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Newspaper tried to beat cyclist's times sticking to 'legal' speed limits - and failed...

The Sunday Times has investigated Strava, the online social network for athletes, where people can compete against one another's GPS timings for selected segments of road, and concluded that the website "is encouraging recklessness on the roads and inflaming tensions between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists."

The newspaper went to some lengths to prove that cyclists were 'breaking speed limits' and potentially jumping red lights to hit record times.

The article read: "Two riders, identified as Tris M and George B, are recorded as averaging 41mph on a short section of the South Circular near Barnes. The only way of displacing them is by again breaking the speed limit.

"The Sunday Times tested three routes in central London, each of them ridden more than 20,000 times by Strava users, to establish whether it was possible to match cyclists’ times without running red lights or breaching the Highway Code.

"In each case, a motorbike, travelling at the 30mph speed limit, clocked slower times than those recorded by the cycling kings and queens, as well as cyclists much further down the leaderboard on each route."

As Bikehub notes, there is no such offence as speeding while on a bicycle.

The site reads: "It's an in-joke in cycling that cyclists can't be booked for speeding (see below) but can be fined for "pedalling furiously."

The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 states:  “It shall not be lawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle on a restricted road at a speed exceeding 30 miles per hour.” (RTRA 81.1) and “A person who drives a motor vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding a limit imposed by or under any enactment to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence.” (RTRA 89.1)

"The speed limits in Royal Parks are also intended for motor vehicles only. According to The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces (Amendment) etc. Regulations 2010 “vehicle” means a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on a road.

"While, technically, cyclists do not have to adhere to speed limits, in practice it is most sensible and safe to do so. Cyclists who breach the speed limit may not be prosecuted for a speeding offence but, as stated above, can be prosecuted for “cycling furiously” or “wanton and furious driving.”"

The article quotes Ben Lowe from VeloViewer, who makes it clear that he not only informed the Sunday Times that speeding on a bike isn't technically possible, but also told them that the data on Strava is unreliable. His excellent debunking of the Sunday Times piece can be found on the VeloViewer blog.

Strava told the Sunday Times: “We continue to encourage good behaviour within our community and strive for our users to understand the responsibility that they have to follow the law and to use common sense. You are in charge of your own safety and the safety of those around you when you are riding.”

Last year we reported how a family in San Francisco is suing Strava for encouraging an American man - who died trying to beat his speed record - to speed.

William ‘Kim’ Flint, from Oakland, had just lost his Strava ‘King of the Mountains’ title on a local downhill stretch when he crashed into a car nearly two years ago, apparently trying to keep his record.

The media also discovered last week that Lance Armstrong was still racing in the only place available to him following his lifetime ban from the sport - Strava - where he posted seven KOM titles in just one day.

According to the Wall Street Journal (like the Sunday Times published by News International): "Armstrong's Strava page bears in the profile-photograph space the image of a cannon above the words, "Come and Take It."

"His one-line Strava biography: "According to my rivals, peers, and teammates I won the Tour de France 7 times." Since his Oprah appearance, Armstrong has continued updating the page. He couldn't be reached for comment for this story."

But Michael Horvath, chief executive officer of the cycling website Strava, said he had no plans to ban Armstrong, and only hours later it appeared that the disgraced cyclist had removed his own profile.

As Carlton Reid notes on his reading of the Sunday Times piece, it's only surprising it took them so long to notice.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

40 comments

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cidermart [486 posts] 2 years ago
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Yes but some of the recorded speeds are set by people in or on motor vehicles breaking the speed limit. One of my local hills has an average uphill speed of 53.9kph  13 fair play to them if they did it but I’m not so sure. The trouble is there are plenty of twats in all walks of life who break the law and they can not moan if they get caught.

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tommygarland [15 posts] 2 years ago
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The figures mentioned by the times are not even actual speeds, they are glitches due to recording via a smartphone: This is the segment they are referring to and if you look at the rides for the respective people you can see how the numbers reported for this incredibly short segment are simply gps recording errors, which are more likely when using a smartphone!

