Tag Archives: law

A safer 1m passing gap

A safer 1m passing gap
After several accidents involving reckless drivers and cyclists, and in an effort to keep our cycling community safe, the Western Cape Government instituted the 2013 Safety of Cyclists regulations that outline the responsibilities of both motorists and cyclists using our roads.

The basics of the law is that cyclists must keep left (except under specific conditions) and not ride abreast (as in this photo), and cars must be darn careful and maintain a 1 meter gap at all times (as in this photo), and may cross the solid white line to abide by this law (as long as it's safe to do so).

Below is a summary of the responsibilities I mentioned:

The Regulations Require a Driver of a Motor Vehicle to:

  1. Exercise due care while passing the cyclist.
  2. Leave a distance between the motor vehicle and the cyclist of at least one meter.
  3. Maintain that distance from the cyclist until safely clear of the cyclist. However, motorists may cross a solid barrier line to pass a cyclist provided that it can be done without obstructing or endangering other persons or vehicles. If it is safe to do so, it can and is done for a period no longer than is necessary to pass the cyclist.

The Regulations Require a Cyclist to:

  1. Make the appropriate use of pedal cycle lanes where these are available.
  2. Give conspicuous driving signals as contemplated in National Regulations.
  3. Keep as close as possible to the left edge of the roadway.
  4. Obey road traffic signs and rules.
  5. Fit and use effective front and rear lights when riding in hours of darkness and when visibility is limited.
  6. Not ride on the right-hand side of a motor-vehicle proceeding in the same direction, except when passing that motor vehicle or turning right at the intersection.
  7. Not ride abreast of another cyclist proceeding in the same direction, except when passing that cyclist.
  8. Not ride while wearing a headset, headphones or any listening device other than a hearing aid or while carrying another person on the pedal cycle, unless the pedal cycle is specifically equipped to carry more than one person.

Source: Safety of Cyclists and Blue Lights Regulations Announced

Finally, then, to clear up some confusion (that I certainly had) - the law requires a minimum 1 meter gap be maintained when passing a cyclist, but the Pedal Power association promote keeping a 1.5 meter gap. The 1.5 meter gap is probably just to play it safe, in case motorists underestimate how far 1 meter actually is (and because trucks 'n trailers sometimes have pointy bits that stick out wider than the driver may realise).

So, I reckon we try to keep that 1.5 meter gap whenever possible - and let's be a little more careful with people's lives. Ok? :)

Freeze, I’m Fisko, Ma Baker sent me

Freeze, I'm Fisko
In trying to control the availability of firearms the government, a few years ago now, changed law restricting how many guns and the specific type of firearms one could own. An amnesty period was provided in which time people with illegal firearms could hand them in at police stations without fear of prosecution. If I recall correctly, gun owners even had to re-register their firearms and apply for new licences!

Today it's far more difficult than it ever was to obtain a legal firearm. Some people are glad about this (as they believe it reduces the chance of violent crime, or injury and death due to negligence) and others believe that the government is out to undermine their ability to protect themselves.

Does your government restrict the ability to buy firearms, and if so, do you support this? (If you leave a comment, please indicate which country you're from, if you own a firearm, and try your best not to rant. This can be a fiery topic. ;) ).

River rocks

River rocks
I can't find a specific reference on the SA government website(s) but it's pretty common knowledge that it's illegal to remove rocks from rivers flowing over state land. The reason is pretty simple - over time people would strip enough rock from rivers to negatively affect the ecology.

This said, I imagine that it's perfectly fine to remove rocks from rivers flowing through privately owned land (assuming that you're the land owner ;) ).

Gun-free in South Africa

Shoot at Own Risk
A few years ago the government started making it increasingly difficult to own a firearm. Many people who'd previously had several guns were forced, by law, to reduce the number of firearms that they own as well as ensure that the remaining ones were properly locked away in a safe.

