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Councillors in California banned mountain bikers from a local preserve after Strava data revealed riders were travelling at speeds in excess of 20mph on shared trails

Strava data has been used to ban mountain bikers from a park trail after cyclists posted data showing them riding at speeds in excess of 20mph.

Horse riders and hikers raised concerns over riders using Byrne Preserve trails in Los Alto Hills, California at “incredibly unacceptable” speeds.

The ban was unanimously passed by the local council in January, thanks in part to Strava data from the trails, with no opposition to the ban made by the local cycling community. Some feel a worrying precedent has now been set and are asking riders to consider their behaviour on local trails.

Teen cyclist fined for riding 37mph in Richmond Park

Ryan Dunfee, writing in Teton Gravity, said: “While Los Altos Hills' action is seemingly a unique example of what can happen when folks who don't want bikers around use bikers' own data against them, it's not hard to imagine Forest Service rangers or other public officials being forced to take action against illegal trails or in the case of Los Altos Hills, revoke legal trail access mountain bikers already enjoy.”

Dunfee said it is possible for a “vocal minority” to use Strava data to back up concerns raised to local councils and help ban bikers, and said cyclists need to be proactive in monitoring behaviour in their community. 

Some local horse riders registered complaints about cycling speeds in the Preserve, in particular the steep Artemas Gintzon trail, and the potential for horses being spooked by bikers appearing unexpectedly around blind corners, and the dangers that poses to younger, less experienced riders.

Are YOU a Strava Wanker?

Los Altos Online reported Councilman John Radford was among those reluctant to deny cyclists access to the Preserve, but the Strava data, with speeds of 20mph and greater, ultimately influenced approval of the ban.

At a public meeting on the issue, he said: “I’m done with this as far as I’m concerned,”

“The speed numbers that were talked about tonight are just incredibly unacceptable. I can’t even believe. Sorry, whoever’s done those apps and whoever puts that together – that just put a hole in the whole argument.”

Website Singletracks said they resisted bringing the issue to public attention earlier in case it was used by anti-cycling individuals to ban cyclists from trails. In a recent blog, however, Jeff Barber suggested people make certain rides private to avoid fueling the argument against cyclists on contentious cycling routes.

Dunfee, meanwhile, believes cyclists need to start tackling speeding before it reaches the point where bans are mooted.

“Given the inevitable posting of Strava data – as well as that from other apps that track outdoor activities – it would seem the only solution is to get out in front of the issue, own those speeds, and be the group that starts the conversation about shared use," he said.

"Better that than to be on your heels, or in the case of the public comment in the Los Altos Hills case, not present in the conversation at all.”

Mountain View resident, Andrew Yee, told Los Altos Online trail users should work together for a solution. He said: “We can get kids off the road, they can ride on these paths”.

“In 12 years in living in this area, I haven’t had a single incident that’s been unpleasant with hikers, other bikers or equestrians. … I think we can learn and collaborate instead of discriminating against one group.”

In London, Regents Park Cyclists were recently credited with helping reduce collisions resulting in injury by 58% on a popular park cycle route after working with police to approach fellow riders about red light jumping and cycling at night without lights, while police officers tackled speeding motorists.

28 comments

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eddyhall [50 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

I suppose it is a worrying precedent but the honest truth is that Strava is exactly set up for this. If there were a similar system whereby drivers or horse riders could log their speeds and routes, I am sure data could be extracted showing unacceptable behaviour too.

The end situation is that becuase cyclist have demonstrably acted in a way that the local authority found unacceptable, the priviledge of using this particular trail has been removed.

It would help if we knew what would be considered acceptable so that we could moderate ourselved accordingly. I am not sure any of the cyclist logging >20mph would consider that they are being unacceptable.

In addition, this data has no context about what was happening near the cyclists at the time. Perhaps if the stretch of trail was unoccupied with clear visibility this is acceptable, but if there were other users this would not have happened.

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Wolfshade [205 posts] 1 year ago
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eddyhall wrote:

I suppose it is a worrying precedent but the honest truth is that Strava is exactly set up for this. If there were a similar system whereby drivers or horse riders could log their speeds and routes, I am sure data could be extracted showing unacceptable behaviour too.

"Interestingly", I knew of at least one Police force that regularly collected anomoised speed data from a certain satnav provider and used that to site their "random" speed cameras.

