Could South Africa adopt new UK cycling rules?

 ·11 Sep 2022

The UK is proposing new regulations requiring cyclists to have licence plates, and insurance, plus they will need to follow a 20 mph (32 km/h) speed limit or face being fined.

While these rules and regulations might seem sensible in a country like the United Kingdom, the chief executive officer of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, questions if similar rules would work in South Africa.

“In a country like the UK, a policy such as this seems more realistic than what it does here,” he said, “particularly, as travelling on bicycles is commonplace”.

The proposal was made when the transport secretary noted cyclists are notorious for flouting road laws. Additionally, he believes the regulation will impress on cyclists the harm they can cause with a lack of care, said Herbert.

“The debate over who is reckless between motorists and cyclists is quite a contentious issue in South Africa. Thus, is there a necessity to apply the same regulations to cyclists as what is applied to motorists?

“The challenges motorists and cyclists face in the UK are not uncommon here. Yet, in a country where road regulation is not properly enforced on motorists, is there merit in developing further regulation for cyclists when enforcement may not necessarily be possible.”

The UK’s transport secretary further impressed his desire to enforce this regulation with valid points. “He pointed out there are two instances, in particular, where cyclists pose a great challenge to other road users. The first is speeding in areas with low-speed limits and the second is the disregard of stop signs and traffic lights,” said Herbert.

The motivation behind his proposal is that reckless cyclists have as much potential to seriously injure or even kill pedestrians as motorists do, he said. Yet, cyclists would need number plates and insurance to cover liability claims.

Should the same apply to South African cyclists?

“Ultimately, any dangerous behaviour on the roads, whether it be by a pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist or motorist, must be dealt with swiftly and decisively to make a considerable dent in our high road fatality rates. Consequently, such regulation could be necessary,” said Herbert.

Yet, if road regulation enforcement on motorists is not quite at the standard it should be, Herbert questions whether we should be adding additional regulations.

“This is a valid and important discussion that all South Africans committed to safer roads should start considering,” he said.

“It, however, should be done with a cognisance that South Africa is vastly different to the UK in terms of road regulation and fatalities and what may work there may not necessarily work here.

“An example is that many cyclists commute to work on bikes because they cannot afford the expense of a vehicle and fuel. Placing extra financial burdens on cyclists, is a major hurdle that needs serious consideration.”

Read: New driver’s licence card for South Africa

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