Strava data used to ban riders from US City Park

by Antony de Heveningham 12

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.

Comments (12)

  1. oh dear the writing is on the wall 🙁

    Strava + ebikes = no more fun for the rest of us.

  2. Only the naieve wouldn’t have seen this one coming. Bit of common sense i.e. Don’t use Strava on shared use trails! Trouble with common sense is that it doesn’t seem to be that common.

  3. It really has little to do with strava or cycling, it is about small minded people having the power to ban stuff. At one time it was risque postcards in seaside towns or monty python films. now cycling has become an easy target. Unimaginative people get into positions of authority, unable to lead or engage with their peers lash out at soft targets in pathetic displays of power.

  4. Or alternatively

    Strava + inconsiderate cyclists = no more fun for the rest of us.

  5. As with everything this isn’t black and white, them v us.

    Strava data – 20mph, thats fine if the trail is empty, unless there is proof it was not – i doubt there is, but may be? Im sure the horses are not cantering at all times but are less likely to have Strava records for this.. Speed is not the issue, its consideration thats needed.

    People on both sides need to stop being idiots, i cycled past a runner on a Bridleway who had headphones on last night, she nearly crapped herself, but i had slowed down and tried to yell out/ring bell multiple times – she could very well complain about this if she didn’t think “maybe i shouldn’t have headphones in on a shared trail in the middle of nowhere” – should i be banned, no, should she, no. I was considerate, she was not but we both should both be able to use the trail and just think a little more about others

  6. May be in America now, but y’know how the British tend to soak up c**p from t’other side of pond.

  7. Surely this is highlighting that there needs to be a more organised approach to trail use in this Preserve? Ban it and it simply continues in an unregulated way, work with the people using the area and a much more amicable solution would probably be reached.

    I wonder if anyone had been out to check on the speed and conduct of the walkers and horse riders – just to balance the argument? Am pretty sure I could put more fear into a walker while riding a horse than a bike.

  8. When it comes down to it, those in authority just want us to live in our little boxes, go to work like a good citizen, spend our money on booze and cigarettes and die before you can reach retirement AND don’t do anything that upsets that ‘norm’

  9. I am surprised at this verdict because I find that the majority of the time Strava times are about as accurate as The Sunday Sport.

  10. only in a country where you can walk in to the local store, buy a gun is trail speed more important. Seriously they need a reality check

  11. I’ve had Strava information used to “demonstrate reckless and unacceptable behaviour” by cyclists in discussions with Friends of St Ives, Bingley (Bradford LAF meeting).

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