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Is Cycling too dangerous?
Ulrich Ulriksen
This isn't something I would have agreed with previously but the death of Chad Young coming right on the heels of Scarponi makes me wonder. Are the descents too much? Is the time on the bike required to be a pro too much given the amount of risk you take from bad driving?

I haven't been a cycling fan that long - since about 2008, and off the top of my head I can think of 4 riders (Scarponi, Young, Weylandt, Demoitie) who have died and 2 who have life long injuries (Soler, Broeckx). Not to mention all the severe injuries (Stetina, Phinney, Degenkolb) that could easily have been far worse. And my apologies to those I have forgotten, I am sure I am missing some - but that is part of my point, it is far too "normal".

I don't follow auto racing so maybe my impression is wrong, but I don't think they have anything like that record of damage. And that is thought of as a really dangerous sport

When does the level of risk become too high?

The obvious stuff like the motorbikes in the peloton need to be fixed, but maybe it is time for something more radical - neutralize descents?
 
TheManxMissile
Cycling will always have a level of danger, like any "speed" sport. You're travelling at speed with next to no protection, so if a crash happens you get hurt. That's a fact of cycling, be it pro, amateur or recreational. It's applicable to all sorts of sports, such as: skating, skiiing, surfing, skateboarding. Anything that involves speed and your uprotected body carries danger.

Thus injury is an accepted part of the sport. You know, at least should know, the risk prior to participation. That is something goes wrong, your body is going to hit the floor.

This is different to car-racing, where the speed is a lot greater but drivers are also sitting inside metal boxes designed to take that impact. Such a design aspect isn't part of cycling, because the forces and dangers are not high enough to warrant the work and investment.

Moto accidents are easy to reduce, but they are not an issue with "cycling". Like Scarponi's death wasn't an issue of "cycling". It's an issue of an uncontrollable external force. And the only way real way to stop that is to remove any exposure to that force. Which would mean banning motos and taking cars off the road... or stopping cycling.

Crashes on descents. Speed increases, forces increase as a result. And it's not a linear equation so faster speed means much bigger forces. So reduce the speed, right? Well this can be neutralising the descent sure. But if we're going for it, we can again reduce speed of racing by say neutralising the sprint so we don't get finish line pile-ups, or remove the cobbles so people can't fall on them.
It's part of the known inherent risk of the sport. And ultimately part of it can be put onto the cyclist. Spend the time training and you can improve your handling skills, which reduces the chance of crashing which reduces the chance of injury. Or the cyclist can chose to ride slower, reduce their speed and reduce the chance of losing control and reduce the force of impact.

None of this is secret or uncommon knowledge. Ultimately when cycling you are exposed to the elements around you, and you are not in full control of all of them. If you take action to stay ontop of the elements you as a rider can control the chances are you will be fine. It won't stop the "freak" accident happening, but you can reduce that chance as a rider.

You can make cycling almost 100% safe: race indoors, on static bikes with constant medical supervision. Easy. But if you looked at the numbers of cyclists, then the numbers of kilometers they ride, then how many crashes there are, then how many of those cause notwortyh injury, then how many of those injuries are serious or death. Cut right down to that number of serious injuries, per kilometer ridden as part of the sport and cycling is pretty safe.

Billy Monger lost his legs at Donnington just a couple of weeks ago, but there's no outcry about safety. Because motorsport has been through the wild dangerous days where percentages of injures were high and now it is down to the freak accident that is rare, just like pro cycling.
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the_hoyle
Cycling has always been a dangerous sport. It is not like before the last couple of years there were no accidents or deaths during races. There was Fabio Casartelli in 1995 who died on a descent, Joseba Beloki ended his career with a crash in 2003 and we even had a rider (can't remember his name) go down a ravine after getting a corner wrong during one Tour de France.

You talk about neutralised descents would help, but only 3/4 of your examples above were caused by accidents on descents in races. Scarponi was hit by a truck / van on a training ride near his home, Demoitie and Broeckx were caused by motorbike during a flat race, Stetina hit a bollard during a sprint finish of a race and Degenkolb was caught up in the incident with a car on a training ride along with many other riders. Any of those accidents could have happened in the real world to anyone (pro/amateur/sunday rider), so they are nothing to do with the sport itself (minus the Demoitie / Broeckx accidents obviously).

If you want to compare with motor racing then there is just as much death and major incidents that could serious injuries etc. Just google F1 crashes or MotoGP/Superbike accidents to get an idea. Many people die every year racing their bikes on the Isle of Man TT for example. The risk comes with the sport I'm afraid.

The riders are aware of the risks involved as well, and I learnt this more when I listened a podcast recently with Annemiek van Vleuten who crashed seriously during the Olympics last year. Everyone blamed the course for her crash but she said she was the one to blame and knew the risks descending down the course like she did. She got it wrong an paid the consequences. Everyone is the same - I'm sure Phinney said similar after his crash 2 years ago.

The main problem comes from the lack of protection between the riders and the road should an crash / accident happen. There is a small layer of clothing and then skin. Their only real protection is the helmet. When you add into this the speed / impact when it goes wrong, and injuries and sadly even death can occur.
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jseadog1
I think there are always ways to make any sport safer, it is just a matter of discovering and implementing them. I don't have any ideas on how cycling could be made safer, but I am sure that there is a way.