What is a bit weird that you could be on a group ride, one person logs it on strava and is banned but if the rest don't make the data public or use a different platform (or none at all) then they are fine.

eddyhall wrote:

It would help if we knew what would be considered acceptable so that we could moderate ourselved accordingly. I am not sure any of the cyclist logging >20mph would consider that they are being unacceptable.

In addition, this data has no context about what was happening near the cyclists at the time. Perhaps if the stretch of trail was unoccupied with clear visibility this is acceptable, but if there were other users this would not have happened.

Yes, very much this ^^

I suppose the other question is how do you know how fast you are going given that you don't have a speedo (or at least there is no requirement to have one) and if you were travelling fast along a trail I doubt that you would want to spend too much time checking it out, when there are more important things to look at like what's ahead.

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allgearnoidea [58 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

unfortunately in the digital world we live in things like this will become more common.

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IanW1968 [345 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Seems fair enough,  people on bikes should be considerate to others. 

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Simon E [3154 posts] 1 year ago
12 likes

When will we see ALL cars banned from residential or other streets because a few (or many) exceed the speed limit?

What's good for the goose...

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ChrisB200SX [565 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes

Given that we know motorists speed on roads which are shared with more vulnerable road users, I guess it makes sense to ban motorised transport from the roads too? Just trying to put this ridiculous ban into context.

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maldin [147 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Can the council prove the ride data hadn't been doctored? Or that it was even authentic data at all? (i.e. that it was in fact taken from rides and the files not merely created in an office to support an argument).

Of course, it is highly likely based on common sense that the data is valid. My point though is that it's probably been accepted by the council because it support a pre-detemined conclusion that they wanted to arrive at. The "evidence" however would be unlikely to stand up to scrutiny in court. 

How many times have we seen court cases relating to motoring offenses thrown out because the data/videos can't be authenticated as accurate or because the data was provided by a cyclist victim who is automatically not seen as impatial?

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Leviathan [2864 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

What percentage of all strava logs exceeded the limit? and at what time of day were they recorded (I know Strava does not show this.) Setting a PB on most routes is very much dependant on the amount of traffic, motorised or pedestrian. 

Seems a bit excessive; if there was no opposition, is iy because no one told the bikers; they just turn up one day to find a no cycling sign on their favourite trail?

Strava is partly responsible; flagged segments don't actually disappear, you just hit the hazard waiver button to see the segment. If a couple of people flag the segment as dangerous it should deleted and no new segments on that route created.

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Jimmy Ray Will [815 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

Ouchie... there is a strava segment near me, shared path... KOM is over 30mph. I hold that KOM.

It was achieved in a wholly responsible way... there was no one on the path, visbility is excellent on that route. 

Half the fun of Strava is getting the right circumstances to post a PB, in this case a clear run in the right conditions. 

I mention this as to anyone just looking in at the data, that speed would seem ridiculous, and wildly inappropriate. And i for one wouldn't dream of trying it with other users on that path. 

The point is there is nothing to say if I was riding responsibly, or not riding responsibly, as is the case with any Strava segment / recording.

There is no speed limit on shared paths, only perceptions of what is acceptable or not. 

Its a dangerous precedent creating bans based on a snap shot of time without any context.

 

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Grizzerly [369 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes

It could, of course,  be argued that Strava simply encourages self-centred pillocks to be even more inconsiderate of the needs of others.  In this case,  they have spoilt things for all cyclists.   

There is plenty of organised competition for everybody,  Strava is just the cycling equivalent of masturbation.

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Jamminatrix [181 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

And people say that e-bikes, which go much, much faster than regular bikes (often ridden by inexperienced riders), won't lead to getting MTB bikes banned from more trails... hahaha,ya right!

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me [94 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Yep Strava had this coming.  And about time.  If there's no number on your back it's not a race.

To say that it's ok to ride at what could be taken as inappropriate speed because you're careful doesn't rule out the possibility of something unexpected happening.  Which may or may not involve other people or animals.

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mike the bike [980 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Grizzerly wrote:

 ........  Strava is just the cycling equivalent of masturbation. 

 

Hell, if I'd known that I'd have joined earlier.

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wycombewheeler [1237 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

20mph unacceptable on shared paths. So motons can stfu when I don't use them.

Also waiting for roads to be closed to cars because some of them drive at excessive speeds.

Some people are tools whatever their mode if transport, but only cyclists are trated as a homogenous group.

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Housecathst [607 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Can you imagine up roar if you ban all motorist from using a road because some exceed the speed limit. I assume this trail doesn't even have a speed limit posted. 

