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November 18, 2017
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November 16, 2017
  • Neil

    All interesting points, but I don’t know that they actually address the causes of these incidents. Mike Hall had slept in the hours prior to his accident. The TCR incident was at the start of the race, where fatigue is not the issue it may become. I know the TCR declared some roads off limits.
    So the question then becomes what can organisers do to protect riders from cars. No one was riding illegally, they were all following local law as I believe it. So short of taking racing off the road I can’t see how that can be addressed.
    I can’t help but think that there is no clear answer here, other than advocating for our rights as cyclists and to participate without fearing that someone is always trying to kill us. I don’t think though that the blame lies with race organisers.

    • marc

      I agree with you, but can the organisers of such races do something to reduce the risk? Yes. I’m not saying that they should accept responsibility for this accident, but they can (as i’m sure they will) review it with a view to improve things.

      • zosim

        In this particular case the issue appears to be mostly with a driver who hit a rider who wouldn’t have been particularly fatigued given the proximity to the start. It could have been any cyclist who happened to have been riding their bike in the middle of the night. Short of calling for cycling to be banned at night, in poor visibility or when the sun is low in the sky there is nothing to do here.

        This fatality is not another ultra-endurance death it’s “just” another cyclist killed riding their bike perfectly legally. Being under 100km from the start the chances are he’d have been riding not long after midnight/1am when hit.

        I already told a few tcr riders that regionally, drink driving in the late nights and early mornings at weekends isn’t uncommon and to be aware of that in their routes and riding. That said, being rear ended is a common enough occurrence for cyclists across the world.

        Frank Simons’ death is a tragedy but, sadly, nothing out of the ordinary and nothing much to do with his involvement in this race other than that’s what put him on that road at that time.

        • I genuinely hope the race organisers are not seeing it that way.

          • zosim

            How would you like them to see it?

          • We had three cyclist fatalities in the week before the TCR started on the Dutch roads. This had nothing to do with the race itself, it was again a driver hitting a cyclist whatever the reason was it has nothing to do with the risks of ultra endurance racing. We should be talking about awareness about cyclists on the road with vehicle drivers, not about the risks of racing.

            • Thanks Jan-Willem. I was hoping to see contributions to the discussion from experienced ultra-endurance riders. You’re right of course…the discussion needed around vehicle-caused cyclist injury and death is much broader than the ultra-race setting. Many more cyclists are killed each year on the road by cars and trucks in non-racing situations.

  • Bartholomew Lee

    At least for fatigue I think it would be a good idea to have rules like truck drivers have to follow regarding minimum rest/sleep and maximum riding periods. Extreme endurance riders risk not just their own health/life but also other road users if they fall asleep riding etc. even though cyclist are must less a hazard to others than trucks. On a separate topic a crackdown on cyclists cutting/overtaking on blind corners on paths would save some crashes and injuries.

  • OTG1

    The biggest issue in my opinion, is these events, as they are currently run, promote irresponsible use of a public road, and in doing so put innocent people at risk. That being, participants are using the road tired, heavily fatigue, and likely to make poor decisions. The same would apply if this was an endurance car, motorbike, or truck ride, or any other road user.

    I say this as a cyclist myself.

    I have absolutely no issue with endurance activities, in fact, I have done quite a few ultra marathons in the past. And while my participation may endanger my own health, it no way increases the risk for others. As they were done on bush trails. I completely believe that if someone wants to undertake a challenging physical feat, that has a high probability of an adverse health outcome, it is their responsibility to choose to do so. However, it is not acceptable to endanger other people in the process.

    There are other options out there. Get on a mountain bike, and off busy roads. Aim for the 24 hour record on a track.

    If cyclists want to be treated equally and respected just like other road users, they have to also use such roads in a responsible manner.

    • Alex

      Well said

      • craigcorrigan

        Frank Simons was killed by somebody driving a motor vehicle, who failed to stop. That is the only irresponsible use of a public road that should be discussed.
        Save the hand-wringing about cyclists wanting to be treated equally and respected just like other road users. That sort of comment belongs in a tabloid news article. It’d be popular there.

        • Alex

          The most poignant point made in the above comment has to do with a race which is being endorsed and organised on open public roads. Open public roads are built and maintained for transportation purposes, open public roads are a space where every user has the responsibility to act in a way that keeps themselves and other users as safe as possible. An open public road is simply an inappropriate place for bicycle races to occur, whatever the distance – why is that such a challenging concept for some to understand?

          • CapeHorn

            Question for you.
            If I feel the need to ride from Perth to Sydney, Because I feel like it (or more likely, because I don’t want to fly, and I don’t have a car in Perth to drive interstate with), And this has nothing to do with a race, Ie. the REASON I am riding from state to state is for transportation purposes – Would you still have an issue with this?

            • Alex

              If you behaviour endangers yourself or others on public roads I take issue. Simple.

              • CapeHorn

                Cool, so there should not be any issue as long as I as a rider take the necessary precautions. And If a friend decides to ride with me for company – that should still be fine, as long as we follow all relevant road rules, correct?

                • Alex
                  • CapeHorn

                    Not an answer, which leads me to have to follow the same train of thought as craigcorrigan.
                    When my commute is either 20km, of which, 10km is on a state hwy, or 45km if I take the ‘safer’ route, And I finish work at a random time, anywhere between 5pm and 4am, and I need to ride home, the SAFEST route is the hwy, esp. on those 20hour work days, because it take 3 times less time, meaning I am less fatigued, which in turn gives me better judgement.

                  • Wily_Quixote

                    This race, and races like it, are not criteriums.

                    It is not as if there are sprinters abdoujaparoving all over the road in a race to the line. Conflating this wiht other kinds of bike races or vehicular races is a strawman argument.

                    what exactlyis irresponsible about it and how are other road users put at risk? And, if they are put at risk, how much more at risk are they than the background risk of tired drivers, truckies on speed and young adults texting?

                    if you are asserting that tired cyclists are veering in front of cars – well…. are they? Where is your evidence?

                    How may other road users have been injured or killed by cyclists in endurance races?

                    Now you keep asserting how ‘irresponsible’ these riders are, how about telling us what evidence you have used to form your opinion?

                • Alex

                  This isn’t the place to be facetious, see my comment on the last situation like this. It explains my point of view in a bit more detail – and seems that 9 people think I was onto something

                  • craigcorrigan

                    If you believe that cycling on public roads is unacceptably reckless behaviour, and you’d like to see more restrictions imposed on anyone doing so, then I’d suggest there’s a nervous driver someone in Belgium who’d also agree with you. You might get 10 likes yet.

                • OTG1


                  A group of my friends actually did ride from Perth to Sydney a few years ago, and no, I would have no issue with this. Reason being, is that they road approx 150 kms a day, and stopped every night to sleep. In other words, they used the road as a responsible cyclist. However, as soon as the goal because getting to the end as fast as possible, i.e. it becomes a race, all of a sudden, it can’t be said that you are a responsible road user.

                  So if you wanted to ride from Perth to Sydney, I have absolutely no issue, as long as you don’t stay on the road when you get heavily fatigued to the point where your decision making will be impaired, and you become a risk to other road users.

                  • Disgruntledgoat

                    “So if you wanted to ride from Perth to Sydney, I have absolutely no issue, as long as you don’t stay on the road when you get heavily fatigued to the point where your decision making will be impaired, and you become a risk to other road users.”
                    If you have any evidence this was a contributing factor in any of the incidents quoted then I suggest you contact the relevant police force.

              • Bath Salts

                “If you behaviour endangers yourself or others on public roads I take issue. Simple.”

                How can you even say that? As pointed out several times throughout these comments, there is no evidence to suggest that any of these recent deaths had anything to do with fatigue, or any kind of dangerous or reckless riding. The most recent of which happened within a distance that many of us do on a Saturday morning ride each week.

                Bicycle racing is nothing like racing in cars or any other motorised vehicle (though long distance endurance events in such vehicles do happen on public roads). Racing on a bike is generally done well under the specified speed limits for the roads, under perfectly safe conditions. What exactly is it that you think makes it so dangerous?

                The danger in most instances, comes from reckless and careless driving. You are venting at the wrong people here. Don’t blame the victim. ‘Racing’ under these conditions is little different to travelling for pleasure. It’s not a race. It’s a personal challenge, and people are doing it everywhere, on solo trips, with friends, over days, weeks, months, years…it makes no difference. Many of these cyclists are killed on straight stretches of road, doing nothing different than anyone else would be doing.

                Even the article itself seems to completely miss the point, that something so simple, like riding a bike across countries and continents, is so needlessly dangerous. Of course the races should be looked at, and every possibly action taken to keep the riders safe, within reason. But these challenges have been happening on public roads before the first car was even built. It’s crazy to think almost 200 years have passed and we still can’t cycle long distance, following a direct route, in relative safety. That’s the long and short of it. There’s something sadly wrong with that.