At the same time the government launched a campaign that provided an amnesty period, during which time illegal firearms could be handed over the the police without fear of prosecution. During that time thousands of guns were dropped off at local police stations - everything from standard hand guns to high-powered AK-47 machine guns.

Perhaps we don't see the fruit of that exercise, but I believe that it must have had an effect. We'll never rid ourselves of violence - people will always kill people by whatever means - but I do believe that the new laws must have reduced the number of impulse killings and the number of accidental deaths. Guns kill so quickly and it's better not have them at all, or to have them locked safely away - especially from little boy's hands.

Boys will be boys and we do so love things that shoot.

Click here to visit the website of Gun Free South Africa - an organisation aiming to reduce the number of firearms in South Africa to nil.

Public prosecutors

Public prosecutors
Public Prosecutors are the people who represent the State in criminal cases. They're the people who decide what charge should be levelled against an accused and are also responsible for building the case that ultimately convicts guilty parties.

You may have heard about people such as the "National Director of Public Prosecutions" in the much publicised cases against various politicians and high-powered businessmen. The National Director is the top prosecutor in our judicial system supported by a hierarchy comprising the Deputy National Director, Directors, Deputy Directors and finally the Public Prosecutors mentioned in this photo.

Given who these people are I'd say that it's better than one takes heed of the sign and doesn't park on this side of the road. :)

Pillars of the Magistrates Courts

Pillars of the Magistrates Courts
These are the pillars with which the Cape Town Magistrates Courts in Parade Street are built. To be honest, I'm fairly confused by our country's many courts and their legal processes. We have Magistrates Courts, Regional Courts, High Courts, Equality Courts, Supreme Court, Constitutional Court... to name only a few. See the full list of courts here.

Perhaps it interests you to know that there are about 366 magisterial districts and main magistrates’ offices - and about 1906 magistrates in South Africa; which I guess is a great number of people who on a daily basis have to make difficult decisions over other peoples lives. I guess then it's not strange that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is trying to (or by this time may have) implement an amendment to the Magistrates' Courts act which would make stricter the criteria for appointing magistrates.

Basically the draft bill would require candidate magistrates to have a higher qualification than what is currently accepted and in addition specifically details requirements such as "competence, diligence, dignity and social standing". While not being a reflection on our 1906+ magistrates - I can't say that this would be a bad bill to have passed!

Drinking and driving may change your life

Drinking and Driving

A couple of weekends ago during a routine roadblock, traffic officers tested the alcohol levels of 85 drivers, and arrested 39 of these for being over the legal limit - see the article here.

While I realise that the legal alcohol limit is very low, and perhaps many of these 39 unfortunate folk could have been just slightly over, I also know from experience that many of the people I know regularly exceed the legal limit by a fair to good amount. Often these people seem able to drive perfectly well, but the reality is that their reaction speed is significantly decreased.

In the past few years I've seen and heard of far too many motor vehicle accidents in which people have been hurt or even killed. At these times I guess the reality of it all hits home and it's easy for me to imagine the impact that an event like this has on someone's life. Not just personal injury and loss, and the injury and loss to other people - there's also the law to contend with, trials in court, possible imprisonment, job loss, and so on. I guess the list of things that could happen spirals into an entirely different life to the one I lead today.

Guys, make sure that if you drink too much you have a designated driver. And, if you don't have one, keep the number of a taxi service on your cell phone (under a name that you'll remember at the time, like "Beer" for instance ;) ).

If you're in Cape Town, you can keep the Rikkis Cabs number on your phone - 0861 745 547. They have cheaper inner city share-ride options, and more expensive options that'll take you anywhere in the Cape Peninsula. Check out their website before the time and familiarise yourself with their prices. If you're a habitual party-person then consider signing up with a company like Good Fellas that will drive you home in your own car.

