Opinion

HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: Cyclists, cyclists everywhere and not a care to spare

HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: Cyclists, cyclists everywhere and not a care to spare

OPINION

Earlier this week my wife and I found ourselves in one of the most stressful moments in a parents’ life – dropping our child off at day care for the first time.

It was a sweat-drenched, anxiety inducing moment on a very, very hot day and what seemed like a very, very long drive – even though the place is only 10 minutes away.

I’m a pretty safe driver; I’m not too fond of speeding except past the odd truck on the highway just to get away because driving next to one almost always seems too close. And this is exactly what happened on this very day, except it wasn’t the highway, it was on Beach Road. I had my one-year-old strapped to the backseat and, as always when I drive with any passenger, especially a baby, I am super cautious. So instead of speeding past - which I couldn’t anyway because there were cars in front of me - I kept my distance safely and within the confines of the space left by the cars parked on the side of the road.

There was a cyclist, which I was completely aware of as I had passed him a while back, but trying to keep safe from the truck, it was near impossible to stay wider of the rider. Cyclists like to harp on (and I get why) that motorists need to be safe when they're on the roads. Cyclists lives matter. But we were at a robot. I was stopped. There was no space between myself and the car parked on the side of me for the cyclist to speed past unnecessarily (because frankly, if I have to stop at a robot, then take your place in the queue, sir, and await your turn too).

There is absolutely nowhere to speed to. I don’t care if you’re training to save your own life. You are a fairly wealthy human being with a lot of privilege as it is because you’re on a bike that costs about the same amount as a car and you’ve decided to ride it around in the middle of the morning without a mask no less, and yes, while you are deserving of safety and the awareness of other drivers out there on the road who are absolute jerks, you have zero right to swear at my family because I have not left enough space for you. If you want to be on the road and respected, then respect the road and the motorists as well.

Maybe a lot of cyclists don’t drive cars, so perhaps it’s not a matter of entitlement but simply a matter of not being educated about what certain road signs mean and how to obey them. Cyclists are basically the only people on the road who are immune to any kind of monitoring or punishment by law enforcement and who need to understand zero about the ins and outs of traffic operation. They can just swing by a red light without apprehension whatsoever. I think that if you have to take a test to be a road scooter driver then you should have to take a test to be road cyclist.

There must be consequences. You have to stop at a red light. You have to understand that just because you’re on a bike does not mean you have right of way at a four-way stop, and I am sorry that we’re not a country with designated cycling lanes. But if you’re riding on Beach Road, the prom pathways are massive and there is plenty of space for you on there.

If we are to stay wider of the rider, which we should, then please, can all cyclists stay wider of drivers? It is two-way street. Simple as that.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.

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