Crashes, what can be done?

I feel like cycling is in the dark ages on this. Every one keeps saying 'this can't keep going on like this' but it always does.

My sense is that one of the core issues is the riders are basically exploited labour - they're treated like pack fodder so that the show can keep going on.

There's always going to be a certain amount of danger/risk, and I would not like to see the sport change too much/be watered down.

But I'm really sick of riders dying or nearly dying or getting seriously injured so regularly. There's something seriously wrong when F1 is so much safer.....

Penny for your thoughts.
 
Why can't cycling become a bit safer if auto racing can. F1 and Indy Car have their own versions of a halo. Both of those series plus NASCAR mandated safer barriers at their tracks. NASCAR mandated a new roll bar this year after Ryan Newman's crash at Dayton which had him in the hospital for a few days. That crash back in February had everyone who saw it live sitting in stunned silence just hoping he was still alive. Thankfully he was ok. Had to be taking out on a stretcher to the hospital, but was able to walk out of the hospital a few days later. Couldn't race again for several months, but he's back racing now.
Back to cycling. My first thought would be there has to be better barriers they could use for the final 1 KM of races/stages. In high speed corners on course in which barriers are used hay bales or something softer than metal barriers should be used. Roads with a bunch of poles in the middle of them should not used. I'm sure there are other ideas out there as well.
 
I'm going to add something else here. In front of certain ends of walls (like the beginning of pit road walls) NASCAR and Indy Car still use barrels filled with water to prevent serious injury to drives for hitting those walls head on. Safer barriers are impossible there. My thought is even something like several of those in one of the high speed corners instead of the metal fences. They would at least give some when hitting them.
 
This is where data is very important to understand the crashes and injuries that have happened. Its the UCI's responsibility to collect the data and analyze and improve the system.
Failing that we can look into it qualitatively. I suppose most(~70%) of crashes are due to rider error in stressful situations similar to pilot error with plane disasters. I would put measures in punitive and preventative categories with the focus to reduce the number of crashes and severity of the crash.
  1. Fine/Suspension for riders/organizers not following rules
  2. Reduce the number of riders
  3. Eliminate the roads where a combination of weather, speed, inclines, surfaces,width are causing most of the crashes
  4. Establish protective measures for where a combination of weather, speed, numbers, inclines, surfaces, width are causing the most of the severity of crashes. Organizers are responsible for recon.
  5. Separate the sprinters and the GC. Its not worth breaking bones to not lose a few seconds. Sprinting lanes away from barriers making sure that the solution does not cause other problems.
  6. DS should use their experience and tell riders to be careful/not to risk everything in a dangerous situation
 
Crashes are part of it, no doubt. However I would support this:

  • descents with large potholes are unneccessary. If the organizers and the UCI fail to recognize that and those very bad conditions are seen during the reckoning (one team at least should do a reckoning before...), photos can be made, given to the riders, and the peloton can decide to not race this hard/ not attack here, before the stage starts.
  • tough fines and suspensions for riders who clearly break the rules
  • most of all organizers have to do everything they can to make sure there are no cars coming out of private ways in corners and on descents. Very hard to make absolutely sure, but this can have the worst effects and there is no way a rider can avoid it, he can be as careful as he wants to.
 
There's something seriously wrong when F1 is so much safer.....
Car racing has some elements that make it actually much easier to control the safety there than in road cycling.

First of all, car drivers are protected by the car itself in case of a crash. You can make rules about the chassis construction to make it as good at absorbing energy as possible and it's the area in which F1 have made an incredible progress since the early 1990's. There's no equivalent in cycling really and it's hard to imagine how you would provide cyclists with anything resembling the same level of protection. I've once thought about some kind of armour made of carbon fibre maybe that would encompass rider's most crucial bodyparts and absorb energy and break just like helmets in case of a fall but it would look kind of ridiculous, there would be comfort issues for riders and I fear it would be way too expensive considering the frequency of crashes that would make the armour damaged even in less serious crashes and in need to be replaced. It doesn't seem like something that would be welcomed as a viable option.

