Arrive Alive

Cycling Safety Suggestions for South African Conditions


The beautiful South African scenery allows for much enjoyment on the road and the number of competitive cyclists is also on the increase.

Competitions are well organized and there is careful attention to safety details - it is however during training that cyclists have to deal with the dangers caused by other road users, harsh conditions of nature and the perils of bad road conditions.

Cycling safety has become a major concern on the South Africa roads as there has been a significant increase in the number of fatal accidents involving cyclists.

At the suggestion of the MTN OFM Classic, we have decided to focus on some hazards specific to South Africa and provide suggestions on how to prevent cycling accidents.

What are the problems facing cyclists in traffic?

  • Vulnerability: Cyclists pose little threat to drivers and hence drivers have less reason to be aware of them. Speed is key in determining the 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.

  • A 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.

It is with these risks in mind that we would like to offer suggestions that might increase safety on the road and reduce the risks of accident and injury.

Planning your route and time of training

What is the best time to cycle and how should I plan my cycling training?

Internationally the numbers of cyclists killed/injured vary spatially and temporally. Most accidents occur on weekday afternoons and the risk of cycle accidents is 4-5 times greater in darkness than in daylight.

The crux of the cyclist safety problem centres on the fact that there is a lack of planning providing for cyclists and that the traffic system is designed predominantly with car-users in mind. In South African driving conditions and especially with deteriorating road conditions it becomes even more important to plan ahead and find the best possible road for your training.

  • Ask experienced cyclists in your area on which routes/ roads they train and why they prefer those roads.

  • Be alert to the dangers and risk that drivers in vehicles might be blinded by the rising or setting of the sun and might not see slow-moving cyclists travelling on the side of the road.

  • Watch out for surface conditions like potholes and debris.

  • Never ride your bike through puddles, there may be hazards hidden beneath the water that you can’t see.

  • Try to avoid travelling in the dark.

Strength in Numbers

It is important to recognize that there is a strength to be found in numbers. Do not go on the road alone and rather find a regular partner able to keep up with your training schedule. This will be very important especially in the event of an emergency.

Inform friends and family when you will be cycling, the road you will be cycling on and when you can be expected to return. Carry a fully charged cell phone with you so you can request assistance in the event of an emergency.

Cycling Safety Suggestions for South African Conditions

Equipment and Clothing

  • Ensure your bike is in good repair.

  • Always wear cycle helmets to prevent head injuries. Head injuries cause a high percentage of all cycling deaths - much of which can be prevented by wearing a helmet.

  • Replace any damaged helmets for maximum protection. Helmets must fit properly to be safe. When the straps and comfort pads are adjusted, the helmet should not move forward, backward, or come off. It should sit level on the head and extend down to about two fingers (3 cm) above the eyebrows. Chin straps should be snug without pinching, and the front and rear straps should meet just below each ear when tightly adjusted.

  • Helmets only work once. If a helmet has been in a collision that required the inner lining to absorb shock, buy another one! Even though the damage may not be visible, the shock absorbing qualities may be deadened.

  • Wear eyewear to protect eyes from dirt, wind and bugs.

  • Wear reflective and fluorescent clothing suitable for the weather and time of day that will help other road users to see you.

  • On hot summer days, wear sunscreen and bring water to prevent dehydration.


Rules of the Road

  • Obey the rules of the road and know what each traffic sign means - Ride with the flow of traffic, not against it.
  • Allow ample time to inform vehicles behind of your intention to turn either left or right with hand signals.

The National Road Traffic Act has specific regulations pertaining to cycling safety. Be alert to these regulations:

Regulation 311  - Riding on pedal cycles

  1. No person shall ride a pedal cycle on a public road unless he or she is seated astride on the saddle of such pedal cycle.

  2. Persons riding pedal cycles on a public road shall ride in single file except in the course of overtaking another pedal cycle, and two or more persons riding pedal cycles shall not overtake another vehicle at the same time.

  3. No person riding or seated on a pedal cycle on a public road shall take hold of any other vehicle in motion.

  4. No person riding a pedal cycle on a public road shall deliberately cause such pedal cycle to swerve from side to side.

  5. No person riding a pedal cycle on a public road shall carry thereon any person, animal or object which obstructs his or her view or which prevents him or her from exercising complete control over the movements of such pedal cycle.

  6. A person riding a pedal cycle on a public road shall do so with at least one hand on the handlebars of such pedal cycle.

  7. Whenever a portion of a public road has been set aside for use by persons riding pedal cycles, no person shall ride a pedal cycle on any other portion of such road.

  8. A person riding a pedal cycle on a public road or a portion of a public road set aside for use by persons riding pedal cycles shall do so in such manner that all the wheels of such pedal cycle are in contact with the surface of the road at all times.

Safe Cycling Techniques

  • Keep both hands on the handlebars unless signalling.

  • Be very cautious at blind spots- think ahead before you react.

  • At bends and corners of junctions, do not try to speed past a lorry or long vehicle when turning, the driver may not have seen the cyclist approaching at the near side. It can be very dangerous.

  • Avoid swerving left and right on the road, ride in a straight line.

  • Avoid speeding behind a moving vehicle, if it brakes sharply there could be a collision.

  • Pedestrians should be given priority at all times, remember that some of them may be partially sighted or deaf and may not be aware of your presence.

  • Avoid carrying any load that will affect your balance and centre of gravity.

  • Be alert and avoid distractions such as cellular phone conversations or iPods.

Planning for an Emergency and Medical Attention

Even if you are a well experienced and prepared cyclist - accidents do happen. You should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Who will speak on me or my family’s behalf when I am not able to?

  • What will happen to my family when they are injured and I am not there to provide critical lifesaving information about them?

  • If I am unconscious in an accident, will my medical aid fund do the necessary?

It is suggested that cyclists make sure that they wear an emergency bracelet. This will allow medical personnel to gain access to important information such as medical aid details, allergies etc. This is very important info for medics to have when treating an injured cyclist as they are often unconscious or incoherent in an accident.

Also view:

CrisisOnCall, Emergency Roadside Assistance and Road Safety

Identification of a patient

Accident Scene Safety

Legal Duties and Advice

Post Traumatic Stress

Trauma Counseling

Helicopter Evacuation

Road Safety And Response Time To Accidents

Cycling safely on South African roads and mountain bike trails

Bicycle insurance is needed to cover cyclists from more than just a fall!

Mountain bike safety and riding on the trail

Cycling Safety Tips

Cycling and Road Safety


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