As far as your question of when the risk level becomes too high, I don't believe it ever does. These cyclists are voluntarily (for the most part) going out to the road and riding bikes at an excessive speed, knowing the risks that are involved with it.

I think making the descents less steep than they are now would not have an extremely noticeable difference, and I also think that it would take away from the sport a little bit. Look at NASCAR, after they implemented all of the new safety features on cars, there were less accidents, and people complained because they thought it wasn't as fun to watch. No that I am saying the same would be said for cycling, but people are often not a fan of change.

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Goddaert crashes die to tram tracks then tot hit by a truck
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Ulrich Ulriksen
Appreciate the thoughtful responses

jseadog1 wrote:

As far as your question of when the risk level becomes too high, I don't believe it ever does. These cyclists are voluntarily (for the most part) going out to the road and riding bikes at an excessive speed, knowing the risks that are involved with it.



At some point it has to be too high, we may not be there but there has to be a line when the danger to the participants outweighs the benefits. I am less a fan of the NFL than I used to be because I believe the players are taking risk that are not borne out by the compensation most receive. I begin to wonder about cycling, which is harder for me because I care a lot more than I ever did for the NFL

the_hoyle wrote:

You talk about neutralised descents would help, but only 3/4 of your examples above were caused by accidents on descents in races.


I recognize that, some sources of danger can't be resolved, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't resolve the ones we can. Clearly they are trying to improve road conditions to help with the Stetina and Demoitie accidents, another thing we could do is make descents less risky.

the_hoyle wrote:
Cycling has always been a dangerous sport. It is not like before the last couple of years there were no accidents or deaths during races. There was Fabio Casartelli in 1995 who died on a descent, Joseba Beloki ended his career with a crash in 2003 and we even had a rider (can't remember his name) go down a ravine after getting a corner wrong during one Tour de France.


I am arguing that it is worse. Your evidence supports that. While Beloki's career ended I don't think he suffered permanent injury of the nature of say Soler. So we have Casartelli and maybe Tom Simpson (although not sure he belongs in the same category). So we have 2 examples of deaths prior to 2011 when Weylandt died, and one of those probably had some self-inflicted drug issues and 5 since (adding Goddaert) Maybe others know of more prior to 2011, was interested to see what folks said.
 
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the_hoyle
Ulrich Ulriksen wrote:
I am arguing that it is worse. Your evidence supports that. While Beloki's career ended I don't think he suffered permanent injury of the nature of say Soler. So we have Casartelli and maybe Tom Simpson (although not sure he belongs in the same category). So we have 2 examples of deaths prior to 2011 when Weylandt died, and one of those probably had some self-inflicted drug issues and 5 since (adding Goddaert) Maybe others know of more prior to 2011, was interested to see what folks said.

My evidence didn't support what you said at all. I was highlighting that there have been fatal/career ending accident before Weylandt. You only see what I said as the only death due to an accident.

A quick google search provides a bit more information (not the nicest search to do, but it provides information) on the numbers of deaths during a race (road, time trial, track, MTB, amateur, etc) and also shows all cycling related deaths outside of a race (i.e. in training)
https://en.wikipe...ated_death

The number of those dying due to incidents outside of a race outnumber the ones which caused by a crash or fall (especially on a descent). In fact, there have been the same number of riders suffering heart attacks / cardiac arrests resulting in death since the beginning of 2016 than they have in a fall or racing crash. Also, looking more at when the accidents occur on descents, it is when the rider in question is taking more risks and pushing the limits too far (pushing for the win, chasing back on). If it was a case of a descent being too dangerous full stop, then the whole peleton would have had problems.


The problem with how you are looking at this is the fact we live in a world where cycling is more popular is far more countries. We have websites, forums, magazines dedicated to reporting accidents and incidents that happen. Back in 90s (for example) the media coverage was not as high, so accidents were not as publicised as they are now. Everything is much more public and shown to everyone.
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Paul23
Cycling is as dangerous as each rider makes it to be. Some riders take risks, which can end up good or bad and some others just have "bad luck". The only thing that needs to change are those extreme amount of motos and cars between riders. The roads are fine and you don't need to neutralize a descent. Like TMM said, in cycling, riders have almost no protection, so even a minor crash can end badly, whilst dying in motorsport nowadays needs a freak accident.

Also don't forget that Scarponi died in training, not in a race. He was hit or he hit a van. You can't fight against stuff like that.

The Degenkolb accident was in a training camp and it was also a weird one...they got hit, by a woman, who drove on the wrong side of the road and didn't even brake for them...probably on her phone. Don't try to make everything safer...you see it in F1 currently. They push for the "Halo" or maybe even full-glass cockpits, because of a driver, who died in a 1:1000000 chance. He was waaaay too quick under double yellow and hit the only caterpillar(?) at a gravel trap with his head...instead of doing the easy thing and making sure, no caterpillar comes on the track, they invent that ugly Halo to protect drivers, who normally would easily survive a crash at 300kph.
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