Secondly, racing tracks are controlled environment, they are relatively short compared to cycling routes and serve no purpose but racing in many cases (although there are some street circuits, but these too get much more safety modifications than cycling routes). It's much easier to enforce higher safety standards regarding the tracks.
 
I’m
Car racing has some elements that make it actually much easier to control the safety there than in road cycling.

First of all, car drivers are protected by the car itself in case of a crash. You can make rules about the chassis construction to make it as good at absorbing energy as possible and it's the area in which F1 have made an incredible progress since the early 1990's. There's no equivalent in cycling really and it's hard to imagine how you would provide cyclists with anything resembling the same level of protection. I've once thought about some kind of armour made of carbon fibre maybe that would encompass rider's most crucial bodyparts and absorb energy and break just like helmets in case of a fall but it would look kind of ridiculous, there would be comfort issues for riders and I fear it would be way too expensive considering the frequency of crashes that would make the armour damaged even in less serious crashes and in need to be replaced. It doesn't seem like something that would be welcomed as a viable option.

Secondly, racing tracks are controlled environment, they are relatively short compared to cycling routes and serve no purpose but racing in many cases (although there are some street circuits, but these too get much more safety modifications than cycling routes). It's much easier to enforce higher safety standards regarding the tracks.
Thank you for saying this. I get annoyed when people bring up F1 in relation to cycling.
 
People are comparing cycling to motor racing on circuits - actually, we should probably be comparing it to rallying, which takes place on either tarmac roads (quite often alpine passes, similar to the roads used on Saturday), or gravel forest roads/ gravel countryside roads. The very nature of both sports means you can't put a barrier up for every km.
However, organisers and an appointed safety group should assess & inform the teams as to were there are 'danger points' beforehand. It is up to them collectively to decide what happens then. Do they re-route, neutralise that section or accept the risk and carry on? The point being, it's a collective decision.
 
Rallying, or specialised street racing events, like the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb and the Isle of Man TT. Both of which have some pretty bad mortality rates.

The thing is, bike races happen on roads. Real roads that for the rest of the year accept normal traffic. And some of the things that are lethal in the context of a bike race - street furniture and the concrete blocks hit by Fabio Casartelli - are essential parts of road safety for pedestrians, cyclists and cars the rest of the time. The cost of securing the kind of lengthy point-to-point courses we see in cycling is insanely prohibitive. At best we could get some ski netting at dangerous corners, mandatory pre-race road condition review by the commissaires for descents, and proper enforcement of the rules where negligence is involved. We already saw plenty of neutralisations for unsafe road conditions (tacks on the road, Foix 2012, weather conditions Tignes 2019 and so on), and the péloton can do it themselves on occasion for a variety of reasons (Milano 2009, Spa 2010).

Things like the Jakobsen crash with the bricks shoring up the finish line structure and the cars getting onto the course are not what we should be talking about here. These are things which can already be helped, have been helped, and when something like that happens it's because something went very wrong, and when it happens either the organisation or their hired security/policing has failed and should be held accountable.
 
As has been mentioned, logistically it is impossible to provide the same protection over roads that journey across 200 kms, than it is on a race track that travels over 10 kms. The only easy way to make it safer is for the riders to race on street circuits, or on course designs that are pretty flat (and possibly finish with a climb). Most fans don't consider these the most entertaining stages.

Many fans wanted to see the riders ascend (and descend) Crostis in the 2011 Giro.

In some ways, it's the nature of the beast. We love multi mountain stages, and what goes up, must come down.

As far as protecting the riders go, I think that the organisers do a pretty amazing job. When there is a crash, there is support on the scene very quickly.
 
This is an extremely difficult topic. I think the main issue is that, whether we like it or not, the danger is an integral part of cycling. With that I don't mean that we want races to be dangerous. What I mean is that danger is a necessary side product of cycling not just being about who can push most watts.

