It could so easily, by moments or millimetres, have been a different story.
But cyclists Bruce Anderson and Adrian Booysen survived being held at gunpoint and being run off the road by a pick-up truck – not to mention being chased on foot by the occupants of the car.
This all happened at 5.10am in the dark, early-morning hours before sunrise.
Their experience had all the elements of a nightmare, and the men have marvelled at how lucky they are, despite the loss of Bruce’s bicycle and the trauma of their ordeal.
The friends met early Thursday morning March 23 – as they have for 20 years – in an effort to start the day with a cycle and miss the morning rush hour traffic. Bruce lives in Noordhoek and Adrian in Capri.
While cycling on Main Road between Kommetjie and Slangkop Road above Soetwater (directly above Scouts Camp) the men suddenly had an old Datsun pick-up drive past and then sharply cut in front of them.
“It just seemed so unreal,” Bruce said.
“We had been cycling next to each other chatting because the road was absolutely desolate, and suddenly this car pulled in front of us, and as we were braking, the passenger door of the car opened and a man pointed a gun right at us,” he said.
Adrian had pulled behind Bruce automatically as the car had passed, and when he saw the gun, he yelled “Get off the road.”
The men braked immediately and barrelled straight over the embankment.
“There was nothing but blackness and a steep drop, with rocks and bushes,” Bruce said. Without a word to each other, as they headed over the embankment and split up.
Adrian managed, in those crucial seconds, to lift his bike to his shoulder and switch the lights off.
“So he went down with his bike and straight into thick bushes,” Bruce said. “I dropped my bike and fled, but went straight down, falling really hard on my back.”
He said he was winded, unable to move for the intense pain, and was lying flat on his back with his head against a rock, on a downward slope.
Adrian said he had bashed his way through a thicket of bushes and somehow squeezed himself through them, to obscurity.
It was then they heard the footsteps, and voices. Two of the three occupants of the vehicle had run down the slope after them. They bashed about in the dark, searching frantically for the men for about five minutes. While they searched, one was yelling “Skiet, skiet”.
“They came so close to me at one time I could have touched them, but they didn’t see me,” Adrian said.
When their search was nearly completed, they resorted to throwing rocks around wildly, to see if they would hit either cyclist.
The men lay in absolute silence, until they heard the footsteps head back up to the road where Bruce’s abandoned bike was thrown into the back of the vehicle – and the car was heard leaving.
After a few minutes Adrian called for Bruce.
“I wasn’t going to answer in case the third person had driven a bit down the road as a ploy and the other two were waiting,” Bruce said. But after a while it seemed clear, and the men were able to locate one another.
Their next hurdle, injuries aside, was to get cellphone reception and when they did, Bruce called Fish Hoek Emergency Centre who then relayed the situation to the Kommetjie neighborhood watch and SAPS.
“A few minutes later the Kommetjie neighborhood watch arrived and we climbed the bank and met them on the road. Both of us are extremely grateful for the support from Fish Hoek Emergency, Komwatch and the SAPS,” Bruce said.
After that it was statements and medical examinations.
Adrian suffered a cut near to his eye, but Bruce had fallen hard and was in great pain. He says that his legs were ripped to shreds and he was suffering an allergic reaction to some of the fynbos he had torn his way through.
In telling their story they recalled the first time they saw the vehicle.
“We had first noticed the old Datsun pick-up, cream in colour with no number plates pass us slowly just past the Ocean View turn-off, travelling in the direction of Kommetjie. It was in a really bad state, panels rattling as it passed.
“We thought nothing of it though and carried on with the ride. When we completed the climb out of Kommetjie toward Witsands, we noticed the same pick-up, stationary, in a lay-by on the right hand side. At this point it did appear strange this early in the morning for it to be stopped in the pitch dark, but we carried on. We actually thought maybe they were fishermen heading to check out the conditions. But shortly after we passed the lay-by, the pick-up approached us from the rear – and that’s when they overtook us,” Bruce said.
The men agree that Bruce’s bike was the sacrificial lamb of the incident, and that knowing it was there must have made the gunman and his accomplice give up on the second bike.
Adrian says that attacks on cyclists are a reality, and he even knows of some cyclists who cycle with their firearms for protection. “The general dangers in traffic are one thing, but targeted bike-jacking is another. The truly sad thing is that Bruce’s bike was probably sold for a few hundred bucks for their next fix.”
Pedal Power Association CEO Robert Vogel agreed that bike-jacking occurs quite often as an opportunistic crime. He said certain areas become hot spots for a while, then the pattern changes. He says there have been incidents on Table Mountain, the Old Wagon Trail, Black Hill, Red Hill and Yonkers Dam and in the northern suburbs.
He said the only way to ensure cycling safety, especially in remote areas, is to ride in a large group. He has personally changed his own routes in the far south. “Some areas have more challenging issues and until those issues are addressed, the only thing to do is be realistic, be aware, and ride in big groups; or change your times and routes to stay safe.”
Lieutenant Colonel Errol Merkeur, station commander of Ocean View SAPS said that there are already possible leads in this case, but that they are still under investigation. “A case of robbery with a firearm has been opened. This is the first case of cyclists being robbed,” he said.