a helmet and the necessary lights both front and rear on a bicycle when riding during evening hours, however preferably at all times;
  • Cyclists may not ride abreast of one another except in a brief situation where overtaking;
  • Cyclists are road users and therefore are to comply with all National Road Traffic Act requirements;
  • Cyclists are to treat stop streets and traffic lights as any other road user would;
Arrive Alive have a nice summary of the problems facing cyclists:
  • Vulnerability: Cyclists pose little threat to drivers and hence drivers have less reason to be aware of them. Speed is key in determining severity of outcome. If collision speed exceeds 45km/hour, there is a less than 50% chance that the cyclist will survive. Even at low impact speed, cyclists can be badly injured. Helmets offer protection but helmet use varies by age, gender and location. Speed management is therefore crucial in a safe traffic system aiming to provide for vulnerable road users.
  • Flexibility: Motorists can never be sure when or where to expect cyclists – often cyclists flout road rules to make gains.
  • Instability: Cycle mistakes or failures are dangerous when they occur near other motor traffic/road users.
  • Invisibility: Cyclists are difficult to see and can be hidden, especially at night.
  • Differing abilities: Cyclists of all abilities and experience are present on the roads.
  • Consciousness of effort: Cyclists seek quick, easy, direct routes, so as to minimise effort.
  • Estrangement: Cyclists are often treated as nuisances on the roads, with little regard paid to their status as road users with equal rights.
The last one there is key and something I've noticed more and more. Breaking a little rule to make headway isn't OK. Stealing something small is still stealing. We need to reach a safe equilibrium. We all need to be conscious of one another on the road otherwise this issue is going to continue to escalate. For a more detailed view of the road rules, visit the Cycling South Africa page.


Nic Harry has started selling cycling socks. They are amazingly comfortable but I don't think you deserve this level of comfort if you don't intend to obey the road rules. So please, if you jump red traffic lights, ignore cyclists and put them in danger, if you ride 3 abreast and are having a fat chat, rather don't buy our socks.
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