Saturday, January 22, 2022

Cyclists left spooked as fellow rider loses life

As devastating news of the untimely death of Warren February due to a road accident filtered through, many local cyclists were left aghast. For most of them, the sudden loss of February had all the echoes and hallmarks of Fabian Gordon’s death in 2007 embedded on it. While it had taken nine years for a fatality to be recorded, for many local cyclists, the fear and possibility of getting hit by vehicles is real and a genuine concern.

Although cycling road fatalities are rare, the dangers of cycling are real according to most active cyclists. Although it took nine years to record a fatality, many local cyclists say this was bound to happen. For local cyclist Segale Mabiletsa, the news of the death of a fellow cyclist, though not a shock, has left him startled. For all he knows, this could have been him. Just about three months ago, Mabiletsa had to be rushed to the hospital after he was knocked down by a vehicle while cycling along the A1 road just close to Mmamashia. Luckily for him, the accident was not fatal and he managed to escape. 

However, just as he was preparing to get back on the saddle again, his fellow cyclist lost his life. “This incident is very terrifying for me, more especially as I am just recovering from my ordeal and was about to start cycling again this very month. This incident shows how unsafe cycling is in our roads,” Mabiletsa said. Narrating his close brush with death, Mabiletsa said he was riding along the A1 on the road shoulder when a speeding combi driver hit him from behind with a mirror, sending him and his bicycle tumbling out of the road. Luckily for him, his fellow cyclists were close by and rushed him to the hospital. Ever since, the local cyclist has had to see a physiotherapist every now and then as he experienced chest and back pains as a result of the incident. 

For another cyclist, Peter Sekwale, the incident was just as traumatic. Also having been involved in an accident while cycling about five years ago, Sekwale was also one of the cyclists who witnessed Mabiletsa’s close brush with death back in November. Concerning his own ordeal, in which he was also knocked down by a car coming from behind him, Sekwale said the incident left him scarred and scared. “When I went back to cycling after the accident, I did not want to ride close to the road. Sometimes I would ride close to the railway lines until I reached a point where I knew the traffic was not dense and I would then join the road,” he narrated. 

Ever since, Sekwale has been one of the biggest advocates for safety on the roads, a topic which he is still passionate about today. Commenting on the issue, Botswana Cycling Association (BCA) Secretary General Tlamelo Dube acknowledged that local cyclists are facing danger when cycling along the country’s roads. He emphasised that while fatalities are rare, many cyclists are becoming victims of road accidents whilst cycling. He said as the BCA, safety for cyclists has been top of their priority, but the problem now lies with car drivers who do not treat cyclists with respect. “It should not take an unfortunate accident for us to have cyclists’ safety concerns addressed. While we try to educate our communities, drivers and cyclists included, on issues of safety on the roads, we believe it is now time that other stakeholders like the Police Services and the Department of Road Transport and Safety (DRTS) come on board so we can address these issues,” Dube explained.

As part of their campaign for better safety, Dube said the cyclists will sign a petition to the Minister of Transport and Communication, under whom the DRTS falls, to facilitate discussions around safety of cyclists on the country’s roads. For their part, Dube said the BCA will continue enforcing strict safety rules for their cyclists to follow as it has been proved they are effective. He cited the example of another local cyclist, Calistus, who he said was saved by a helmet when he was involved in an accident some time back. Going forth, the BCA Secretary General said the BCA will intensify their safety campaigns, targeting cyclists and drivers alike. 

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