As the comparison to motorsport has already been made, I'll make it as well. Putting the relatively small impact strategy has on those sports aside, car races are usually just about who is able to go around a circuit fastest and as everyone's skill is basically just "can drive a car very fast" we don't want things to get into the way of...well...those guys driving their cars very fast. But aside from that things aren't overly important. If a track is overly dangerous, we usually don't have a problem with it being replaced with a less dangerous one. If a section leads to too many dangerous crashes we accept that the section gets modified adequately.
Now as a car racing fan myself I know this is oversimplified. People actually do complain about some safety measures as they think it takes the risk management out of it, just like people often complain about turns being changed because it makes racing too "easy". At times these people actually have a point but in the end it doesn't change my viewing experience very much if they add or remove a chicane from Monza. In the end I just want to watch car racing and making it safer usually isn't in a conflict with how enjoyable it is.

Cycling is different. People have entirely different skills, gain their time and get their wins in completely different places. You can't just remove sprints from cycling, else an entire "subgenre" of cycling gets removed, the same counts for races on cobbles. Good descenders don't usually have that as their main skill, it's an integral part of racing that some riders descend better than others. Without descending Nibali doesn't win the 2016 Giro and doesn't get either of his Lombardia wins. Meanwhile Paolo Savoldelli probably doesn't even win the Giro once. It's not even like you can easily remove particular descents. Removing that Sormano descent where Evenepoel crashed doesn't only mean removing the descent, it also means removing the Muro di Sormano, which has become an integral part of one of the biggest races in the sport. And you cannot just exchange it with any other climb either because there is no other climb at that exact spot and even if there was there is probably no other climb in the world with the exact same characteristics as the Sormano.

There have been endless discussions about how sprint stages should be handled in terms of gc timings. Should the time just be taken at the 3 km mark? Is the current 3 km rule sufficient or should there just be no such rule at all? Sure, taking the time for the gc earlier makes things safer but it would actively favor the riders who usually struggle to position themselves before a bunch sprint. Shouldn't the gc be about being a complete rider? Wouldn't a big part of being a complete rider be taken away? It's difficult and a lot of people have a lot of different but valid opinions on this.

Now I guess compromises are often the best solution. The current 3 km rule is one such compromise and I, personally, wouldn't change it. For the same reason some descents don't get used and some others probably shouldn't get used. Is the Sormano descent too dangerous? I don't know, maybe it is, I'm genuinely unsure. You could argue the Rio 2016 descent was too much and looking at how many riders crashed there you would probably have a point.
With sprints I think it's actually a lot easier as a safe sprint finish that isn't downhill and that isn't overly twisty isn't really less spectacular than a "safe" sprint finish. To return to my motorsport comparison, making those final kilometers safer isn't in a conflict with making the sprint exciting. (Or at least only in a minor conflict)

Now this leads me to my last point, which is that I think there are a few safety measures that could be taken in a relatively uncontroversial way. For example I've always wondered why safety nets aren't a bigger thing in cycling. It's difficult to keep cyclists from crashing entirely but if there is a huge drop off, or a bridge like last Saturday, you cannot convince me that in the year of 2020 we are unable to put something there that prevents riders from falling down. I watch a lot of ski racing and there they basically surround the entire kilometres long slope with safety nets so you can't really crash into the wood or stuff like that even if you fall on the most unusual spot. If they can do that the race organizers in cycling can surely put safety nets at the 2 or 3 most dangerous spots of the race and stuff like Remco falling over a bridge gets prevented.
I also don't understand how there aren't safer barriers in sprint stages. Make them higher so you can neither fall over them nor can the fans put their hands and heads over it to knock riders off their bikes. I'd sill not be over it if Nibali had crashed in MSR 2018 because of that idiot that held his phone over the barrier.

Now these are just two things that immediately came to my mind but I'm sure there is a lot more you could do, without changing the racing one bit.
 