                As for getting on a trainer, or riding around a velodrome…

                We’d be extinct already if we all had that attitude. We have come so far as a species because of our desire to push boundaries. To cycle continents, and climb mountains… It’s something to be embraced.

                Keep rolling.

                • Kaetli R

                  So if a driver of a car endangers himself or others on the road then that driver should not be on the road either. People who talk on cell phones, drink and drive, eat a sandwich, turn to yell at the kid in the back seat, speeding, blowing stop signs. All these people should be off the roads. These endurance cyclists were obeying the law and not endangering lives. The only individual endangering life was the driver of a 4,000 pound weapon. The cyclist was in front of the driver. The driver should have seen the cyclist and slowed down until it was safe to pass. Remove drivers who endanger life from the roads not the cyclists.

          • craigcorrigan

            You’ve made your point. Public roads are no place for bicycles right?

            • OTG1


              You are failing to see the point. Public roads are the absolute correct place for bicycles, when cyclists use the roads responsible. Noone would condone an endurance car race on public roads, but everyone seems to think it is ok to have a endurance bike race on open public roads. I would have no issue if these types of bike events were held on closed public roads, i.e. with proper traffic controls in place.

              I would say this even if noone had been killed doing such events. We don’t even need for someone for die to assert that holding an event like this on an open public road is irresponsible.

              • Rob

                “Noone would condone an endurance car race on public roads”, World solar challenge comes to mind, never heard a complaint about it.

                • OTG1

                  Hi Rob,

                  You raise a good example. Have you read the regulations that this event complies with? You can find them here.


                  A few points if interest

                  Point 1. 1.19.1 (pg16): At least two and at most four solar car drivers.

                  Point 2. 3.6.3 (pg40): Each car must, at all times when in motion on the route, be accompanied by two escort vehicles, one immediately in front of the solar car and one immediately behind the solar car.

                  Point 3. 3.23.8 (pg48): Solar cars must not be driven on any public road between sunset and sunrise.

                  Point 4. 3.26.1 (pg49): Solar cars must stop for 30 minutes at designated control stops along the route.

                  To me, it appears such measure are to ensure responsible road use.

              • Tim Rowe

                These ‘races’ resemble a race in the term you would know them in no other way other than to say that they call themselves a race. They are events more unlike a traditional ‘race’ than any other event you’ll come across – they are practically just a hundred or so people riding from point A to B as thousands of other people might do any other day. It’s not like they’re riding in large bunches – like any normal training ride might do – also acceptable behavior but much more race-like – and it’s not like the course is configured and tamed so that road laws are overridden to allow riders to have road laws not apply in those areas. They are *quite literally* as close as you could come to some random guy just deciding to ride from one city to another, or commuting to work – just that it’s a little longer than you’d ordinarily expect. People ride more recklessly on a daily basis in everyday situations.

                Taking issue with this kind of event purely because it’s a “race” shows you’re not really evaluating what’s actually involved or being done by participants.

                • OTG1

                  Hi Tim,

                  The point I am trying to make, is that I don’t condone anyone being on the road heavily fatigued, and I feel that this type of event promotes that behaviour. If just 1 guy set out to ride as fast as he could from Sydney to Perth, I see that in the same light.

                  If someone, set up to ride Sydney to Perth (in an organised event of on their own), but took plenty of breaks to rest, fine, I have no issue with that.

                  And I agree, plenty of people use the road in a reckless manor, but that dosn’t make the behaviour acceptable just because plenty of people are doing it.

              • craigcorrigan

                I’m not sure I am missing the point mate.
                I’m replying to an article discussing the death of vulnerable road users due to motor vehicles. I don’t normally do so, but disappointingly it seems a popular Australian view that we should immediately impose more ‘rules’ or ‘restrictions’ on those vulnerable road users ostensibly for their own good.
                I wonder if anybody suggesting such an idea has ever truly thought it through? It’s not like the authorities or the media for that matter need any more help in rushing to exonerate drivers in these sorts of collisions, especially where often-times the driver is the only living witness.
                Public roads are public space.
                I’m still not sure what the author meant by using the term ‘death zone’ hours either. He can’t be implying that cyclists don’t get killed every other day in broad daylight, but the use of the term itself is suggestive of a problem he has with cycling at certain times. There are shift workers all over the world who cycle to & from work at the oddest hours, sometimes when extremely fatigued or mildly drug-affected. Irresponsible?

            • campirecord

              Sorry but you completely fail in seeing the statistical evidence of risk. Are you arguing with everyone here that risk will be lowered for endurance cyclists at night on a highway ? OK thanks. For the love of god, this is not a piss contest. This is what climbers, river rafters, parachutists, delta flyers, air pilots do EVERY SINGLE DAY. They measure risk. Not sure if that is what a sleep deprived self created athlete does. There is a long distance athlete who cant for the life of her, even bike in a grandfondo, she cant even handle her bike, let alone follow teen girl race level, yet she owns the bike trainer world record. Every-time she goes on a god damn group ride, she breaks her bike frame… get over yourselves already. It CAN be the cyclist judgement or even the driver’s judgement error, but what has anyone done to mitigate that, blame cars ? Declare bikes more righteous ? Self appoint cyclist as higher members of society? It’s obviously working…Create a long distance sleep deprived race on public routes ??? Yeah genius exercise… Great way to self promote in those modern times of branding. As a cyclist, I am not sure if that is the model I want to use for safety awareness on the road. “But what about me, memememe- follow me on instagram…” fruck. When it comes to ultra endurance races on the road, anyone arguing about lowered risks on the basis of bikes are better than cars has no part in this debate.

              • craigcorrigan

                Well….I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m completely missing whatever point it is you’re trying to make.
                I can’t link this discussion to teen girls and bike trainer world records, much as I try.

    • Tim Rowe

      Using your argument, ALL use of roads by cyclists should be stopped.

      This ‘race’ is done in such a way that really it’s just “Get from A to B using public roads and obeying all road traffic laws”. Any other race would omit the last bit – as they have the ability to override and omit laws.

      While I think these events are silly, the way you’re claiming them to be wrong is rather misguided. These deaths are no different to the hundreds of cyclists killed on public roads every year. It’s just that your day-to-day commute isn’t being covered by news sites nor categories as being run under the banner of an organiser.

      • OTG1

        No, I do not agree.

        Things like “Tour De Cure” I view as completely acceptable, long distant rides over a couple of weeks. The issue is with the incentive of completing the course as fast as possible, which promotes unsafe road use.

      • david

        No. The argument is that all use of roads by people who are heavily fatigued should be stopped, the type of vehicle they are in control of while fatigued has nothing to do with it. There is no claim that endurance cycling events are “wrong”.

        • Tim Rowe

          So any concern over these events being a “race” is a red herring. The organisers could very easily mandate minimum stops, but the reality is nothing anyone can do in this event – or even in general road use by motorists – can prevent people getting on the roads when they’re tired. All anyone can do is ask. But ultimately this is not an event problem, this is a shared human problem.

          • OTG1

            Hi Tim,

            In my view, it comes back to personal responsibility. I have absolutely no control over how other people use the roads. People will also speed, drink and drive, ect, am there is not much I can do about it.

            What I can do is be completely responsible for how I use a public road. And with that in mind, I don’t use a public road under the influence of drugs or alcohol or when heavily fatigue, whether that’s while driving or riding.

            And while some behaviours can be curbed to due laws, some can’t. It is not illegal to drive 100km on a 100km road in pelting rain with no lights on, but it dosn’t change the fact that it is irresponsible behavior. Likewise, while it’s unlikely there will ever be strict laws around road user fatigue, it doesn’t make the behaviour acceptable. (Meaning events where this outcome is likely I do not agree with).

            And to reply to Wily Quixote comment from above, I don’t need statistics to know that when I am on the road heavily fatigued I pose a greater risk to other users. Now it is well likely the case that someone fatigued in a car is a greater risk than someone on a bike, but as a cyclist I do not expect preferential treatment in my road use, purely because my “vehicle” is lighter.

            I’ll leave it at that.

    • Wily_Quixote

      How much risk are these other road users at? Where is your evidence for asserting this?

      can you name one instance where another road user has been injured or killed by a cyclist participating in an ultra-endurance event?

      Can you name an ultra-endurance cycling event where the behaviour of the cyclist has been demonstrated to have led to collision with a motor vehicle, resulting in the cyclist’s death?

      What on earth has led you to think that the drivers are not at fault in these 3 collisions? Because, in most road collisions between cyclist and driver it is the driver at fault. If the cyclists involved aren’t at fault – how was their behaviour ‘irresponsible’?

      • david

        The OP has not commented on any specific collision, or any specific cyclist, or any specific driver. They have merely suggested that using public roads while heavily fatigued is irresponsible, and *some* participants in endurance cycling events are heavily fatigued.

