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Cyclists vs motorists: rules of the road

March 2018

#roadrules #accidents #cyclists #motorists #2018

Philip Swanepoel (BA Law, LLB, LLM)

South African roads are often used by both motorists and cyclists simultaneously which often leads to mutual frustration by these two groups of road users. However, the South African legislature has enacted statutes and regulations aimed at ensuring the safety of all road users. Both motorists and cyclists bear certain responsibilities when using the road and these must be adhered to strictly in order to ensure the safe and harmonious enjoyment of our roads.

Some rules should be adhered to by both groups in order to ensure the safety of themselves and of pedestrians. For instance, both cyclists and motorists must stop at red traffic lights and stop signs. Furthermore, both groups must stop and give way to pedestrians at pedestrian crossings. Both cyclists and motorists should ride or drive on the left-hand side of the road (i.e. with the flow of traffic).

There are furthermore specific rules which should be adhered to by motorists in order to ensure the safety of cyclists. Motorists are firstly not allowed to park on sidewalks or traffic circles, or on lanes specifically meant for cyclists. These areas are for the exclusive use by pedestrians and cyclists and any obstructions caused by stationary motor vehicles could compromise their safety. It is also important to note that the Western Cape has specific regulations which must be adhered to by motorists. Motorists must according to these regulations always exercise due care when passing cyclists. They should also ensure that there is at least a distance of one meter between their motor vehicle and the cyclist when passing him or her. The Western Cape regulations also make provision for when there is not enough space to leave a distance of one meter, stating that a driver of a motor vehicle may then, despite any solid barrier line or other road traffic sign prohibiting encroachment upon the right-hand side of the road, encroach on that part of the road in order to pass the cyclists safely. However, this is only allowed if it can be done without obstructing or endangering other persons or vehicles, if it is generally safe to do so, and only for as long as is needed to pass the cyclist.

There are also specific rules for cyclists contained in Regulation 311 which are aimed at ensuring the safety of all road users, cyclists and motorists alike. A very important rule is that cyclists must ride in a single file, except when passing another cyclist. It is also important to note that passing may only take place one at a time. Cyclists are furthermore prohibited from deliberately swerving on their bicycles from one side of the road to the other. Another important rule is that cyclists must make use of dedicated pedal cycle lanes if available. Another rule aimed at ensuring safe roads is that bicycles must have reflectors on the back and front in order to increase visibility. Lastly, regulation 323 prohibits cyclists from riding on any freeways such as the N1 or N2.

This article only mentioned the most important rules which must be adhered to in order to ensure that motor vehicles and bicycles can use our roads simultaneously whilst being safe. The national road regulations and provincial regulations contain numerous other rules which must also be adhered to, but which did not fall within the scope of this article, relating to the operation of motor vehicles and bicycles on public roads. Road users should familiarise themselves with all of the relevant road rules since non-compliance is regarded as a criminal offence.




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