Cycling community calls for harsher consequences for lawlessness on SA roads

This follows the passing of Famous Brands executive Andre Piehl who was fatally hit by an alleged drunk driver over a month ago.
Image: Bloomberg

In an event held in Lanseria on Saturday morning, members of the cycling community and stakeholders came together for the launch of the #Cyclistslivesmatter campaign which is meant to bring awareness to the dangers cyclists face on the country’s roads.

The launch of the campaign comes over a month after an executive of JSE-listed Famous Brands Andre Piehl (52) was killed, while on his way back from a cycling training session, by an alleged drunk driver.

Suspect in the matter, Kabelo (Katlego) Nyatlo (30), is believed to have been driving the white Porsche Cayenne SUV that fatally hit Piehl and injured fellow cyclist Je’an du Preez who was cycling alongside Piehl on the morning of Saturday January, 29.

“It’s a campaign that hopes to address the issues around the lawlessness on our roads, the lack of prosecutions, the lack of consequences from serious accidents and deaths on the road, be it cyclists, be it pedestrians,” CEO of Paddle Power Association Neil Robinson tells Moneyweb.

“We’ve tragically lost a cyclist on our roads and the bigger issue is that there are very seldom any consequences for the drivers who mow these cyclists down and we are saying, accidents do happen, but there needs to be consequences,” director at Cycle labs Andrew McClain tells Moneyweb.

Read: Suspect accused of killing Famous Brands exec makes first court appearance

Piehl’s wife speaks out

Piehl’s wife, Sharon Piehl spoke out for the first time about the tragic passing of her husband at the event.

Visibly emotional, Piehl’s wife recalls how overly cautious her husband was when cycling, especially when he was cycling on the road, he had lost his life, R512 near Lanseria.

“Andre knew the risks of being on that road and every day and every time he went out and every weekend, he knew the risks and so he was overly cautious about what he did and how he rode.”

Understanding the dangers her husband faced on the roads, Sharon says she recalls how she would panic if her husband was even more than 10 minutes late from his cycling sessions.

“Every time he went out, I would ask him how long he is going to be and if he was even 10 minutes late, I would start to panic and wonder if something had gone wrong.”

“But on this day, not even 30 minutes after he left, my phone rang and my Andre [was] killed by a reckless driver because he chose to go out and do what he loved. That is senseless and tragic,” she recalls

Piehl’s wife went on to call on the South African Police Services (Saps) and the justice system to protect victims of crimes like the one her husband succumbed to and called them to deliver justice on behalf of the victims.

Fellow cyclists on recovery path

Je’an du Preez, who suffered severe injuries because of the same accident that took Piehl’s life also attended the launch of the campaign.

A noticeably weakened version of his old self, Du Preez expressed gratitude for surviving the accident but also noted disbelief that the accident robbed him of his last moments with his friend.

“Without sounding dramatic, we were hit by a car [driving] at – some people estimate – 120/140 kilometres per hour from behind.”

“Andre’s and my parting never happened in my mind. There are still days when I think that this never happened. I only found out about this probably about 10 days later,” Du Preez says.

The recovering cyclists says he sustained numerous injuries from the accident, including a broken fibula, degloved calf and elbow, punctured lungs, and broken spinal vertebrae.

Read: Famous Brands executive killed while cycling

Inadequate infrastructure to protect Cyclist

According to McClain, the country’s cycling infrastructure lacks dismally when compared to global standards. He adds that because of this lack of infrastructure, more cyclists are being forced onto off-road trails where it is safer for them.

“Think of places like Holland where every single road has a bike park on the side of the road, I mean in the cradle they do have a cycling lane and its one of the most popular cycling areas in the country and that’s fantastic.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of infrastructure in the country, and we are probably never going to get that infrastructure because it needs to be planned early on. We are seeing a lot more cyclist now riding off-road because it’s a little safer than being on the roads.”

Despite how behind the country’s infrastructure is, McClain says opportunities to improve the current situations should still be pursued.

Robertson says the association is working with different sectors of government to try and fast-track the process of improving infrastructure, but admits that infrastructure improvements will not occur over night.

“What we are doing is tackling this piece by piece and strategically as well as functionally and I believe there is a will to do this, it is now just a case of making it happen,” Robertson says.

He goes further to say that addressing the infrastructural issues that the cycling community faces will not only create a safer environment for cyclists but will also have health and environmental benefits.

“All we are saying is, we need to be taken seriously, this is part of a longer-term solution. It raises economical, societal as well as health issues in this country, so its not just a cycling-motorist thing … We can really make a difference from a positive point of view if we get this right,” he adds.

Megan Harrington from Harrington Johnson Wands (HJW) Attorneys — the attorneys representing the victims in this case — tells Moneyweb that everything is still on track for Nyatlo to appear in court in May.

“I spoke to the investigating officer yesterday and the blood work has been fast-tracked, which means the suspects blood will come back very shortly.”

We are awaiting the records from Porsche — which detail what was happening with the vehicle at the time. But the matter is still ready to proceed on May 18.”

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