Police and councils are mounting pressure on Sustrans to allow speed calming measures, such as chicanes, on shared paths where racing cyclists are becoming a safety hazard.
Last week, the charity urged fast riders to slow down or use the road. Sustrans believe Strava racing is fuelling spiralling speeds on traffic-free paths, and have requested that the ride sharing site disables sections where conflict between path users, particularly walkers and cyclists, is emerging.
Martyn Brunt, Sustrans National Cycle Network (NCN) development manager, told BikeRadar the problem is acute on the Chester Millennium Greenway in north-west England. The Chester Cycling Campaign said two pedestrians have been hit by speeding cyclists.
Brunt said: “We’ve got kids who use it for school journeys and we’re having all these stories about kids getting intimidated or shouted at, or other people out cycling being shouted at.
“So the local authority there, and other partners such as the police, have been saying to us for some time we want to put something on this which is going to physically slow people down, though they haven’t specified what they are.
“We’ve been holding them at bay saying we’ll do other things – we’ll try signage, we’ll have volunteer rangers giving out leaflets, we’ll try publicity campaigns just trying to get the message out to people: ‘Just knock off the racing.’ It hasn’t worked.”
Could more chicanes and barriers emerge on NCN paths to stop fast cyclists?
Because the Greenway runs on council-owned land, Sustrans could be forced to allow speed bumps or low level barriers on the NCN to curb cyclists’ speeds – a move that could restrict legitimate use and damage the experience for users.
On a NCN stretch on the Upper Lee Valley in Greater London, Brunt said a reluctance to upgrade gravel surfaces was emerging, in fear that the racing phenomenon will spread.
“The real frustration in all of this is it’s a real minority,” said Brunt, who added that 485m journeys are made on approximately 14,000 miles of NCN routes annually. “This is a tiny, tiny proportion but it’s starting to have what could be a considerable impact.”
In a bid to slow cyclists down, Brunt said Sustrans were contacting Strava to ask them to disable ‘segments’ that fuel riders to clock fast times over specified sections of a road or trail.
Currently, users can flag ‘hazardous’ segments, which disables online leaderboards for those sections. A Sustrans area manager has already started flagging sections in Greater London, said Brunt, but fears it will not be enough.
“We would much prefer it if Strava would block these centrally,” said Brunt. “We could supply all the data required to do that. We’re contacting them about that to say this problem is emerging, which I would describe as misusing their app.”
Strava appear unwilling to depart from their policy allowing users to self-regulate segments. Annie Vranizan, the company’s advocacy and communications manager, told BikeRadar: “We give the community the tools to self-regulate, and this includes Sustrans and any other rider or runner who believes a stretch of road or trail to be hazardous. By flagging a segment, they are able to remove all competitive aspects of the segment.”