ACCORDING to Merriam-Webster, a selfie is “an image of oneself taken by oneself using a digital camera especially for posting on social networks.” According to me, it’s insane that the word selfie is defined in the dictionary.
We’ve all taken selfies, though; even an adorable crested black macaque monkey hijacked a photographer’s camera in 2011 at a small national park north of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, bared his huge front teeth into a smile, and took a selfie. But the crested black macaque is very rare and critically endangered, so it has a good reason.
Last summer I was surprised to find that my five-day vacation in Nice, France coincided with the famous bike race Tour de France. Realizing my luck and the uncommon opportunity to see the race I made sure I went to see some of the events. I was surprised at how close myself and thousands of other spectators were able to get to the race path and the cyclists. I posted up 300 meters from the finish line with a bottle of water and my camera, no problem. During the race, my hair was whipped around every few seconds by teams heading into the final stretch of pavement. Had I wanted to, I could have reached out and touched many of the competitors. The only thing holding me and many others back from the racing area was a white railing with a plastic advertisement hanging down from it.
The trouble with this year’s Tour de France is that people are actually reaching out and touching many of the participants. Not to give them a hi-five or an encouraging pat on the back, but to take selfies.
But the selfies being taken at the Tour de France are not just annoying, laughable, or bothersome…they’re dangerous. With arms outstretched, backs turned to the race, and eyes on a camera as cyclists come whipping by at speeds of 45 to 55 mph, the chances of someone getting seriously injured are high. This is not your casual rider or daily commuter—these are athletes whose lives largely revolve around training for their competition. And at this year’s Tour de France, Cambridge’s 20 mph limit was lifted specifically for the cyclists in the race who are expected to exceed that speed.
This is not the time to pose pretty.
Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas, a participant in this year’s Tour de France, described people using the race as a chance for a photo-op as “the new pain in the arse” for race participants. With selfie-takers backs to the road, posing like macaque monkeys who have never seen a camera, they can’t see when cyclists are coming. Worse, the cyclists can’t see them. As he explained to a reporter, “If you are on the front you can see it, but if you are a couple of people back you suddenly see them and you can hit them. There have been too many big accidents with riders hitting spectators and you don’t want to see that.”
American cyclist for BMC Racing Team Tejay van Garderen took to Twitter, saying:
Garderen referred to the selfie taking as “A dangerous mix of vanity and stupidity.”
Is a selfie worth getting clipped by, or clipping, a guy who has worked his entire life to be where he is? This is why we can’t have nice things.
As Geraint Thomas put it, “If they want selfies they should stand on a wall.”
Or maybe they should give their arms and social media a rest and just take in the race. You know, with their eyeballs.