Leniency to drivers bad for cyclists

MANY Port Elizabeth cyclists are going off the beaten track, following an alarming rise in road accidents involving bicycles and cars.

The Port Elizabeth cycling community is livid about the justice system’s lenient approach to drunk and negligent drivers accused or convicted of killing cyclists on the Bay’s roads.

Convicted drunk driver Andre Gouws, 28, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in Port Elizabeth after fatally driving into Clem Morris, 66, on Kragga Kamma Road in 2012.

However, the Grahamstown High Court overturned this decision on appeal two weeks ago and reduced his sentence to four years, of which eight months will be spent behind bars.

“The safety of our cyclists is a growing concern. It seems as if recklessness on the roads is increasing while road conditions are deteriorating, putting everyone’s lives at risk,” experienced cyclist Wayne Pfeiffer said.

The owner of Wayne Pfeiffer Cycles in Linton Grange said he had seen first-hand the effect road safety concerns had on road cycling as more cyclists opted for off-road riding.

“Two years ago about 80% of my sales went to road cycling, with just 20% to mountain biking. [Now] about 90% of my sales go towards mountain biking.

“Along with this there is an increase in the number of bike parks opening around the Bay, providing mountain bikers space to practice.”

Pfeiffer believes harsher consequences for rogue drivers would make people more aware of the dangers to cyclists.

Thomas Smith-Shedden appeared briefly in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court last week following the death of Sonnica Kensley, 31.

She and her husband Clayton, 29, were riding near the Witteklip railway crossing in April when Smith-Shedden, believed to have been under the influence, allegedly crashed into them with a truck.

Clayton sustained serious injuries while Sonnica died shortly after being airlifted to Livingstone Hospital.

Smith-Shedden, a convicted drunk driver, was granted R1 000 bail and is due back in court on August 27.

In KwaZulu-Natal, negligent driver Njabulo Nyawose was convicted of culpable homicide after disobeying a traffic sign in 2013 and killing South African cyclist Burry Stander, 25.

Nyawose will spend an effective three years behind bars.

-Riaan Marais

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