The segment for anyone interested is http://app.strava.com/segments/1080956

You only have to go down to about tenth position for it to be times that would be within the speed limit ± 10%

That's the trouble with any recording instrument, it is never the true speed, but a recording of it which is only as good as the instrument you are recording with.

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StuayEd [71 posts] 2 years ago
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Sensationalist tabloid article - a shame as I expect better from the Times. Whilst I wouldn't necessarily accuse the article of being one sided (interviewed @veloviewer for some balance), it did fail to mention some important points. Some of the following were briefly alluded to, some ignored: 1) it is not illegal in the UK for a bicycle to break a speed limit - they apply in law only to motor vehicles (although there are offences peculiar to bicycles which MAY be committed in specific circumstances). 2) There are a lot of cheats on Strava who record times in a car or motorbike / scooter, maybe even an ebike and so an AVERAGE segment speed of 41 mph is highly unlikely to be a genuine one. 3) As @VeloViewer tried to point out, even if that rider wasn't cheating it is very unlikely to be an accurate representation of his ride for technical reasons relating to GPS and strava's algorithms, more like 31mph. 4) It's clearly not in the spirit of Strava to create time trial segments on crowded and dangerous city centre streets - hence "King of the MOUNTAIN", but the onus for creating safe sensible segments lies with users and the terms and conditions of Strava, which every user agrees to, places responsibility for safety firmly with the user. 5) Cycling club time trials, where every second counts, and indeed many categorised cycling races (actual official RACES) are held on public roads open to traffic because of outdated laws relating to bicycle racing (you'll never find it hard to locate a close roads running event going on somewhere in the UK!) - its a shame the article didn't call for more opportunity for safe closed road events on a larger scale. 6) Strava does allow for reporting of segments considered as dangerous. To summarise my position - it's down to an individual user to create segments safely, for example, not ones that end just the other side of a traffic light controlled junction or that feature roundabouts etc. Segments should really be all about climbing - certainly the only ones I care very much about involve upward gradients. If you're riding a segment to try and move up the board or take a KOM and it goes through a set of lights, then if you get green - happy days, if you don't - bad luck, try another day! It's not worth risking your safey and that of others for an electronic honour only you and maybe 3 or 4 other people at the top of the leader board care about at all!

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musicalmarc [97 posts] 2 years ago
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The KOMs on the vast majority of sections is under the speed limit. It's also massively time dependant. Many roads are empty out of rush hour of over Christmas. Set a couple of KOMs I can't hope to match when there is traffic on the road or people using crossings. I did nothing illegal at the time. People are responsible for their own behaviour on the roads.

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Strathlubnaig [113 posts] 2 years ago
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Short segments in the middle of cities are not the kind of thing strava was aiming at really, I am sure most folk are interested in a proper decent hill climb challenge or long rolling sections rather than gimmicky londoncentric commuter sprints.

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Bigringrider [177 posts] 2 years ago
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Strava is dead and buried. It was a good idea to start with but now all it does is ruin a good ride. Had to flag a segment today that went through a small village with a narrow main street, primary school and max speed limit of 20mph. KOM (that's a joke for a start) was just under 29mph. If the cops wanted to up their weekly stats they could just go through segments like this and nick the top 10.

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russyparkin [570 posts] 2 years ago
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iamelectron wrote:

Strava is dead and buried. It was a good idea to start with but now all it does is ruin a good ride. Had to flag a segment today that went through a small village with a narrow main street, primary school and max speed limit of 20mph. KOM (that's a joke for a start) was just under 29mph. If the cops wanted to up their weekly stats they could just go through segments like this and nick the top 10.

this is the thing. the people cannot get booked. you cannot speed on a bike in a legal sense. its comical and odd but the law is what it is.

also not everyone is garmined up some people ride and have a phone in their jersey logging it. they wouldnt know they were speeding.

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JonMack [166 posts] 2 years ago
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The hint's in the name, KOM. No mountain = no point. Descending segments or "sprints" are just ego boosts that people set up for themselves. If you want to race, go and get your BC license and find a local crit, Strava is a great idea and I love the power analysis features they've added recently which are making software like Golden Cheetah almost redundant, but the people who feel the need to set up segments to make themselves feel better about their riding are just pathetic. No matter who you are, there's almost always going to be someone faster than you.

