In recent times, South Africa’s cycling community has been gripped by a wave of violent attacks, causing alarm among cyclists in Pretoria East, Centurion, and other parts of Gauteng. These assaults, aimed at cyclists for their valuable bikes and possessions, have escalated to fatal consequences, prompting warnings and concerns from various cycling groups and leaders.
Neil Robinson, CEO of The Pedal Power Association, sounded the alarm, citing a surge in violent incidents targeting cyclists. Reports have emerged from Pretoria East, Midrand, and Johannesburg North, with criminals assaulting riders and making off with their high-end bicycles. One harrowing incident involved a cyclist being brutally stabbed in the back, leading to the theft of his bike while riding with a group of 12 between the R21 and M18. Another attack occurred on Main Road in Irene as a cyclist was crossing the river, indicating the brazen nature of these crimes.
The concern extends beyond individual riders to renowned cycling destinations like the Big Red Barn. Dominic Cullinan, its proprietor, expressed worry about the surrounding areas witnessing multiple bike-jacking incidents in recent months. Notably, these attacks predominantly target mountain bikers traversing routes toward the east.
Highlighting the severity of these assaults, Pedal Power Association shared a map on November 12, marking the locations of recent attacks. One disturbing incident involved a cyclist being shot and killed while riding between mealie fields near the R25, a popular route among the cycling community.
Neil Robinson emphasized that these attacks reflect a concerning reality influenced by economic hardship and high unemployment rates affecting disadvantaged communities. “Criminals, grappling with the lack of opportunities, resort to extreme measures to sustain themselves, including resorting to violence and theft,” Robinson remarked, underlining the desperation driving these criminal acts.
Moreover, Robinson shed light on the organized nature of these crimes, stating that criminals are well aware of the value of bicycles, often stealing them for sale both domestically and across borders. These syndicates operate via sophisticated networks along specific routes, leaving unsuspecting cyclists vulnerable. Robinson stressed the magnitude of the issue, asserting that these incidents pose a significant challenge for cyclists in affected areas.
Discussing the modus operandi of these criminals, Robinson outlined the common tactics employed. Some lie in wait for cyclists along specific routes, while others use taxis to intercept bikers, deploying two or three individuals to rob them of their bikes and belongings.
Disturbingly, Robinson highlighted the underreporting of these incidents to the South African Police Service (SAPS). Despite the growing number of reports in Gauteng, there has been a noticeable increase in cases nationwide, extending beyond Gauteng to Cape Town, the Free State, and the Eastern Cape.
This alarming trend not only threatens the safety of cyclists but also underscores the need for heightened security measures and community vigilance. The cycling community, law enforcement agencies, and local authorities must collaborate to address this escalating issue, ensuring the safety of cyclists and deterring criminal activities plaguing the roads and trails frequented by riders across South Africa.