        • Wily_Quixote

          Why is it irresponsible if the riders are heavily fatigued?

          There appears to be no causative link between rider fatigue and danger to other road users. There is no evidence in the OPs post that describes how rider fatigue contributes to ‘danger to other road users’ and, in hte absence of any statistics or evidence to support his/her assertion, I can only conclude that it is not irresponsible (to other road users)to ride whilst fatigued.

          I have spent years looking at the statistics of road collisions and I am yet to see any correlation between rider fatigue and risk to other road users. I am also yet to see any significant statistics between rider behaviour and risk to other road users. the reverse, as well all well know is true, driver fatigue and driver behaviour is a risk to other road users and driver behaviour is responsible for the bulk of cyclist fatalities.

          • david

            Fair call. Presumably the reason driver fatigue is a risk is that it leads to an increased likelihood of a collision with other road users. If we extrapolate that fatigued cyclists are also more likely to be involved in a collision then we might conclude that a fatigued cyclist is a greater risk to *themselves* than a non-fatigued cyclist, but I agree the risk of injury or death to other road users is minimal. One could argue that behaviour which increases one’s own risk or injury or death is irresponsible, but I agree there is no statistical evidence to support any conclusions relating to cyclist fatigue.

            • Wily_Quixote

              ‘One could argue that behaviour which increases one’s own risk or injury or death is irresponsible’

              So, do you think that all cyclists who ride on public roads are irresponsible because it is ‘increases one’s own risk of injury or death’?

              Given that ‘there is no statistical evidence to support any conclusions relating to cyclist fatigue’ that seems to be an inescapable conclusion.

    • ebbe

      And if motorists want to be treated equally and respected just like other road users, they have to also use such roads in a responsible manner. Using roads (or in fact any thing) in a responsible manner always includes looking out for others using that same road (thing) simultaneously, especially if those others are less strong/fast and/or more vulnerable/weak. Therefore: Truckers have an extra responsibility to protect cars, motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrians. Car drivers have a extra responsibility to protect motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrians. Motorbikes have an extra responsibility to protect cyclists and pedestrians. And cyclists have an extra responsibility to protect pedestrians. Of course, this is all on top of everybody’s basic responsibility to look out for each other and follow laws and conventions.

    • Yetiman

      Hey Man, have you done “Everesting”? :)

  • Wily_Quixote

    What has the respective coroner reports stated about root causes of these three fatalities?

    Until we have these reports it is is premature to assert that the deaths are a result of the conditions of the race.

    • zosim

      As I’ve said above, all pointers in this accident are the rider being hit by a driver who chose to continue barely 3-4 hours into the event which puts it outside the issues raised about ultra endurance racing (I.e. Fatigue mostly). Fishbein was killed in the Transamerica after being rear-ended which might possibly have been him swerving when tired or just as likely because a driver just didn’t pay attention and therefore ran him over. Mike Hall, on the face of it, was facing eyesight issues but until we know more about the crash it’s impossible to say what was the actual cause.

      Broadly, what I’m trying to say, is I agree. A coroner needs to rule on each accident before people cry foul at the ultra endurance organisations; after all audax has been doing this for years without the same calls for change.

    • craigcorrigan

      I’m not sure that Coroners reports routinely decide or rule on root causes for these types of fatalities.
      At least not here in Australia?
      I’ve seen more than one Victorian Coroners Report here in Melbourne that included police statements by a driver to the effect of “I saw the cyclist as I approached from behind, he was riding erratically, and I struck him with my 4WD”. In one of those cases the bicycle and rider was dragged a considerable distance down the street.
      In both of the cases I’m referring to, neither driver was ever even issued a traffic infringement notice. If forced, an Australian coroner would probably suggest not wearing a helmet was a root cause of death.

      • Wily_Quixote

        A coroner’s investigation finds the cause of death.

        It would take a coroner’s inquest to find the root cause of death in the Australian context, that is true.

  • mass1ve

    it would be nice to think that any decisions regarding ultra-endurance events was based on facts, not an emotive response.
    I’d ask how the circumstances surrounding the death of these riders was any different to those faced by the rest of the cycling community every day.
    Unless race conditions are shown to be a contributing factor, aren’t these tragic incidents just highly publicised examples of single riders being rear-ended by cars? I personally would prefer that commentary stick to the facts and not artificially connect these incidents without evidence that they had something in common.

    • Push Bike Writer

      Each of the three deaths happened during ultra-endurance cycling races on open roads. That terrible fact alone is reason enough to want to see a calm discussion about how event organisers might respond in terms of event rules and regulations – can the model be improved in any way, or is everything completely in order?

      No reasonable person would claim that race organisers are responsible for the tragic fatalities. But it is hard to argue that the organisers have no responsibility at all to at least review the model.

      There doesn’t need to be a proven connection between race conditions and tragedy for such a review process to be a good thing to engage in.
      Craig Fry

      • mass1ve

        Agree, but such reviews should be solidly based on the facts of each incident. For example, it’s easy to ask the question as to whether these races should occur on busy roads? Was the traffic volume actually a factor in these incidents? Is the fact that someone is racing a factor? Perhaps they are travelling 5km/h faster than they might otherwise. Is fatigue a factor? Were they riding unpredictably and contributed to their own death by swerving in front of the car? Riding at unusual time of day etc? Unfortunately it is all too easy to gloss over the facts and go straight to generalisations that may have nothing to do with the specifics of each incident.

        I think we agree in broad terms, I just think it’s important not to jump to conclusions without understanding specifics.

        • We’re on the same page. Though I’m not sure the specific details ‘explaining’ these three sad deaths will necessarily be publicly available after whatever police and coroner processes are finalised (and rightly so).

          What might event organisers reasonably be expected to do next time? Nothing? Surely the discussion doesn’t end there. I hope not.

    • I can assure you that decisions on ultra-endurance events are based on facts. It’s a relatively small group of people running (and racing) these events. So while the details of those accidents aren’t publicly known (as they shouldn’t), the organizers do know the details.

      Especially on this years TCR safety concerns were paramount, for obvious reasons. Had Mike’s death been linked to any race specific risks (e.g. the always mentioned fatigue and swerving onto the road) I am almost 100% sure they would have changed the rules – or not gone ahead with this years race. I totally trust their statement that it was a “normal” crash.

      Not that this makes it any easier to bear. But totally agree with you on sticking to the facts is important, otherwise we are discussing about the wrong things…

      • mass1ve

        thank you

  • disqus_U85waxYyKN

    Such sad news again!
    I dont know the rules of this race , but having cyclist wearing dark, non reflective and non fluro clothing is baffeling. Also being alowed to ride without lights during day let alone night is shocking. Solving the “be seen ” problem seems easy. Being a fluro fred of much better than a fatality injured fred. Solving the riding while impaired problem is very dificult ,as these riders are probably breaking the law in many countries. Even having compulsory rest hours would have riders in un safe condition unless rest times were above 8 hrs or more. Truck divers cant drive all day and all night for good reason. Still very sad !

  • Mark Kelly

    Does the unsupported nature of the event compromise the safety equipment carried by the riders? For example is the power of their tail-lights reduced so as to not overtax their dynamo? Could organisers mandate higher power lights but provide battery drops. If you are riding remote, narrow roads, in the middle of the night, in what could be very poor conditions, you should be lit up like a Christmas tree.

    I was genuinely shocked by the lack of baggage Kristof carried when he rode through Melbourne during the IPWR and prayed that he wouldn’t strike a blizzard in the alps.

    • Disgruntledgoat

      I went down to the start of TCR with a friend who was racing and the scrutineering of bikes and gear was the most stringent I’ve ever seen. If you had a barplug missing you sent to buy one on pain of not starting. Your bike had to be in working shape with no sharp edges and your lights and gear up to snuff before they gave you your tracker.

  • ac

    On friday and saturday nights most drivers are drunk or under drug influence. And in most countries.
    So they should’nt ride those nights, unlike they are in north Korea or in a very deserted area.

  • DaveRides

    I would hope that there is some kind of meaningful response from the organisers of future open road endurance races.

    The organisers can’t eliminate external factors completely, but they can (and, arguably, must) make moves towards harm reduction. A ban on riding between midnight and 6am would make some contribution towards addressing rider fatigue, while also having the riders off the roads at the time of the day that motorist fatigue would be the greatest danger.