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Gkam84 [9068 posts] 2 years ago
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Its slowing being killed off by people like the above commenter. (iamelectron)

There were around 10 segments around my local routes not long ago, but people keep flagging them for no reason, they are on decent roads and with no speed limits or dangerous sections....

If idiots keep flagging segments, with no way to have them unflagged, its killing the whole idea of Strava off.

But I do think anything in cites should be taken off.

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nick5jones [2 posts] 2 years ago
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I personally haven't read the article mentioned (wouldn't chuck that paper on the fire!) but correct me if I'm wrong this is the paper a certain Top Gear presenter writes for?
The very TV programme where a car will race another mode of transport across a set distance in which 9/10 times the car wins! Are you telling me this sets a good example? and is done by driving within the speed limits?

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koko56 [330 posts] 2 years ago
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Completely agree at the retarded 1m etc sprints in traffic which depends mainly on catching a good draft be it uphill or flat. Also lately there's been a mass of almost duplicate and quite small segments as no doubt more and more people begin to use it.

Personally there are a few segments around my area that are through traffic lights and flat. If a light changes for me and I'm going well I think "well there goes my chance". The same on a hill with light or junctions - if something slows me down I try another time.

I like going fast downhill and if I get a "KOM" doing it then so be it, but to take big risks at 50mph for the sake of that KOM is beyond me. Sure it probably encourages more risks if you are trying to beat a long downhill mixed with almost flats etc but it's no doubt safer than doing that in a race rendering whole article redundant.

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Colin Peyresourde [1636 posts] 2 years ago
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The thing that narcs me slightly is the quote of 20,000 cyclists on the segment. You might not be competing for a segment, but because you ride through it you're logged on it. Probably only 5% of those on that segment were aiming to 'compete' or log something special.

I only check my times against climbs, though if I get a podium it makes me interested to see what the segment was. It's a good site to just log a ride though.

Interesting to see Liestrong took his profile down. Actually I don't care if he keeps it up, but I can understand he doesn't need the scrutiny right now.

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Bigringrider [177 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

Its slowing being killed off by people like the above commenter. (iamelectron)

There were around 10 segments around my local routes not long ago, but people keep flagging them for no reason, they are on decent roads and with no speed limits or dangerous sections....

If idiots keep flagging segments, with no way to have them unflagged, its killing the whole idea of Strava off.

But I do think anything in cites should be taken off.

So you're saying that doing 28 mph through a narrow village street that has a max speed of 20 mph is fine? And you're calling me an idiot? It was flagged because it was dangerous.

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andyp [1436 posts] 2 years ago
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In what way is it dangerous? Is it not the idiots riding it which are the dangerous aspect?

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Bigringrider [177 posts] 2 years ago
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andyp wrote:

In what way is it dangerous? Is it not the idiots riding it which are the dangerous aspect?

Of course it is! In this case you've got mini Cavs competing for the fastest time on a road that has cars parked on either side and space for one car to either go up, or down the street and a traffic calming measure at either end, a primary school and a blind corner. It takes one person (a child?) or car door to open...it's dangerous.

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andyp [1436 posts] 2 years ago
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So, the riders, rather than the segment. People need to stop being dicks, rather than segment needs flagging.

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mbrads72 [163 posts] 2 years ago
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So iamelectron, I suppose you also agree that electric cars are dangerous to pedestrians?

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koko56 [330 posts] 2 years ago
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iamelectron - seems legit concern. Sounds really busy, but then is it busy all the time?

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Raleigh [1665 posts] 2 years ago
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Apparently I was travelling at 389.6km/h on a Regent's Park Segment this morning, and still failed to get the KOM.

Strange.

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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The ST needs to make it up it's mind (not illegal for riders to "speed" either but you knew that eh NI)

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mikeprytherch [223 posts] 2 years ago
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Horse shit like this makes my bloody boil, every day with or without Strava people try to beat other people in their group, their previous best times recorded in the old fashion way with a watch, this is not new, even now my mates goad me into going faster because up and down hill, for some its an essentially part riding, because some people don't like it tough, I don't these people averaging 10mph do I, I wish all the do-gooders would F**k off and let riders ride how they have ridden for years... before we had stuff like GPS.

