Criminals have a new ‘high-value’ target in South Africa

 ·27 Nov 2023

Cyclists in Pretoria East, Centurion, and other parts of Gauteng are being warned to avoid certain routes after a recent spate of attacks targeting cyclers – two of which were reported to be fatal.

According to the CEO of The Pedal Power Association, Neil Robinson, there has been a surge in violent attacks in recent weeks, with criminals specifically targeting cyclists for their expensive bikes and belongings.

Various cycling groups alerted cyclists to reports of attacks in Pretoria East, Midrand, and Johannesburg North. This comes after a man was brutally stabbed in the back before criminals made off with his bicycle while he was cycling with a group of 12 between the R21 and M18.

Another cyclist was attacked on Main Road in Irene while crossing the river.

Dominic Cullinan, the owner of the famous cycling destination, Big Red Barn, has also expressed his concern regarding the recent attacks.

“Although there have been no attacks at the Red Barn, the surrounding areas have witnessed multiple incidents of bike-jacking in the last few months. The attacks have primarily targeted mountain bikers who are on their outrides heading towards the east,” he noted.

Pedal power shared this map on November 12, marking the sites of recent attacks.

In a separate incident, Pedal Power reported another man was shot and killed while riding between mealie fields near the R25, a route that is popular among the cycling community.

Robinson noted that he believes the spike in these attacks on cyclists is a result of the cost-of-living crisis coupled with the high unemployment rate that’s crippling the poorer communities.

“These criminals don’t have the means to find jobs, and they need to put food on the table, so for them, anything goes – including murder,” he said.

“[Criminals] know what the value of bikes are, and they steal them for sale across the border or through second-hand shops.

“These syndicates have a very sophisticated network of routes that they patrol, and any cyclist taking these routes is vulnerable, and this is becoming a big problem for us,” Robinson added.

Commenting on the criminals’ modus operandi, he said the most common tactics are those that lie in wait for cyclists to come by along a specific route and others who literally pull in front of bikers with a taxi before two or three of these criminals jump out and rob the cyclists of their bikes and belongings.

Concerningly, Robinson added that a lot of these incidents aren’t reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS), and while the number of reports is growing in Gauteng, the group has noted an uptick right across the country in cases – including in Cape Town, the Free State and in the Eastern Cape.

Read: The days and times you’re most at risk of being hijacked in South Africa

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