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Flashback: Strava Speeds Help Mountain Bikers Get Banned From California Park

A California city council banned mountain bkers from a local park this winter, thanks in part to Strava data. Ryan Dunfee photo.

According to the Los Altos Town Crier, the city of Los Altos Hills, which sits adjacent to Silicon Valley, finalized a proposed ban on mountain bikers at a city park this winter after Strava speeds of area riders topping 20 miles per hour – speeds one council member called "just incredibly unacceptable" – were found recorded in the town's Byrne Preserve. 

Some of the local hikers and horseback riders began registering complaints about bikers' speed in the Preserve and on the steep Artemas Gintzon trail in particular, and were vocal about concerns that young riders could suffer injury if their horses got spooked by a biker coming around a blind corner.

After no public comment was made in opposition to the proposed ban, the town council adopted the biker ban in the Preserve's trails. They stated that their decision was notably influenced by the recorded speeds of area riders easily tracked down on Strava. 

CHECK OUT: Singletrack Switzerland, a mountain biking epic in the Swiss Alps

The infusion of publicly-available data like that available through Strava – and even through Instagram photos – has certainly had some ill and unintended effects on outdoor recreation groups. While the posting of a camping 'Gram in a blatantly illegal spot might lead to public ire, GPS data from Strava records is helping expose fun but illegal trails all over the place. Can you say Santa Cruz? 

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 (more on that  with our friends at Singletracks), or in the case of Los Altos Hills, revoke legal trail access mountain bikers already enjoy. 

If riders are getting banned going 20, what happens if they're going as fast as Francois Baily-Maître. He's gotta be stoked he's French and doesn't have to worry about this nonsense. Ryan Dunfee photo.

That's the scarier possibility – that riders perfectly enjoying themselves going fast on bikes on trails they're allowed to, and recording that experience in the process because it's hard not to in this era of big data and oversharing leads to a verbal minority finding that readily-available data and running, Excel sheet in hand, to their town council to back up their biker ban ordinance with data showing local bikers hauling ass at "just incredibly unacceptable" speeds. 

If people rolling at 20 mph are getting people banned, it makes me a bit nervous considering top Strava feeds on my favorite trail in Jackson Hole are up around 33 mph. But 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. 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.

anyone posting times and speeds descending has a real problem with their ego.  strava is responsible for a death on south park, berkeley already.  app for morons. see any real pro downhillers posting there? no.  you know why?  It’s a stupid thing to do…meaningless.  oooo, 33mph, who could possibly care?

    Never used Strava have you DVLR?  Nobody “posts” their downhill times or speeds.  Strava records it. Your fastest speed is recorded as part of the whole ride…unless it’s a segment, then it’s recorded as that specific segment. It’s not “posted” anywhere or any big deal made of it…other than it showing up on segment lists which people can view to see where they stand among others. Faster. Slower. Average.  Either way someone had to create a strava account and go in and manually check segments to see what sorts of speeds people are hitting in SPECIFIC places.    I log my rides on strava so I can tell where I’m faster, where I’m slow, and how my riding is progressing.  Plenty of pros use strava. Anyone who wants data on their rides either for training purposes, or for posterity, use Strava.

    Any death in the mountain bike, or even the outdoor, community is a tragic loss. And my thoughts are with the friends and family of the person who sadly lost their life.

    But to go as far as to say Strava is responsible for their death is a little, well, irresponsible.

    As outdoor enthusiasts we’re all, very much, responsible for our behaviour – on the trails or in the backcountry – it is our choice of what to do and what not to do that keeps us safe and, ultimately, alive.

    There are many situations in life where someone can be incited in to performing risky behaviour, and generally it comes down to peer pressure or ego. Whether that peer pressure is face-to-face as friends entice you to drink more alcohol at the bar; situational such as road rage or speeding; or whether it’s digital peer pressure that encourages you to ride faster to get a KOM. Either way, the responsibility lies in making to decision to engage in risky behaviour.

    I don’t know the details of this case in particular – accidents are tragic and shocking. But the day we start blaming companies for the choices we ourselves consciously make, that will be a sad day.

I use it to track my (hopefully) improving fitness and progress on certain types of rides and particular pieces of trails.  A side benefit is that I get to see my progress compared to others that ride the same trail(s) and so I have a map of the area for the next time I get to ride there.  The only reason I use it is because it is free and I don’t feel like buying another egadget like a Garmin or similar.

“After no public comment was made in opposition to the proposed ban”  Where did you get that statement?  I think there was plenty of opposition.

“Councilman Gary Waldeck counted 31 speakers who addressed the council on the issue Jan. 27 and pointed out a noticeable commonality to those against the ban: eight of the nine speakers who voiced opposition reside outside of Los Altos Hills. They live in neighboring communities like Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto and use the trails for commuting and recreation.”

    Hey Matt, in the article that I cited (Los Altos Town Crier), it said that the ordinance was passed after town council received practically no public comment on the measure. Seems odd to me that people spoke at the meeting and not at the public comment, no?

      Ah, I didn’t click your link…  Doh!  Both articles are from the same “paper”.  It sounds like nobody from Los Altos cared.  But many of my friends in neighboring towns did care.  If you want the details, contact Andrew Yee at Cyclocross Magazine.

      Ryan, there were plenty of public comments, in various forms - at the meeting, in emails that were published publicly on the issue. The equestrians were more organized for sure, because there is a horse facility on the premises with membership and email lists and formal communication channels to rally the troops. There also was plenty of erroneous Strava data used in the argument against cyclists - because of tracking errors on nearby roads and fireroads next to singletrack. Feel free to contact me to if you want the story to be more accurate.

Just another instance of people being unwilling to see anyone’s but their own point of view. Legislatures are most likely going to be older overweight citizens who have nothing to do with mountain biking and, as a result, will have no problem banning mountain bikes from land that we as citizens have a legal right to. The government gets its power from the poeple, the land is the people’s land, and it should be shared among all the people.

“Young riders could suffer injury if their horses got spooked.” So…ban horses. What if their horse gets spooked by a squirrel? Big dumb animals…

The bikers will put up a stink and it will likely be alternate days for different activities. Hiking/horseback riding on odd days, mountain biking on even days or vice versa. Thats the sensible thing to do anyway.

    That’s funny.  You must not live in the SF Bay Area, where horses rule.  There are no even/odd day plans where we live.  Just ban cyclists to keep the general public safe.  Sharing is not an option.

Good thing we’re “cyclists”, and not those “biker” folks who go around on those motorized contraptions with 2 wheels. 

Yeah, imprecise terminology is a pet peeve, and someone writing an article in a publication like this really ought to know better.

it’s not strava speeds.  It’s dumbass mountain bikers racing on multi-use trails.

It’s fun to go fast, but be responsible about it, orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr go to a bike park.

Like skiing, are you really gonna rip a blue square or green circle?  there are places for getting rowdy.

Dunfee, nothing wrong with going 32mph if you’re on a DH bike specific trail, but if you’re on a multiple use trail with limited sight lines it’s totally inappropriate.

Got run off the trail the other day by the owner of a local bike shop, who also ran a friend of mine off on the same ride. That’s the kind of stuff that will get us banned (and rightfully so)!

Are there any other mountain bikers out there who just enjoy the outdoors, who don’t always be trying to set speed records? Might improve the political climate out there, not always trying to scare the horses and little kids.

What’s with city people always having to show they are better than others? Insecure?

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It always surprising me with the amount of mountain bikers I see in Cali that they aren’t very organized or making much headway with other user groups. Hopefully the next generation will help change this.

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