In reality it's not going to make any difference people will still ride the trail and at whatever speed they feel is appropriate at the time and more power to them, it not like anybody has any real power to stop them. 

Cheeky trails all the way.. 

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cyclocross [1 post] 1 year ago
1 like

Hey guys, thanks for quoting Cyclocross Magazine's Andrew on his opposition to the ban. He was just one of many to attend and speak out at the public meeting on the ban. That contradicts your earlier statement that it was passed "with no opposition to the ban made by the local cycling community."

Feel free to reach out if you want the complete picture, or at least one cycling community member's version of the events. Even the Strava data isn't completely accurate, since there are parallel roads to the paths and obvious GPS errors. But explaining that to a city council member who has a few minutes to decide on a topic felt like an insurmountable KOM. 

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SoBinary [54 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

OK so today I went into work along the canal.  Average 24km/hr Max 41km/hr at no point did I come close to cycling into anyone.  The most dangerous aspect IMHO of my ride is not the speed on straight good visibility empty sections but passing pedestrians who are walking in the middle of the path and I've slowed to walking pace behind because they cannot hear my approach because they are plugged into headphones and are not situationally aware.  Despite high speed when not near people slowing when I am and a warning of "on your right/left" followed by a "thank you" as they acknowledge sees good relations maintained... I recieve and give smiles and have never been shouted or sworn at.  Pretty sure my Strava data would get me banned. 

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davel [1967 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
SoBinary wrote:

OK so today I went into work along the canal.  Average 24km/hr Max 41km/hr at no point did I come close to cycling into anyone.  The most dangerous aspect IMHO of my ride is not the speed on straight good visibility empty sections but passing pedestrians who are walking in the middle of the path and I've slowed to walking pace behind because they cannot hear my approach because they are plugged into headphones and are not situationally aware.  Despite high speed when not near people slowing when I am and a warning of "on your right/left" followed by a "thank you" as they acknowledge sees good relations maintained... I recieve and give smiles and have never been shouted or sworn at.  Pretty sure my Strava data would get me banned. 

I get (and agree with) the gist, apart from the biggest danger being pedestrians with headphones. They're always getting in my way on shared use paths into town, and then once I'm in the city centre, but they don't cause the danger. The danger is caused by the quicker metal thing with a lump of me on it.

It's mildly frustrating at times, but they've every right to be there with whatever they want stuck in their ears, and I'd rather be going slowly behind them than taking my chances in the wacky races on the alternative A roads.

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Christopher TR1 [154 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Was the speed limit mentioned in the article, or does the reader just have to assume that there is a 20mph speed limit?

If there is a 20mph speed limit in place, and it is adequately signposted then the whole article makes a lot more sense. Otherwise it does not:

Clearly dangerous behaviour around horses and other track users is not acceptable but these mountain bikers (I'm more a roadie, so it is an assumption) are out having their fun and trying to improve their skills and fitness. Now that's pretty tricky if they are restricted to pootling and enjoying the view - kind of makes their full-face helmets and body armour redundant!

Of course another solution would have been to ban the horses and hikers (if you don't like hiking there, go and hike somewhere else)!

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SoBinary [54 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
davel wrote:

I get (and agree with) the gist, apart from the biggest danger being pedestrians with headphones.

"Biggest danger" was relative to my overall assessment of "No real danger" so we are fully in agreement about the threat they pose... at worst it could cause me to have an ignominious walking pace wobble into the bushes.

My issue is slightly more obstuse and that is that while the faster and more dangerous mode of transport (car / bike) should behave responsibly it does not excuse someone taking NO care and outsourcing their safety to others.  I've seen people with headphones walk out into a busy road without looking in the assumption that someone will stop / miss them.... shared use paths work best when everyone accepts they are shared use.  

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Paul_C [523 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Ouchie... there is a strava segment near me, shared path... KOM is over 30mph. I hold that KOM.

It was achieved in a wholly responsible way... there was no one on the path, visbility is excellent on that route. 

Half the fun of Strava is getting the right circumstances to post a PB, in this case a clear run in the right conditions. 

I mention this as to anyone just looking in at the data, that speed would seem ridiculous, and wildly inappropriate. And i for one wouldn't dream of trying it with other users on that path. 

The point is there is nothing to say if I was riding responsibly, or not riding responsibly, as is the case with any Strava segment / recording.

There is no speed limit on shared paths, only perceptions of what is acceptable or not. 