Will copy from here:


The problem i guess is there are a lot of races and a lot of kilometers of road to cover. Still, on the long run i feel that there will need to be trucks of standard safety equipment available to organizers, roads cleared of gravel and holes filled with asphalt, better signaling, dangerous sprints not to be allowed ... for the race to get a green light. Riders will still crash, cycling will still be dangerous, BUT riders won't fall of the bridges anymore. Or to be thrown over the barriers, when sprinting.
 
Unfortunately when the top official in the governing body of the sport is a part-timer with an agenda that has more to do with self-aggrandisment than rider safety and welfare it is unlikely much progress will be made. The small town mayor was a very poor choice for UCI President and his incompetence is detrimental to the health of our sport and the health of the riders.
 
Reactions: Koronin
To a large extent it's just a cycle of something bad happens>outrage>nothing fundamentally changes> we kinda forget about until > something bad happens again.

And I also think there's a big tendency to miss the forest for the trees in that every incident is lumped together. In my opinion the most obvious issue to fix is the safety of the final few kms in flat stages. Complaining about descents that have been part of the sport for decades on the other hand, is just counterproductive imo
 
To a large extent it's just a cycle of something bad happens>outrage>nothing fundamentally changes> we kinda forget about until > something bad happens again.

And I also think there's a big tendency to miss the forest for the trees in that every incident is lumped together. In my opinion the most obvious issue to fix is the safety of the final few kms in flat stages. Complaining about descents that have been part of the sport for decades on the other hand, is just counterproductive imo
I still think there has to be better/safer barriers that can be used in the final kms as well as in corners in which they put up barriers.
 
Reactions: SHAD0W93
If the road of a descent is in a really bad condition, I think that road should not be ridden, even if that implies that a certain mountain can't be ridden. And the riders must be well informed of tight and dangerous corners. I don't think much more can be done. After all, as has been said, the roads used are not designed with cycling in mind; and you can't inspect 150 km of tarmac.
 
I imagine a safer barrier would help. In my mind a barrier that had two sides and space in between, think the letter J where ther are two J's one backwards (I'm sure there is a keyboard hack to make that happen) where there is a space in between the two J's, formed as tubing, where they meet and the two tubes are connected. They could even have a hinge so that they could be squeezed together for easy transportation and storage. It would need engineering for the sides facing the the street/race where the sides would be made so that if a rider were to be forced into it say a flat placard, the rider would have the best chance of recovering. At an engineering school they could run tests using rigs for test riders, like they use for young gymnasts or like in the Peter Pan play (flying rigs) on straight over head runners with the riders in pads and Knee braces on bikes to test the best solutions. The J barriers, as I will call them here for now, could have flat plates to between the barrier and connected where either spectators could stand or heavy bags of sand would hold them in place. The "J_" like this with a foot that is low and designed not to upset a rider, it may not even have to extend beyond the rounded part of the J.
The other things is finding a solution to the connections to the other barriers, to each other, to prevent separation and with some kind of padding(?) that had a bit of give but wouldn't let them separate to create a blunt ending to the barrier being exposed.

P.S. if this is a non-patented idea i put this out there as a public domain Idea.
 
Last edited:
On top of safer barriers, helmets, cushions, signaling, not putting broken roads in the course etc, i also think that maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to have teams do practical skill tests and take specific courses ("courses" as in "something you learn", not as in "a road you follow") with their riders. I don't know how this is in other countries, but in Belgium you need to get a driver's license if you want to ride a moped that can go 45km/u. Well, these guys do 55 on the flat, 75 in a sprint, over a 100 on a descent, and one crash caused by one guy, can take out half a peloton. But since it's on a bike, you basically don't need any kind of license. Motorcyclists who were lucky enough to have received their license somewhere before the 80's, never had to do any sort of test. My mom can buy a 1000cc bike and ride with it if she wants. However, you can get special (motor)bike handling courses. Maybe something like that couldn't hurt either.

If riders didn't put themselves and each other in unnecessary danger, that might be one of the biggest gains to be had.
 
Car racing has some elements that make it actually much easier to control the safety there than in road cycling.