    • ebbe

      A “no riding in the dark” rule seems to make sense to me as well. Especially considering some of the areas they pass, where motorists aren’t safety conscious (or considerate) even during the day. Anybody can see those types of risk increase exponentially at night. On the other hand:
      – Why should motorists’ inability to drive safely at night take away a cyclist’s right to ride at night? In the vast majority of motorist-cyclist ‘accidents’ the fault still lies with the motorist.
      – If riding at night were banned, the riders would start cramming in as much riding as possible in the daytime, and skipping pauzes to do so. That might actually even increase the risk of fatigue. Maybe mandatory pauzes should be added as well? Or maybe that’s taking away from the nature of such an event.
      – Riding at night is some riders’ version of an “extreme weather protocol”. Many areas they’re crossing easily reach 40ºC temperatures this time of year. Slovenia issued a country wide extreme weather alarm just yesterday or the day before. What will we say if a rider suffers a heat stroke and dies? Probably, the soundbites on social media would be: “We should just let them ride at night!”

      That’s of course not to say a “no riding in the dark” rule is undesirable, but there are downsides to it as well, and those need to be taken into consideration as well. It’ll always be a difficult problem to solve with just one simple intervention. And even if we could, I’ll still say it’s better to look at the root cause of ALL ‘accidents’ involving cyclists: Infrastructure. But, that’s very costly, takes a lot of time, requires politicians to reach consensus, etc

      • ColtInn

        “Anybody can see those types of risk increase exponentially at night.”

        No. It is not clear whether night riding increases the risk at all, let alone exponentially (by which I suspect you mean ‘drastically’, or similar). A rider will be more visible at night (if wearing high viz and reflective kit), not less. That is especially true as compared to low light, cloudy daylight riding among traffic.

        • ebbe

          “Exponentially” because risk is a matter of multiplication, not addition.

          And yes, riding and driving – basically any road usage – is more dangerous at night. First of all there’s things such as potholes, debris, crossing critters, etc, which can more easily surprise you at night. But much more importantly: You’re making the same mistake everybody else does, treating safety solely as a matter of “being seen”. You’re placing the onus solely on the cyclist. But that’s neither fair nor realistic. It’s at least as much a matter of “seeing” (or “looking out”). At night, the risk that motorists are tired, possibly drunk or high, have cranky kids on the backseat, aren’t paying attention, have difficulty estimating (safe passing) distances, just want to get home quickly, “didn’t see you*”, etc etc etc, is simply bigger. That’s what I was actually saying: The risks that “…motorists aren’t safety conscious (or considerate)…” (and that’s a literal quote) are bigger at night.

          *To clarify: The crus is that “just didn’t see you” is not always a matter of not being visible enough. Most of the time it’s a matter of the motorist not paying attention. I almost got hit by a car myself last week. In full daylight, I was perfectly visible, not going fast at all and following every traffic law. I even had my bike lights (which comply with every regulation) on, at 10:00 AM in full daylight. The driver though, “just didn’t see” me… purely because he wasn’t paying attention. Luckily I saw his brake light turn off, meaning he took his foot off the brake, and could avoid him when he suddenly turned into the road, otherwise it would have been a crash.

          • ColtInn

            You make some good points, but I don’t agree entirely.

            I see what you are getting at with risk being a matter of multiplication and not addition, but multiplication is not exponentiation.

            No, I’m not making a mistake about treating safety only as a matter of being seen. In the context of this discussion the safety issue at hand is being struck by a motor vehicle. In that context, being seen is a major factor (though not the only one). You say driving and riding at night is more dangerous. Well, yes and no. A solo rider on a given stretch of road, with no traffic present, will be safer during the day for the reasons you point out. But that is not necessarily true in the real world. Let’s say, on a given stretch of road at night, that any given motor vehicle is 10 times more likely to collide with a solo rider than on the same stretch during the day. But what if there are 10 times more motor vehicles on that stretch during the day. Which is safer? We need not use thought experiments though, just ask yourself if there are more traffic accidents during the daylight hours or at night.

            (Edited to remove confusing absence of a word)

            • ebbe

              Well, but that’s not correct either. Now you’re assessing/calculating the “risk per kilometer of asphalt”, while we should be calculating the “risk per km cycled” (or “risk per km driven” if we’re taking the motorist angle) of day vs night. Anyway, I’ll stay with my remark about using the road at night being inherently more dangerous. For various reasons, visibility being only a minor one of those reasons for these type of endurance cyclists, since they’re usually very well equipped on that front. The big reasons I mentioned in my previous post.

              To support my view, I’ve looked for some data from NL, where cycling infrastructure is often separated so you would expect the difference between night and day there to be small(er than in other countries). But the difference between night an day is in fact… night and day! Don’t just take that from me. Research, which corrected for distance travelled night versus day, etc, shows it. I’ve found several reports, but they’re in Dutch so I guess you can’t read that. Here’s one article describing the conclusions from such a report, auto-translated to English by Google: https://translate.google.nl/translate?hl=nl&sl=nl&tl=en&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.verkeerspro.nl%2Fverkeerskunde%2F2013%2F08%2F23%2Ffietsen-vooral-risicovol-in-het-donker-na-middernacht%2F – The text will be a bit/lot messy because it’s an auto-translated, but you should still be able to get the gist of it.

              We don’t need to agree, but my thinking in the “exponential” remark was this:
              Risk with more risk ? 2 * risk.
              Risk with more risk = risk * risk = risk^2. (But indeed not risk^risk, so if that’s what you thought I meant: I didn’t)
              Hence the “exponential”. So yes, I did write that on purpose. I’m fine if you say you would have used different wording. It’s my post, so I’ll pick the wording. And it’s not really worth arguing over to be honest, it’s just a minor detail. I still like you though! ;-)

              • ColtInn

                Sort of. My thought experiment works either way. If I ride from a specific point A – B, solo, with no traffic present, I will most certainly be safer during the day than at night. But I’ve already acknowledged that. If traffic is present, even if the risk is greater per unit of traffic at night, it may still be safer when there is much greater traffic volume during the day. And collisions with motor vehicles is what we are talking about.

                Thanks for the link. I don’t like to comment on such things without reading about the data and methods, but don’t have time just now. Perhaps I will at some stage. One point made in the summary was “The relatively high risk is especially for bicycle accidents involving no motor vehicles”. This highlights, for me, the complexity of the situation.


                • ebbe

                  That “when no vehicles are involved” part is people riding into potholes, hitting other cyclists, crashing on their own because they’re drunk, etc etc. That risk indeed rises the most. This is, I suspect, because of often separated infrastructure, which keeps them away from cars at many, but certainly not all, points during the ride. But NL is quite special in that respect.

                  Anyway, the point is that according to this paper (and others) the chance of getting hit by a car at night is also higher, per km travelled(!), and that’s what the whole discussion was about. The TCR is a “(roughly) 4000 km and I’m done” race, not a “roughly 25000 cars overtake me and I’m done” race. So kms travelled are the key metric, not how man cars there are on the road and the risk per car. Your thought experiment could theoretically indicate a lower risk at night, or a similar risk, or a higher risk. It could theoretically lead to any outcome you want, because you’re completely free to choose the weight of each component to fit your desired outcome. That’s how reverse engineering (or mathematics in this case) works. But practically, as measured in actual empirical studies, the risks are indeed higher at night, even in the safest bicycle country in the world.

                  Why wouldn’t risk * risk * risk be risk^3 (or risk^x)? Only if you want to get really nitty gritty and assume certain parts of risk 1 and risk 2 could overlap, then let’s say 1 = x =< 3. But still certainly not 3 * risk (yes, I realise 3 * risk can be more than risk^x, but it won't in practice). And again, that was what I meant when I said "exponential": non linear. Anyway, never mind. Not important enough.

                  • ColtInn

                    Hi there, ebbe. Most of what you’ve written we’ve already been over, so I’ll just reply to a couple of things and leave it there, regardless of any reply.

                    I understand the cause of incidents not involving vehicles. I doubt, though do not know for sure, that the higher frequency in that study is because of of the separated infrastructure. Roads are probably more dangerous in this regard, as they too have potholes, drains that the rider be unfamiliar with, are often cambered differently to bike paths, etc. So I would expect to see more solo incidents on road if all kilometers traveled were instead there. Of course, there is probably a difference between the types of cyclists that ride on the road, and those that use bike paths. It is not a homogeneous group. In my city, there are almost certainly more kilometers traveled each day on seperated infrastructure than on roads, but many that ride bike paths would rarely, if ever, choose to take to the road primarily. Possibly related is the relatively higher risk for solo incidents in the younger age groups in that paper. This group is, I suspect, more likely themselves to be under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Also, the attention received about incidents in ultra-endurance races is specifically about collisions with motor vehicles. So this entire line of thinking can be put aside in this context. It is the risk presented by other traffic, and the perceived additional risk to other road users, that is of concern for most people.

                    I understand also the point about kilometers traveled. Though, you miss my point. Route planning for organizers and riders in the TCR almost certainly involves choosing routes with less traffic, and that may also take into account traffic volume at time of day. If riding across country A, I’m not so concerned with incidents per kilometers traveled for the country as a whole. I’m interested in, among other things, the volume of traffic on a specific route at different times throughout the day.