Vehicle licence

Vehicle Licence

Each year around this time I receive a kind letter in the mail (as do many of you, I'm guessing), requesting me to present myself at the traffic department to pay for and collect my new vehicle licence disc. This year I got smart and handed the paperwork and cash over to my company's "Yell4Yellow" staff who stood in the queue for me and returned later that day, disc in hand. It was the best experience ever. :D

Yes, I realise that although I mentioned a "licence disc", this paper doesn't look quite like a disc. I've in fact neatly cut out the disc from the bottom left corner of this sheet and attached it to the lower left corner of my car's windshield. From my quick Google image search it would seem as though the UK has a similar system.

Please leave a comment and let us know if your country uses licence discs?

Oh, the red scrawl in the background is the makings of a blueprint for software that a colleague and I were designing. Isn't it lovely that my job allows me to draw pictures?

Umshini wami, umshini wakho

Umshini wakho campaign posters
I doubt that there's a South African alive right now who is not familiar with the phrase "Umshini Wami". It's the name of an old struggle song sung by Umkhonto we Sizwe during the apartheid years. More recently it's become famous (or notorious, depending on your perspective) as the song sung by president-elect Jacob Zuma and his supporters at ANC rallies. The main phrase repeated throughout the song is "Khawuleth'umshini wami", which is Zulu for "Bring me my machine-gun". This probably goes some way towards explaining my use of the word "notorious" in the previous sentence...

The posters you can see on the wall here, designed by advertising agency Young and Rubicam, are a clever twist on this piece of South African culture. They read "Awuleth'umshini wakho", which means "Bring me your machine gun". The posters were put up in February as part of a campaign to persuade citizens to hand in their unlicensed firearms. I have no idea whether they've been effective or not, but they're certainly eye-catching.

You can read more about the campaign and see a photo of the full poster on Marklives!com.

There’s no place for bad wine

Mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher - Galileo Galilei

I learned a fascinating thing about wine-making in South Africa recently.

Winemakers press the same grapes several times. The first pressing gives the best quality wine, and the last the worst quality (much the same as "extra virgin" and "virgin" olive oil). The interesting thing that the winemaker I spoke with said was that by law he is not allowed to throw any wine away - all wine produced has to be sold.

My first thought was one of admiration for the law-makers, as I figured they must really appreciate the value of a good bottle of wine. This naivety was quickly dashed though, as the winemaker elaborated, explaining that it's not for any environmental or other good reason, but because the government wants as much tax money as possible.

A wry smile what all I got when, in an effort to save us all from bad wine, I asked why the last pressing of poor wine wasn't simply skipped. From his response I gathered that plenty of very juicy grape skins are disposed of each year. :)

Don’t even think about stopping

No-stopping sign

In the background of this photo you can see the arches of the Provincial Legislature Building, which houses the Western Cape Provincial Parliament. The building is located in Wale Street, more or less opposite Mandela Rhodes Place.

If you see a sign like the one in the foreground, it means that you cannot stop your vehicle at the side of the road - even if it's just to pick someone up or drop someone off. This particular sign is a temporary one (they were doing some work at the side of the road and presumably didn't want anyone stopping while they were busy), but the markings on a permanently mounted No Stopping sign would be identical.

They’re not a band, they’re the police

Police officers

I can't understand how people justify tossing cigarette butts from their car window. Fairly frequently I'll be stopped behind someone at a traffic light, or driving behind a car on the highway and I'll see a burning cigarette butt being tossed from the window.

People who do this make me angry because it's well known that Cape Town is susceptible to bush fires that take over large fields, stretches alongside highways and huge parts of Table Mountain, leading to people and animals dying, property being destroyed and an assortment of other incidents, from vehicle accidents to theft. It seems as though people don't think carefully enough about the consequences of their actions until it's too late.

If you see someone tossing a cigarette butt from their window, give the 24-hour Emergency Control Centre a call on 021 424 7715. You'll be asked for your name and contact number as well as the description and registration number of the vehicle involved so that the case can be investigated.