Its a dangerous precedent creating bans based on a snap shot of time without any context.

 

There is a segment I ride that has a record speed of 60 mph... in a 30 mph zone

https://www.strava.com/activities/412663486#9913663251

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fenix [835 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Ouchie... there is a strava segment near me, shared path... KOM is over 30mph. I hold that KOM.

It was achieved in a wholly responsible way... there was no one on the path, visbility is excellent on that route. 

Half the fun of Strava is getting the right circumstances to post a PB, in this case a clear run in the right conditions. 

I mention this as to anyone just looking in at the data, that speed would seem ridiculous, and wildly inappropriate. And i for one wouldn't dream of trying it with other users on that path. 

The point is there is nothing to say if I was riding responsibly, or not riding responsibly, as is the case with any Strava segment / recording.

There is no speed limit on shared paths, only perceptions of what is acceptable or not. 

Its a dangerous precedent creating bans based on a snap shot of time without any context.

 

 

OK - lets assume you are a model of sense and you did that ride at 6am with nobody else around.  Joe Bloggs sees it and he may not appreciate that - so he tries it at 10am with kids on scooters around.  Shared paths are not the place for strava segments.  People riding like knobs will get us kicked off some of these permissive paths.  The one by me for example - sheep and pedestrians around.  If you want to test yourself there are plenty of roads around. 

All segments on paths should be flagged. 

Councillor busybody could happen upon your record and that's enough of a spark to get him crusading against fast riding. 

I'm all for KOM's but preferably on hills (if not mountains) and not on shared bloody paths.

 

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Adamar [7 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Paul_C wrote:

There is a segment I ride that has a record speed of 60 mph... in a 30 mph zone

https://www.strava.com/activities/412663486#9913663251

The KOM for that segment is only just over 30 mph average, did something get flagged? Either way the only way someone's getting that fast on a bike on the flat is via GPS errors.

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jazzdude [80 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

We need to know: is there a ststutory speed limit of 20 mph; is the trail a public right if way; under what statute does the council have the auauthority to ban anyone from the trail? Without this information the report is pointless.

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iso [1 post] 1 year ago
0 likes

Posted speed limits would be a very useful piece of information.

 

The open space preserves up on Skyline [within 10 miles of Byrne Preserve] that allow mountain biking all have clearly posted signs mandating helmets are worn and maximum speed of 15mph.

 

It is not uncommon on Saratoga Gap trail to reach the bottom of a long straight singletrack, where a fire trail cuts through, to find a fellow with a radar gun handing out speeding tickets. 

 

Byrne Preserve probably could have adopted a similar strategy where fines and points are handed out.  However for a small park with a heavy emphasis on children programs and horses perhaps the county felt this is not worth the hassle.

 

It is a hard president, using Strava, to show individuals are speeding and therefore revoke access.  Hopefully this is not a trend that catches on in other areas.

 

The multi use trail solution I liked better than fines and revoked access was the jingle bell system.  In some counties, the trails ask that all mountain bikers attach a bell to their bikes that will ring anytime the bike goes over a bump.  As a hiker you would hear something that sounds like Santa's sleigh and know you have about 30-45 seconds before a mountain bike comes around the next blind turn.  This was enough time to not be surprised.

 

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dannyking13 [1 post] 1 year ago
1 like

Get a faster horse I say!! 

Make horses register on Strava where they go and how fast and then you can call it fair! They shit in the road and I have to dodge it on my road bike - fine them for that if your going to fine speeding on trails! 

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Silver Rider [24 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Paul_C wrote:

There is a segment I ride that has a record speed of 60 mph... in a 30 mph zone https://www.strava.com/activities/412663486#9913663251

I'll see your 60 mph and raise you ...  Infinity:

https://www.strava.com/segments/11115383

(I keep trying to beat that guy but the maths all goes a bit wrong)

 

 

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StuInNorway [146 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Paul_C wrote:

There is a segment I ride that has a record speed of 60 mph... in a 30 mph zone https://www.strava.com/activities/412663486#9913663251

 

KOM on that shows as 52.8km/h when I look at it, unless someone spotted lots of attention and made their rides private.
One near us has a KOM of 55km/h over cobbles . .  https://www.strava.com/activities/564131725/segments/13672408590  I suspect the guy holding it is still at the dentist getting his teeth glued back in place. Even at 30km/h with front shock and not rock-hard tyres it's damned uncomfortable . . . .