Spectators at the Tour de France aren't necessarily out of harm's way. On Tuesday, a race observant found that out the hard way.
According to the Associated Press (per The Washington Post) a sponsor's vehicle hit a bystander about 45 miles into the race's third stage.
Georges Bos, chief of staff for the Nord-Pas-de-Calais governor, tells The Associated Press the spectator was taken to a hospital and has “one or several fractures.” The vehicle driver was not injured.
That isn't even the scariest part. According to the report, this isn't the first time something like this has happened.
A boy was killed in 2000 and another in 2002 after being hit by sponsors’ vehicles. Tour organizers then reduced the number of the vehicles on the course.
The promotional vehicle is one of about 160 different sponsor cars used during the race. The cars are allowed to run the course an hour ahead of the main pack of riders, and I would bet this catches some spectators by surprise.
Doesn't something else seem off about this, though?
If this were the first time, I could see it. Accidents do happen, but this isn't the first time. It isn't even the worst time. Instead of focusing on sponsorship, maybe the race's organizers should focus on the race itself.
There has to be other, much safer, ways to advertise: blimps, billboards, decals. Use anything besides these cars that only seem to cause problems. I would say "put barriers up," but that would be far too risky for the riders.
As the report states, after the two fatalities the number of cars in the field was reduced. It should be reduced again, or eliminated altogether.
This is a cycling race. Fans shouldn't fear for their lives. If something doesn't change, more people are going to get hurt. Why wouldn't they? If it happened once (or three times) it will surely happen again.
Obviously the Tour de France needs to make money too. Corporate sponsorship is the best way to do it, and these cars are easy to spot, but the blueprint needs to be reworked.
Safety should be everyone's priority. It's understood that these riders take on a lot of risk while riding their bikes at high speeds, but simply watching the race shouldn't bear the same kind of risk.
There are only two options: change the way you advertise, or force the crowd to stand much further back.
No matter how you cut it. The current plan isn't working.