                    Er, having spent many a semester sitting through under- and post-grad math and stats classes, I assure you I get your point. In this case, one would not be free to choose whatever weight, and therefore outcome, of each factor if it were to be carried out. The thought experiment was merely meant to bring attention to certain things. If studied, it would require accurate motor vehicle traffic volume data of a particular route throughout the day, same for bikes, the number of incidents involving and not involving motor vehicles. It is impractical in most cases. I would bet big money that the risk incidents involving motor vehicles on some routes would be higher, on others lower, than during the day. To give you a concrete example, there is a main road that travels the length of the CBD in my city. For years now I have chosen not to use it during the day, because of motor vehicle traffic volume. I happily ride it at night, though, as there are virtually no cars using it after 9pm. It is undeniably safer to ride this particular route at night, even when taking into account other factors such as potholes, light levels, etc.

                    It is not risk*risk*risk. It is riskA*riskB*risckC etc. And yes, there is overlap. Take mitigating factors like reflective clothing and lights. You’re right, it is not linear, but neither is it exponential. It is also not important enough, as you say.

                    Thanks for the discussion.

                    • ebbe

                      Ok quickly:

                      Your first paragraph: I’m talking about differences between countries. It’s a fact that NL has more separated infrastructure (using which isn’t an option by the way – you don’t choose to ride the road or the cycle path: In the vast majority of cases you HAVE to ride the cycle path if there is one). In countries with much separated infrastructure, the risks of having an accident NOT involving a car is simply bigger. Not absolute, but relative to countries that have less separated infrastructure. That’s because it’s relatively more difficult to actually come in contact with a car.

                      You second paragraph: You’d hope so, but if you would follow the racers reports on their blogs, facebook, instagram, etc, you’d see that they’re constantly surprised what they find. They sometime even end up on motorways with trucks blazing by them at motorway speeds. Also: You can speculate (that is in fact what you’re doing) about volume of traffic all you want, but the only measured statistics in the real world we have so far are the ones I linked to. And they clearly state more dangers in the dark. Yes, that’s an “overall” statistic, but it’s the best we have.

                      Your third paragraph: You keep wanting to pull it back to certain stretches of road and the volume on that road, and then speculating how things could be if all of that was taken into account. It would certainly be nice if that sort of info was available, allowing cyclists to look up the info, filter it by day and night, and build an optimal route based on their ride times etc. In practice however, they make decisions to ride at night on the fly (eg, when it’s too hot during the day – a heat wave with temperatures of up to 47ºC is currently plaguing large parts of Europe TCR riders will travel through. People are calling the heatwave it “lucifer” in Italy), or they end up on downhill sections of bike parks in the Alps (like such ones that are use for skiing in winter – yes, that actually happened to somebody last year), have mechanical throwing off their timing, and need to reroute multiple times during their trip. Planning to the level of detail you are proposing is just impossible. Oh, and you’d need A LOT of deaths/’accidents’ for that granular a level of data to even be meaningful at all. And even if it were possible, my main point would still stand: The best way to reduce any cyclists’ deaths is by improving infrastructure.

                      And you fourth paragraph: I was trying to keep it simple. I have an MSc from one of Europes best technical universities, so I’m not sure if mentioning the classes we both passed some time ago would really lead to anything ;-) To me, if we were to create a graph of the (added) risks, it would still be an a graph that roughly resembles an exponential line… for the first part of it at least. And that’s why I said – AND MEANT – exponential. At some point way beyond what we’re discussing here it obviously levels out until it reaches 100%, meaning certain death. Maybe we can compromise and agree it’s an 1-cos(x) graph, with a limit of ? risk(fatal) (that would be the point where you’re taking so much risk that it kills you for sure)? Anyway, it’s still my post so I’ll still pick the wording… ;-)

                      OK, that wasn’t as quick as I thought, but anyway: What you’re saying all sounds nice in theory, but it’s mainly a theoretical exercise, leading to a conclusion that isn’t workable in the real world… because the information you’d need to act on it is missing, and riding such an event as TCR isn’t predictable in the first place. I’ve tried to prove my point (that riding at night is more dangerous – without putting the onus purely on the cyclist) with (at least some) actual empirical data – data which you can’t refute – and work from there.

                    • ColtInn

                      Quickly? Okay

                      I thought I made it clear that in the city in which I live more people cycle by separated infrastructure than by road. Whilst it is true that in such cases the occurance (as distinct from risk for important reasons) will be greater, proportionally, than cases in which there is little such infrastructure, it does not follow that there would be less solo incidents not involving a car if everyone rode on the road, for reasons which I have pointed out and which should be obvious. It’s true there would be more incidents involving a car where little infrastructure exists, but not necessarily true there would be less solo incidents.

                      Sure, riders are surprised to find road conditions are not what they expected. But they are surprised precisely because they are conditions that they were trying to avoid. As for the only evidence, I don’t know. As we’re talking here about collisions with motor vehicles, and that the paper you cite finds evidence of greater risk of solo incidents, it is not clear. You can’t say on the one hand that NL is an exception, and on the other that it is a generalisable result. You speculate on why it may be, but it is speculation.

                      Call it exponential if you like. You could model it that way, sure. That doesn’t mean it is an exponential process. It was you lecturing me on how mathematics and science works that prompted mention of credentials.

                      As far as events like TCR, IndiPac, TransAm go, the less interference the better, in my opinion. People do these kinds of things because they don’t want endless rules and regulations. It’s been going on forever and will continue thus. They don’t rely on huge budgets, and so can be organised by and for like-minded people whether the public catches on or not. Cycling infrastructure (or paddling, or climbing, or skiing, or whatever is ones cup of tea) is of little concern to most people that want to go out and do self supported endurance racing with like minded people, where nothing is up for grabs save memories and bragging rights.

                    • ebbe

                      Not absolutely, but relatively it would. The balance (we’re not talking about the absolute numbers in isolation!) would shift more towards incidents involving motor vehicles in situations where cyclists and motor vehicles are on the same road. It’s difficult (not impossible, but difficult) to have a car hit you if that car is on a different road.

                      Again: Yes, the paper found more ‘accidents’ involving cyclists, without motorists, at night. But the paper ALSO found more ‘accidents’ involving involving motorists, at night… and you could have read that yourself. It’s a bit of a mystery why you would only focus on the first (which is not relevant to the topic we were discussing), and ignore the second (which is VERY relevant)… Unless of course you’re purposefully trying to divert attention away from the data that does not suit your argumentation. If so, that’s not really a fair tactic. So yes, it’s still the best data we’ve got. I’ve said NL is exceptional in the sense that we can expect more ‘motorist involved’ accidents in other countries, because there is less separated infrastructure: When generalising to other countries, we can expect the results to shift even more towards my conclusion, and away from yours.

                      I’ve never called it a process. I’ve compared two situations, one with a certain risk, and one with (several) added risks, and called the increase between those two situations “exponential”. I’ve not “lectured” you on anything, I’ve explained why I used that word, in response to you “lecturing” me that I didn’t mean what I said. I did though, as we’ve established by now.

                      Finally: Agreed, except for “Cycling infrastructure […] is of little concern to most people that want to go out and do self supported endurance racing with like minded people […]”. Facebook. Twitter and Instagram are full of current TCR riders (or racers?) posting pictures and raving about safe cycle paths (just one example: in specific parts of Italy there’s a couple of extremely nice cycling paths), and warnings about dangerous roads with no b-road and little shoulder where big trucks thunder by. I know of several riders who’ve planned their routes to follow (eg) Eurovelo routes, ciclabiles and ravels as much as possible – even if that meant taking a detour here and there – specifically because those routes have been set up for cyclists, or with cyclists in mind, are therefore generally (again, in comparison) safer. They’re actually extremely concerned about cycling infrastructure.

                    • ColtInn

                      Fair enough. Though, I will say that there are many roads in my city that I prefer to ride at night, specifically because of the level of motor vehicle traffic present during the day. During harvest time in several regions in Australia, I’ve chosen to ride at night to avoid trucks that fill the roads during the day. There are other roads that I ride often that are pretty rough, yet fine to ride during the day, but pretty sketchy on a road bike at night. Whether a specific road is safer or more dangerous at night is very much location dependent.

                      Yeah, I’ve seen those kinds of posts about road conditions. Many of them are about motor vehicle infrastructure and its suitability, or not, as opposed to cycling infrastructure per se. But sure, if it is there, people will use it. I doubt its absence would deter many though. Again, it is location dependent. Some riders in the IndiPac this year complained about the need to use separated bike paths, and would have preferred to ride roads in several places (all riders had to follow a specified route, unlike the TCR). This was down to the lower speeds that could be ridden, due to recreational riders also using those paths, I think.

                      I’ve not done an ultra-endurance race. The nearest I’ve come is a four day event with controls, in which most folks weren’t racing but merely trying to get through. If I ever do one, it will almost certainly be an off-road or predominantly off-road thing. Some folks say all such races should be off-road. I disagree. Also, there are different risks, not the least of which it being more difficult to get medical assistance should it be called for, and greater risk and effort for those giving assistance. I enjoy following the road ultra-endurance events, admire those that do them, and hope to see them continue openly.

                      You’ve made some good points, and I’ll keep them in mind. Enjoy the race.

                    • ebbe

                      True, for roads we know we could ourselves determine whether that road is (more) dangerous at night or not. Frank Simons however was riding a road he did not know. Of course the fact that he was killed in an ‘accident’ on that road does not neccesarily prove me made a bad judgement call, or that the organisation was wrong to start the race at 22:00. And… it’s sad either way.

                      I’m not sure I could/should comment on riders complaining about being forced to use a cycle path, but as a general rule I’d say: If it’s there and decently ridable, use it. It’s the same for everybody anyway. Recreational riders have just as much rights to be on that road as ‘racers’ do. If you want to avoid them, ride at night (and accept the downsides of riding at night) ;-)

                      Your points about being off road meaning making it more difficult for emergency services is very valid. There’s also my own pet peeve about cycle paths often having road furniture (gates, fences, bollards, etc) on them, only making using them unnecessarily dangerous, especially at night. No argument there at all!

                      Anyway, have a good evening! ;-)

                    • ColtInn

                      I would have ridden the paths, I suspect, and I get why they were part of the route. My guess is they were tired, smelly, accustomed at that point to riding very very long stretches of road with few obstacles, and just wanted to keep trucking.

                      It’s morning here – 4am – it’s dark and cold, but not windy for a change, and I’m about to head out for a ride (i find myself having to work odd hours with a toddler at home that has yet to grasp that night is for sleeping). On a weekday I’d take the bike path near home for a stretch. It has 12 of those stupid chicane-gate things in less than 2.5 km. Being Sunday, I’ll take the usually busy road. You have a good evening, too.

      • ColtInn

        Having said that, I agree with all else of what you said. If there were to be restrictions on time spent riding, something like ‘must be stationary by tracker for at least six hours in any 24 hour period’ might be a place to start.That way, riders could look at weather forecasts and try to time there efforts as best suits.

        • ebbe

          Or take a completely different approach, as the organisers of the Torino – Nice RALLY do: Tell everybody up front that it’s NOT a race, there are no prizes, no cut off times, take it easy, take a detour every now and then, explore, enjoy the stunning scenery, stay at a nice hotel in the area for a few days, camp out on top of a mountain, take your time and make a holiday out of it. The story/adventure is what’s important, not your time/speed. That’s obviously not what the TCR is about, but it’s an attitude I personally like very much.

          • ColtInn

            That is my kind of thing, too. I suspect that attitude is adopted by a large proportion of those that do the ‘races’, even if not explicit in the event description.

            The thing about taking a completely different approach is that it ends up being a different event. I’m glad that things like Trans Am, Trans Conti, IPWR exist, and hope they’re not banned, as many are calling for, in a knee-jerk reaction. I think the world needs more of this kind of thing, in an age of Brand X Super Epic Race for Marketing Profit Yeah! type events.

            • ebbe

              Indeed. To be clear: I absolutely do not believe these events should be banned following these tragedies. I believe such tragedies (any cyclist or pedestrian death in fact) should spur governments to rethink their infrastructure investments. That’s the one response that will have the greatest inpact by far.

  • I just scratched from TCR yesterday, after Frank Simons’ death my motivation was gone. I gave it plenty of thought, kept on riding for 2 days and discussed it with plenty of riders and also some people from the race organizers.

    The article brings up interesting and valid points, but what I really do not like about it is that – without any facts to back this up – it links the dangers of endurance racing to people being sleep deprived. And sure enough it pops up in the comments, as usual.

    No details are known of Simons’ accident, but being some 5 hours into the race sleep deprivation most likely was no issue. Lights and reflective vests were checked by the organizers plus he was an experienced audax rider – so will have been lit up like a christmas tree at night. I personally have no details of either Mike’s or Eric’s death but know for a fact that the TCR organizers looked into it. They decided that the fact they were in a race did not contribute other than the fact of them being there. There was nothing that Mike or Eric could have done differently – they were hit from behind through no fault of their own. Measures like mandated rest times were surely discussed – and decided against because that was no factor in these accidents.

    While I personally wouldn’t agree with the (perfectly legal!) road choices some racers made – mine were geared towards little traffic instead of being fast – I found that during the race people usually do make the right call and rest when they need to. Especially during something as the TCR – PBP might be different, but it attracts a slightly different crowd of people.
    Mike is the best example. Most of us will have seen how he looked when he tried to pass Kristof in the IPWR and how he had trouble seeing. So he settled for 2nd place and rested – because of safety.

    Summing this up: none of the recent deaths had anything to do with the extreme nature of the races. So we should be discussing road safety in general and how to prevent drivers from hitting any of us. Not about what cyclist/race organizers could/should do. Lets leave that discussion for accidents that really are a riders fault – otherwise it is just a very small step toward blaming the victim.

    • Thanks for the input Christopher. It must have been heart-wrentching decision to pull out.

      You’re absolutely right in that nothing is known or proven (publicly at least) about the speciics of each of the deaths and judging by the circumstances all were unique. When Craig and I were talking about this article we both made sure that no conclusions were rushed to or situations speculated. One of the main points of the article was to get the conversation going and attract perspectives such as yours. Thank you for that.

      • Thanks for the reply Wade. It must be a difficult decision for the media – obviously it is news worthy and people being people they will speculate anyway. So basically you don’t really have a choice but cover it.

        Personally I disagree with some road choices people made and I am sometimes surprised that people come to the start line in grey or black colors – me being pretty high viz, at least when riding on roads with unknown (or high) traffic levels. But as it is all legal that should not be an issue – being hit from behind is the drivers fault. In 99,999% of all cases, period. And being at night, high viz or even lights surely didn’t play a role. Modern reflective material will be visible from VERY far off if hit by car lighting, outshining most bike lights easily.

        Please don’t get me wrong: I think there should be a discussion about what roads people choose and if maybe there are other colors than black or grey. And on lights and reflective vests and maybe even on mandated rest times (although I made up my mind on that one…).

        But in my opinion it should be kept separate from individual crashes. Because it all sounds very much like “it was his own fault, he shouldn’t have been there”. Not in the article, which – like you said – makes sure not to jump to conclusions. But sure enough it is there in the comments, as always. Mandated rest times, better lights, lack of equipment – it wouldn’t have helped in these cases, thus deflects the discussion from things that would.

        For example: I believe if Apple/Samsung/phone companies would start shipping all the new phones with an automatic driving mode turned on by default, thus preventing people from texting or at least forcing them to consciously make the decision to break the law by texting that would greatly improve all cyclists (and pedestrians) safety, not just us racers…

        • Thanks for contributing to this Christopher. There’s high public interest in these types of bike races now, and as you said there’s lots of speculation and misunderstandings too.

          I think everyone wants to try and understand why it has been such a terrible year for the ultra-endurance cycling world, and what’s going to happen next. Unfortunately, in the absence of much by way of official comment from race organisers, or other views from ultra-cyclists themselves a certain amount of the speculation will be wrong and unhelpful.

          That’s why it’s good to hear your views about possible race regulations, and other safety measures. The aim of the piece was to hopefully seed some sensible discussion about the issues. So I am glad to see you, Ben, and Jan-Willem putting the rider perspective forward. Thank you.

          • Matt Chambers

            The aim of this piece is pretty transparent: generate a load of views by posting some crap under the disguise of “getting the conversation going”. So what you get is some ignorant speculation, nasty victim blaming, and a small sprinkle of motorist-apologists – all of which were entirely foreseeable. If you didn’t predict the bu11sh1t replies, then you aren’t very good journalists. Well done in achieving your objectives!
            p.s. good posts Christopher, and bad luck with your DNF.

            • It’s an important conversation Matt. I don’t agree with all the views expressed either, but I believe in the value of debate. Three people have died in the last five months in ultra-endurance cycling events. Is there nothing at all to say about that?

    • Ben may

      Much has been said already, and I strongly support Christophers words. As a rider of TCR N04 last year, and my partner is riding this year, I know how much effort was put into this years event to make it as safe as possible without loosing the event itself. That included detailed lists of banned roads above and beyond roads officially banned, no use of any tunnels allowed, detailed lighting ,reflector and high vis checks were also done at the start line. Saftey was the number one item on all communication with the team.