First of all, car drivers are protected by the car itself in case of a crash. You can make rules about the chassis construction to make it as good at absorbing energy as possible and it's the area in which F1 have made an incredible progress since the early 1990's. There's no equivalent in cycling really and it's hard to imagine how you would provide cyclists with anything resembling the same level of protection. I've once thought about some kind of armour made of carbon fibre maybe that would encompass rider's most crucial bodyparts and absorb energy and break just like helmets in case of a fall but it would look kind of ridiculous, there would be comfort issues for riders and I fear it would be way too expensive considering the frequency of crashes that would make the armour damaged even in less serious crashes and in need to be replaced. It doesn't seem like something that would be welcomed as a viable option.

Secondly, racing tracks are controlled environment, they are relatively short compared to cycling routes and serve no purpose but racing in many cases (although there are some street circuits, but these too get much more safety modifications than cycling routes). It's much easier to enforce higher safety standards regarding the tracks.
Yes, but the point is that at one stage a high degree of risk was accepted as part of the nature of F1: this changed. This was nothing more than a mentality; the material factors followed from that.

Of course it is absurd to argue that safety in F1 is comparable to cycling. That's not the argument. The argument is about the degree of risk/injury/mortality participants and fans of the sport are willing to accept.

There's always going to be some, but how much is too much? I think we have well passed the point of too much.

On the armor: I have sometimes wondered about protection for collarbones. Seems so crazy to enter a GT as one of the faves, hit the deck in some innocuous fall on stage 6 and that's it. Surely there can be innovations there...
 
Yes, but the point is that at one stage a high degree of risk was accepted as part of the nature of F1: this changed. This was nothing more than a mentality; the material factors followed from that.

Of course it is absurd to argue that safety in F1 is comparable to cycling. That's not the argument. The argument is about the degree of risk/injury/mortality participants and fans of the sport are willing to accept.

There's always going to be some, but how much is too much? I think we have well passed the point of too much.

On the armor: I have sometimes wondered about protection for collarbones. Seems so crazy to enter a GT as one of the faves, hit the deck in some innocuous fall on stage 6 and that's it. Surely there can be innovations there...
I have thought about the collarbone breaks, which happen so frequently I wonder <in the probably not realistic sense> if teams shouldn't pay to have rider's collarbones replaced with a titanium one the first time they break it. I don't think we can create external armor for riders so perhaps internal armor?

But apologies for getting off the track of preventing accidents. I appreaciate what an intelligent discussion you folks have provided.
 
On top of safer barriers, helmets, cushions, signaling, not putting broken roads in the course etc, i also think that maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to have teams do practical skill tests and take specific courses ("courses" as in "something you learn", not as in "a road you follow") with their riders. I don't know how this is in other countries, but in Belgium you need to get a driver's license if you want to ride a moped that can go 45km/u. Well, these guys do 55 on the flat, 75 in a sprint, over a 100 on a descent, and one crash caused by one guy, can take out half a peloton. But since it's on a bike, you basically don't need any kind of license. Motorcyclists who were lucky enough to have received their license somewhere before the 80's, never had to do any sort of test. My mom can buy a 1000cc bike and ride with it if she wants. However, you can get special (motor)bike handling courses. Maybe something like that couldn't hurt either.

If riders didn't put themselves and each other in unnecessary danger, that might be one of the biggest gains to be had.

Do you mean bike handling drills like this?

View: https://www.facebook.com/valverdeteam/videos/1146708415456842/
 
Reactions: Koronin
Also, but not exclusively. How to drop back in the final few km's of a race, after either getting caught by the peloton or after having done your pull in the sprint train. Not only bike skills but also "peloton conduct".
Hasn't there been a lot of complaints from within the peloton about a big decline in this kind of conduct and 'respect'? i.e. there used to be a bit of a hierarchy and informal moral order which has become much more dog-eat-dog.

If this is true, it must surely be very high on the list of causal factors which need to addressed asap.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY