Strava data used to ban riders from US City Park

May 5, 2016

Love it or hate it, Strava seems to generate a fair amount of controversy. It’s been blamed for riders throwing caution to the wind and short-cutting trails. Transport charity Sustrans has issued a plea not to use on it shared paths. And now, in what appears to be a first, Strava data been cited by the City Council of Los Altos, California, in a decision to ban mountain bikers from trails in a city preserve*

A Strava heatmap showing the trails in Pearson Preserve
A Strava heatmap showing the trails in Pearson Preserve

The ban was proposed in June 2015 following complaints by hikers and equestrian users. At a public hearing of the proposal in February this year over 30 park users spoke for and against the ban, and it was noted that most of the users against the ban were from outside the area.  But it seems that Strava data from shared use trails, which showed cyclists riding at speeds of over 20 mph, helped seal the deal. The Los Altos Town Crier reports one councillor as saying

“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.”

The obvious question is whether the same could happen elsewhere, and it seems that Pearson Preserve is an unusual case, even with the relatively strict access laws of the United States.The park has particularly heavy equestrian use thanks to an adjacent riding centre, and is just one of many in the area. The ban also comes against a background of increasing concern over reckless cycling in Los Altos Hills, which had previously led to local police ticketing speeding road cyclists.

But there are also signs that Strava data is increasingly being used to monitor mountain bike use, and even support attempts to restrict it. In the UK we’re aware of Forestry Comission employees informally using Strava to check where people are riding, and it was also cited in a “briefing paper” circulated by an outdoor group seeking to restrict cycle use on parts of the Chilterns Ridgeway. We’ll watching future developments with interest.

*That’s a park, for our UK readers. Nothing to do with jam.

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