      It was therefore devastating to hear that news of Franks incident, which turned out to in the end just be really unfortunate in that it couldve been any rider on that road, or a pedestrian for that matter. It is a known area to be not all that desirable, and I myself had a close call last year in the same region when a car swerved around me hitting a dog in the process. But that said it should be somewhere that needed to be avoided, the TCR itself has used it for the past 3 years.

      There are many factors to review on this, but pin pointing a specific reason for the increase in these incidents is difficult, there is a huge increase in number of events but also number of riders in these events. In the end it is a risk of numbers, it would be an interesting study to look at the increasing number of cycling incidents overall across the globe in relation to this. Keep in mind in events like these riders are doing 2000k weeks, 10times what you would consider high for an Avid rider, which is increasing their exposure to these risks by this number to the risks already we know are there for cyclists.

      I think the race organisers are doing enough to be proactive about this, its just unfortunate they have had really shitty luck this year.

  • HamishM

    Given the quality of the comments above, is it really helpful to have a post like this when so few facts are known? We really don’t know lights the rider had nor how sleep deprived he was. It’s all just pure speculation and most unhelpful.

    • Actually I would even take that one step further: we know he had lights and reflective gear cause the organizers checked that just a few hours before he took of. And he was an experienced audax rider 5 hours into the event – so it is very unlikely he was sleep deprived. So I think it is not just speculation but plain wrong to bring these things here.

      And totally agree with your sentiment: very unhelpful all of this. But I guess it also is human nature, so somewhat understandable that websites like cyclingtips will take this up…

  • jules

    the tendency to blame the event seems a bit like belief bias to me

    • The point of the piece is certainly not to blame the event or the riders. The public interest in the three tragic deaths within 5 months in the same types of organised events presents a good opportunity to discuss the issues – even the difficult ones.

      Judging from the range of comments here, I’d say the discussion has very usefully highlighted how some of the riders of these events think about the issues of safety and risk, how incorrect assumptions about the nature of ultra-cycling can lead to wrong conclusions, and what some people think about what the limits of cycling on the road should (and shouldn’t) be.

      I think it has been worthwhile.

    • ebbe

      The big mistake people always make when it comes to “accidents” is trying to blame one single factor/party. That’s rarely (not never, but rarely) the case: Most “accidents” are the result of an unfortunate combination of events involving mistakes by several parties. In this case, in order of magnitude of risk:

      (1) The base problem of course is that many areas are not really safe for cyclists to start with.
      (2) Then multiply that with the risk that there was a beer festival going on in the area, meaning drunk drivers could be out on the road.
      (3) Then multiply that with the risk of riding at night.
      (4) And only then risks such as fatigue / high viz / lights / etc come in.

      Now, if we are to assign blame:
      Regarding 1: Not the rider’s fault nor the organisers responsibility. Only partially the driver’s fault to be honest. Government’s fault for sure.
      Regarding 2: If it was indeed a drunk driver (which is speculation at this point, but it was a confirmed “hit and run”, so that might might point in that direction), or tired driver, etc: Not the rider’s fault. Maybe the organisation should have known? But certainly the driver and government’s fault
      Regarding 3: Certainly the driver’s fault for not being alert at night (links back to 2 as well). Partially government’s fault for not providing safer infrastructure. Partially the rider’s responsibility, for taking a risk in riding through the night… although that one is wide open for discussion. Also partially the organisation’s responsibility for starting the race at 22:00 in the evening or not limiting riding to hours between (say) 6:00 am and 21:00 pm.
      Regarding 4: If (and that’s a big if) the rider wasn’t wearing high viz clothing and lights, that’s not the driver’s nor the government’s responsibility. Still the absence of high viz or lights does not give a driver permission to kill a cyclist. However… we can be 99,9% sure he was in fact wearing high viz gear and lights, because the organisation checked at the start. 5 hours of riding should, under normal circumstances, not fatigue an experienced audax rider, and there is nothing to suggest Frank Simons made any mistake when it comes to fatigue / high viz / lights / etc.

      So all in all, if we want to assign blame, I’d say “the event” comes in third or fourth, after the driver and the government. On the other hand: The organisation and riders themselves are the parties most likely to take action AND have most to gain / lose by (not) doing so. Seems very unfair.

      ps, a close friend of mine is riding TCRNo5 right now. First thing he did after the start (which was at 22:00 in the evening) was ride to a nearby hotel. I haven’t seen him ride at night since. He certainly won’t win the race that way, but I’d rather see him back in Amsterdam and have a beer in two weeks from now.

  • John Sanderson

    I can’t see how the nature of the event, how far the rider has to go, or what type of event they are taking part in plays any part in this tragedy. The dreadful truth is if a person had set out from their house and cycled 25 metres along the road, then they could just as easily have been hit by this hit-and-run as someone who has been riding for 100 miles before they get to that point. So there’s nothing that the events organisers could do about it. Unless there’s a pattern of riders being fatigued and making poor decisions, then there’s no pattern. From the (limited) info available for each of these incidents it appears the driver’s are to blame – so it’s driving that should be tackled.

    The fact these awful events this year have stood out is because they’re so very rare, thankfully. People get killed and seriously injured every single day while driving their cars, to the point now that it’s just background noise. Next time you’re stuck in a jam on the motorway because of a serious crash, see how many people are talking about how driving on motorways should be banned, or driving at night, or driving more than 100 miles in one go, and compare it to how many are just moaning that they’ll be late.

  • Simon Wile

    The author answers his own point. “Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to decide how to answer such questions.”
    Exactly. I could be out for a sunday spin and be killed and i might get a mention in the news. No one would bat an eye. Another cyclist dead. So what? Same with these events. Ita a numbers game, eventually it would happen. More racers this years than any previous. More chances to be the unlucky one.

    You take your life in your hands every single time you saddle up. People doing these events know the game and the risks. Theyre trying to escape the mollycoddling of every day life. All the “arm chair experts” giving their opinions are worthless. People on bikes on the road die. Event or not.

    Run the events. Individuals manage their risk and roll the dice. Dont mess with the freedom of others because you feel its “too unsafe”.

  • maximusdelicious

    People said after Mike Hall’s death that riding at night was a factor, then Eric Fishbein was killed in similar circumstances and now Frank. At this point we all know that allowing night riding will result in dead riders. So either accept the consequences of that decision or rethink the rules. But spare me talk about how “nobody knows what to do” because the problem is obvious. If you can’t recognize it, you are in denial.

    • HamishM

      Cyclists get killed in broad daylight too. I’ve ridden plenty of audax events in remote areas at night and I can tell you that you are more visible with lights and reflective surfaces than during the day, and there’s less traffic around too.

      • ebbe

        Another TCR rider just got hit by a van in Italy. In broad daylight.

        • ColtInn

          All of the focus, understandably, goes to incidents resulting in the death of riders. What is often left out of discussion are the number, consequence, and any attribution of fault in incidents with cars not resulting in a death. Eoin Marshall was, for example, hit by a car during the IPWR, resulting in head injuries. I don’t know what the final outcome was, but the driver was charged by police at the time.

          How many ‘minor’ incidents occur, and what the cause of them were, is relevant data in any analysis of the issues surrounding these types of events. I’m sure race organisers have a much greater understanding of the issues in full than do the cycling public.

  • Superpilot

    Some great articles lately.
    All three accidents are car vs bicycle. I won’t go into the politics of that particular situation, other than to point out the risks in climbing Everest, gran fondos and masters age triathlons are to do with personal health causes such as unknown heart conditions or adverse environmental conditions. I also won’t go into the question made previously of whether bicycles should stay off the road (though state my opinion all users should be able to safely share the road).
    What I will say is that by spending hours at night on roads that drivers might otherwise not expect to see a bicycle, or at least at a certain hour of night, ultra endurance events are putting cyclists into a situation drivers might otherwise not expect. However it is not the place of organisers to legislate or rules or cotton wool the participants. It wouldn’t be an ultra endurance event then, it would be a very extended gran-fondo.
    You can only make suggestions to the participants, the organisers cannot control all the environmental conditions as the environment is just too large to control. Even mandated sleep hours, just make it harder n organisers who then have to track a metric, and it is open to breach depending upon each participants desire to follow rules in an event that is nonetheless supposed to have minimum rules?
    By mandating/suggesting an organiser should do more in these events, you are opening the door to organiser liability. I think these days people like to be able to lay the finger of blame once something such as a death occurs.
    Believe me, having dealt with someone taking their life last week, there is plenty of questioning around as to what we might all have done, this is all too real to me.
    In each of these three occasions, it is likely as not just a sh**ty circumstance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    Life is a numbers game, whether it be cancer risk with perfect lifestyle choices, genetic heart conditions, or rider/vehicle accident statistics. Being on the road for more time than other cyclists by the nature of probabilities puts theses athletes at a higher chance of collision or accident due to more hours being cycled from an overall accidents per hours cycled risk profile.
    I’m of the opinion it is a god awful sh**ty mess, but purely coincidental that such sad circumstances occurred during the 3 major events so far this year.
    The risks are no higher or lower than they have always been, both for the participants, and also for someone riding a bike on the same road at the same time who is not a participant at all.
    Perhaps even more precautions are being taken these days leading to a lower risk in recent years through better lighting and reflectivity than in ultra endurance races run for a long time in history like Paris Brest Paris.
    The first aggrieved relative to successfully sue an organiser because there is an increased organiser culpability, despite the waivers, with be the death knell of ultra endurance events.
    If you want to lay it in the hands of the organisers to somehow put all the riders in a safety bubble for thousands upon thousands of kilometres, make it their responsibility and make them culpable, well I don’t know a person that would want to organise such an event.
    My understanding is they lay a course, provide a guide of the best route or required route, and set the riders on their way to deal with that route in the way that they wish, in their own time, their own fashion, and under their own risk appetite.
    It is the riders personal responsibility, it always will be, to enter and participate knowing the risks, and part of those risks include being involved with the public at various hours in motor vehicles. The organisers can’t make that risk go away.
    As has been noted, fatigue didn’t play a part in these incidents, so that shouldn’t be part of this particular discussion.

