How To Improve the Safety of Big Cycling Events?
We’ve all seen the horror incident at the Tour de France in recent weeks where several cyclists came crashing to the floor after a fan held a banner over the track. It’s not the first incident we’ve seen and nor will it be the last. Here we look at a few things that can be done to improve the safety at big cycling events.
Distance the fans
Talk about stating the bleeding obvious! Still, sometimes the most obvious things are right in front of our faces. We’ve mentioned the latest high-profile incident in our opening paragraph already but, in case you’ve been living under a rock, we’ll take a quick recap.
With the Tour de France first stage approaching its close a 31-year-old fan leaped onto the road to ensure TV cameras captured her sign. Unfortunately, Tony Martin caught it too. That sent tens of riders tumbling to the floor with Jasha Sutterlin dropping out of the contest.
Anyway, whilst the authorities have chewed over a potential lawsuit, we couldn’t answer a simple question; why was the fan allowed on the road? The advice is there that you stand back and simply watch but there were no barriers, there were no ‘do not cross’ lines and there were barely any stewards.
The chaos could have been avoided if temporary roadside barriers were erected. I mean this is something you don’t see on other sports.
If someone or something invaded a basketball court and hit one of the TwinSpires tallest NBA players of all time it could cause them an injury.
And it doesn’t matter on the size of the athlete or in this case the resistance of the bike, since a moving object when hit by a strange object is bound to deflect from its route. This can cause injuries and even more serious damage.
Portuguese bicycle racer Joaquim Agostinho died in 1984 after colliding with a dog. We think sport has evolved a lot since then, but as it showed in France, in the biggest event of all: not completely.
Obviously, barriers are used in some parts of races but surely this tells us some form of barrier needs to be in place everywhere.
Warning of obstacles and other dangers
In a continuation of our un-innovative safety ideas, we look at how you can warn cyclists of obstacles that might lay ahead. We’re not talking about fans with signs though; instead we’re talking about objects that are constantly in the way.
If you cast your mind back to 2016 and, again, the Tour de France, a traffic island saw Alberto Contador clean out several other riders after his bike slid out from under him as the island appeared on top of him immediately after a bend.
Safe cycling race – a company founded by Markus Laerum – designs signs that use LEDs to warn of hazards laying ahead. They can be used for a host of different things from traffic islands, to dips in the road, sharp bends and even simple things like roundabouts that are nearing. Now, these signs do already feature at a lot of races.
Perhaps though they should appear at every race and, if the budget is a problem, surely replicating a warning sign without the LED functionality is pretty straight forwards!
Hold people to account
Our final step to making cycling’s big events safe is to hold people to account. Specifically here we’re talking about those organising the events but it could quite easily apply to the riders themselves. At the moment, when an incident (without the outside influence of an overzealous fan) occurs the investigation into what happened is very sketchy.
Fabio Jakobsen’s crash at the Tour of Poland a couple of years ago is a good example of that. To everyone watching, it looked like the barrier failed him as it crumbled to the floor. The organisers claimed they were fit for purpose though and that was that.
So, how can you solve it? Well, you can’t fix the problem proactively. What you can do though is implement steps to assess things in retrospect though.
Can a team of assessors be put together compiling of a diverse background of experiences from the sport to assess why something happened? The incident would still happen in the first instance but only once.
After the issue was identified, the organisers would become liable for ensuring their standards are up to scratch for next time.
There you have it, a few ways to improve safety at big cycling events. Until something is done to improve the current system, the odds suggest it’s just a matter of time until the next incident.