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Gkam84 [9068 posts] 2 years ago
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iamelectron wrote:

So you're saying that doing 28 mph through a narrow village street that has a max speed of 20 mph is fine? And you're calling me an idiot? It was flagged because it was dangerous.

I am not saying that its fine, but its not up to you to try and control every rider that might want to ride like that.

If there was a way to unflag segments, I wouldn't have a problem with people flagging them, but as soon as it gets flagged, thats it shut down for everyone. Even the one's who did stick to the "speed limits" which as you well know, DO NOT apply to cyclists

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pmr [196 posts] 2 years ago
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What a load of old balls.
Only div s chase KOMs on downhill sections and likewise those with any traffic furniture on them.
Those people are just plain idiots whether riding a bike, driving a car or walking down the street.
Same old typecasting of cyclists - bore off.

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koko56 [330 posts] 2 years ago
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mikeprytherch wrote:

Horse shit like this makes my bloody boil, every day with or without Strava people try to beat other people in their group, their previous best times recorded in the old fashion way with a watch, this is not new, even now my mates goad me into going faster because up and down hill, for some its an essentially part riding, because some people don't like it tough, I don't these people averaging 10mph do I, I wish all the do-gooders would F**k off and let riders ride how they have ridden for years... before we had stuff like GPS.

Exactly, let the naysayers naysay.

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pwake [374 posts] 2 years ago
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I like Strava. I live in the Texas and have lots of mates in the UK still and it's a great way of seeing what we are doing, how training's going etc. I think flagging segments could kill it though; I've definitely seen some flagged that I would in no way consider dangerous.

And not sure of its real relevance to this story, but the cannon with 'Come & Take It' that LA used for his profile picture is the Gonzales Flag; it's a common sign of Texas pride here. It's a good story of when the Mexicans tried to take one of their cannons back and were defeated by the Texas rebels. Could easily be taken out of context in this case if you didn't know your Texas history...

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mike_ibcyclist [62 posts] 2 years ago
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There are some insane speeds on some of the segments I do in and around Sydney Australia. I used to live in Switzerland and Strava made a lot more sense to me in the mountains than it does here. People have become a little obsessed with the whole KOM thing. As for fake times I have to laugh at some of the more obvious blunders where people forget to switch off the Garmin before they pack it into the car.

I like Strava and enjoy using it as a fitness tool. Use it sensibly and it's very valuable.

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Rigobear [88 posts] 2 years ago
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Interesting stuff I think the Sunday Times point was that Strava is directly responsible by encouraging this behaviour just like having cars that do a top speed over 30 mph directly encourages drivers to break speed limits. Or having pubs and supermarkets encourages drink driving. Nothing to do with individual decision and free will  3

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a.jumper [845 posts] 2 years ago
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The link sends me to a list of news headlines - have they pulled the story, is it because I haven't paid, or do they hate mobile phones?

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step-hent [718 posts] 2 years ago
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JonMack wrote:

The hint's in the name, KOM. No mountain = no point.

That rules out pretty much all of the UK segments then. And Netherlands. And Belgium.

Don't be ridiculous. The issue is with dangerous segments - just because a segment is flat (or downhill) doesnt make it dangerous. Last I checked, I still needed to make an effort riding my bike on the flat and on most downhills, and therefore I can improve my times by being fitter, which is exactly what Strava is aiming at. |Not everyone trains solely for climbing.

As has been pointed out above, lots of people behaved like idiots on the road long before Strava came along. I doubt whether the number has been increased significantly, but the answer is not to ban Strava segments, it's to tackle the actual dangerous behaviour.

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sorebones [138 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm sorry, but that statement is a load of old balls! Not all of us live in cities. There are loads of perfectly safe downhill sections around my way - good roads, visibility etc and with no schools and very little traffic.

I only use Strava these days to compete against myself, there are so many dubious stats on leader-boards to take it seriously.

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