Whether you’re an amateur cyclist looking to improve your fitness and reach your cycling goals or a professional that’s out there on most days of the week, South African cyclists face a great deal of risk every time they hit the road.
While we’re going to focus specifically on crimes that are commonly perpetrated against cyclists and tips to prevent these, we acknowledge the high rates of accidents and injuries faced by cyclists. Common sense, hyper vigilance and an understanding of safety precautions and practices is paramount to staying safe.
Tip #1: Cycle in groups
The best way to avoid being attacked and robbed when cycling is to cycle in a group. Groups are intimidating and even armed criminals will think twice before attempting to rob them. Groups of between three and eight cyclists are best as larger groups can cause traffic congestion and accidents and smaller groups still get robbed by armed individuals.
Tip 2: Find a cycle buddy or group
Whether you cycle in a small or large group each cyclist must have a cycle buddy. This is another cyclist who will keep an eye on you throughout the session and vice versa. This is to ensure that no one is left behind when cycling in particularly large groups and to make sure everyone has someone keeping a close eye on them.
Tip #3: Arrange a following vehicle
Vehicles that follow cyclists can cause accidents and slow down traffic but, they can be a lifeline for cyclists that are on a new route or are not part of a group. Consider allowing a follow vehicle to remain a short distance behind or to drive a short distance ahead of you to prevent cause traffic problems and putting themselves at risk of hijacking, robbery and smash and grab incidents.
Tip #4: Install a GPS tracker on your bike
There is a huge range of GPS and GSM signaling safety and tracker devices available on the market that can be used to notify your chosen contacts if you are in trouble, have had an accident or to help police locate a stolen bike. If you have a limited budget something as simple as a wireless smart tag tracker will do the job but those with SIM cards and long battery life are preferred.
Tip #5: Get rid of distractions
Many cyclists listen to music while cycling. While it certainly makes your session more enjoyable it can makes you lose one of the most important senses you have—hearing. Whether it’s a scream for help from someone in your team, a warning from a motorist or the sound of someone walking up or driving behind you, you need to be able to hear to keep your awareness levels where they need to be to ensure safety. Headphones also make you a target for mugging and robbery – keep your valuables at home.
Now, if you have headphones and a robber shouts at you to get off your bike, you may not hear this and, may cause the attacker/s to react violently. While it’s a sad reality, we need to be able to hear, respond, and react when we’re cycling on public roads.
Tip #6: Plan your routes
Try to stick to routes that you are familiar with. If you’re cycling a new route always plan it beforehand thoroughly. You can use Google Maps and any mobile route and navigation planner to do this. All new routes should be cycled in groups. If you do not have a cycling buddy or group, ask a family member to drive behind you or check up on you every few kilometres.
Tip #7: Make sure you equipment is in working order
Many cyclists get robbed and attacked because they’ve had an equipment failure of some sort and have no choice but to stop and get off of their bikes.
Always perform a pre-cycle check to ensure your tires are properly inflated and not excessively worn, that your brakes are functional, that cables are not cut or frayed, check your wheel quick release lever and make sure there are no damaged, loose or improperly fitted parts. You should also ensure that you have all the personal clothing and emergency medical and repair equipment you’ll possible need.
Tip #8: Send out a trip schedule
Whether you use an app or manually message friends and family, you must let people know about all your planned rides. You must let them know when you’re leaving and when you plan to return as well as details of your route. Cloud based trackers are a great option to allow loved ones to remotely track your progress while you cycle.
Tip #9: Self-defense tools and weapons
It is always best to comply with a robber and react calmly, avoiding sudden movements or any erratic behavior. If however, you encounter an attacker that isn’t satisfied with merely stealing your bike and any other items you may have on you, have a self-defense weapon such as a taser or a pepper spray may save your life. We stock a cyclist pepper spray that comes with an adjustable Velcro strap.
Manufactured and importuned from the US, it is one of the most powerful formulas available, is incredible reliable and undergoes stringent testing. Never risk using a cheap brand that does not adhere to stringent quality testing as these are not only likely to fail 30% of the time but are not strong enough to disable an attacker and have poor safety features.
Tip #10: Hyper vigilance and common sense
Listen, look and feel. Very often victims of crime see warning signs before something happens but question their gut feelings and try to downplay the voice in their head. If you think you’re being followed or have a feeling that you should alter your route or stop, react quickly and appropriately. Remain vigilant and use common sense.
Let’s get the conversation about safety and security for South African cyclists started below. Have you been attacked or robbed while out on the roads? Share your story and help other cyclists get prepared and stay safe.