  • MushieG

    If we were to run a car ralley and the only rules were dont break the speed limit, but you can drive 24hrs a day if you want to there would be outrage.
    Yes a car can do more damage if it drives onto the wrong side of the road, but how would you feel if a cyclist started riding onto the wrong side of the road and you killed them.

    I am a cyclist, and have loved pushing physical boundries in other sports, but I think there needs to be some rule in these races of no riding between midnight and 6.am (or something like that), or rolling road closures -not easy considering the length, but the issue can no longer be ignored. These races are on public roads after all.

    3 deaths from 3 races is clearly showing that something needs to be done.

    As OTG1 below stated
    “There are other options out there. Get on a mountain bike, and off busy roads. Aim for the 24 hour record on a track.
    If cyclists want to be treated equally and respected just like other road
    users, they have to also use such roads in a responsible manner.”

    • Wily_Quixote

      as I have described above – where is the problem?

      Are cyclists in endurance races ‘riding on the wrong side of the road’?

      All we know is that 3 cyclists were killed after being struck by vehicles. In most cases of car vs cyclist fatalities it is the driver who is at fault – it is safer to assume that, in these three collisions, the driver is most likely to be at fault.

      In regards to “(cyclists) have to use such roads in a responsible manner’ – what grounds do you have to assert that the cyclists in question (endurance cyclists) are not using the roads in a responsible manner?

      Is there data on cyclists causing accidents in which motorists are injured or killed because the rider was fatigued? If not, i cannot see how you could define that cycling whilst fatigued is in anyway irresponsible towards other road users.

      In regards to your question: ‘how would you feel if a cyclist started riding onto the wrong side of the road and you killed them.’ Pretty bad, obviously, but why would i kill a cyclist if he was on the wrong side of the road? i would prefer to brake and avoid them.

      What you seem to be stating is ‘endurance riders are fatigued, fatigued riders are more likely to be on the wrong side of the road and it is bad for drivers if they kill cyclists on the wrong side of the road”

      There is no evidence that endurance riders place other road users art risk. there is still no evidence that endurance riding places endurance riders at risk of more harm than any other cyclist riding those routes, at those times. To assert that it is irresponsible to partake in this activity because drivers might get upset if they kill you seems a little insensitive at worst and illogical at best.

  • Organizers (and bike manufacturers) still have road safety work to do here. Good organizers of ACP sanctioned brevets have better safety measures and requirements than many others but can still improve. Mandatory hiviz gear and 24h rear steady / blinking lights is a good starts. There’s too much fashion drive in this sport and road safety comes second. Implement rules of hiviz socks, reflective wrist straps, vests / gillets etc. a la randonneuring and amplify it. Folks laugh at us dorky looking randonneurs but to be fair, it makes total sense. Bike and bike gear manufacturers producing better and better looking functional safety gear is a good start, not continuing this amazing trend is the wrong answer. Safety is key, being seen makes you a bit safer and we can always improve / Erik Nohlin / TCR01 and 10th season rendonneur.

    • ebbe

      I’d say motorists and governments still have a lot more work to do.

    • bigringjim

      Hi-viz isn’t the holy grail you think it is. It’s about driver expectations. If a driver isn’t looking for cyclists then no amount of fluro/reflective colours will help you. It has been demonstrated in numerous studies. Will it be better than nothing, probably. Have a search for the Invisible Gorilla study.

      A sign further up the road saying ‘warning, cyclists ahead’ will have a much much higher safety effect, although probably not as effective.

      I think it may have been a factor in almost all three of these deaths (hypothesizing as I don’t have any real information). At 10pm/1am/3am a driver’s brain just isn’t looking for a cyclist on the road. It’s an extreme outlier, so their brain is searching for other things. The human brain isn’t capable of being alert for every possible eventuality at one time, so it filters and prioritises.


      • Wily_Quixote

        The links you cite don’t support your statements.

        the CT link absolutely identifies that Hi vis leads to less cyclist collisions and improved visibility during the day.
        It also demonstrates that reflectivity at night improves visibility, especially when worn on ankles and knees.

        the ‘invisibl;e gorilla’ is an example of attention and cognitive overload and is not about what about ‘what the driver expects to see’ at all. The invisible goriila concerns the property of the brain to only attend to one particular cognitively demanding task at a time and pertains to psychomotor tasks and cognition. What this means for cyclists is that you are more likely to be struck when the driver’s brain is overloaded wiht other demanding tasks (i.e. trying to navigate, negotiating lane changes, distractions by passengers etc,). This is inattentional blindness and is not a result of expectation it is a factor of overly attending to vehicles and not bicycles.

        I contend that a driver is MORE likely to notice you if you are not expected to be there. Do you think that a cyclist floating in the air 5m above the road would be unnoticed?

        For endurance riders to be more visible to drivers they should wear flourescent garments with reflective strips on ankles and knees and, according to the research you cite, have the word ‘police’ on the back of their jersey.

    • Ritch

      Apart from social media and marketing for brands, what do the organisers do? It’s advertised as unsupported, so organising anything to do with the safety of the competitors is barren. I suppose there is mapping the route, choosing the start date and handing out transponders. Is there anything else that doesn’t relate to branding or social media? Just asking because it sells short all the local volunteers at club racing level who actually organise events.

      • Brevets are unsupported to but requires participants to go through a bike and gear check prior to the start. CE certified reflective ankle bands, vest, lights and backup lights is mandatory and kept on during the ride. Maximizing visibility while being on the road, day and night cannot be a bad thing and should be enforced and more than just encouraged by the organizer.

  • Doubtful Guest

    Ultra-endurance is a ghetto of self-funded loons, who don’t have the talent to compete in professional events. Less attention paid to them, the better.

    It’s too bad some of them get killed, but we shouldn’t stop building bridges because some people jump off of them.

    • Matt Chambers

      I suspect you’re trolling. I totally disagree with your first para, but it did make me laugh, so thank-you :) (perhaps there is a tiny crumb of truth in it … )
      Your 2nd paragraph is not something I would have written; but it is a good point, well made!

      • ColtInn

        Made me laugh, too. Bit elitist though – prefers corporate-funded loons to self-funded loons.
        Oddly, says we shouldn’t pay attention to them, but then that we should keep building them. Funny

  • A J MacDonald Jr

    All cyclists take this risk every time we ride. People are hit, injured, and killed by car drivers every day.

    • bigringjim

      Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do something about it.

      • marc

        agree. Is it better to say “oh well someone died, but it wasn’t there fault – phew!” or actually do something proactive about it, and maybe, just maybe reduce the likelihood of it happening. Do what can be done now to improve the future, assuming you have the means.

  • I am a WarmShowers host and welcomes a number self-supported cyclists. Frank Simons, Eric Fishbein and Mike Hall was just cyclists like my guests, and they was killed because they liked cycling – not because they took part in a ultra-endurance cycling event.

  • toffee

    I think there is a simple answer, if you choose to cycle in dangerous conditions you are accepting the fact that you may die. Its that simple. And I am sure the riders taking part in these events agree to sign documents stating whatever happens, its their problem, and the organisers take no responsibility.

    So for the rider it’s a personal question: you do it if you want to.

    For the race organisers its a different story. And I think the key issue is money.. If you organise a race no money involved is one thing. If you make money from the event, or get sponsorship money, thats an entirely different thing. If your making some financial gain whilst others risk their lives without any consideration, thats probably wrong.

    Will Pedaled sponsor the TCR next year if it has the same rules and conditions…. lets wait and see.

    + Comparing masters age triathlons, or gran fondo style cycling, to self-supported ultra-endurance cycling events is a bit ludicrous.


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