In the past few months, hikers and equestrians in Lake county
have encountered a new scare on the local trails in our parks and open space.
The concern is a new phenomenon called STRAVA. STRAVA is a "social
fitness" website, where mountain bikers
upload their performance with a smartphone app. This allows a
community of competitive bikers to track their and each other's speeds on any
given trail in the local community. At any time, someone can cycle a trail,
track their route, distance and speed, upload it to STRAVA's website and
compare their results with that of others who have done the same route. The
holder of the top speed is awarded the title "KOM", or King of the
Mountain. This title and record then becomes a challenge for anyone else who
wants to better that speed and become KOM themselves. To quote from STRAVA.com;
"We are athletes. We do what we do, no matter what. It's
in our blood. It's who we are. We have our own code. Alone, together, we
strive. Pushing harder is a source of pleasure. It's how we measure ourselves.
It proves we're crazy. It proves a great story. Prove it".
The concern to anyone who hikes or rides horses on single-track
county trails is obvious: a hurtling bike coming downhill at speeds in excess
of 20 MPH, it's rider hell-bent on maximum speed and a possible new record, is
a danger that far outstrips the fear of mountain lions, errant hunters,
slippery trails, bad weather or an abundance of poison oak. There are
documented instances in other counties in California of hikers being hit and
permanently injured and in a few cases, death to the hiker. Last year a local
community hike leader was almost struck by an out-of-control member of a high
school mountain bike team at Boggs.
In the past few years there have been numerous cases of rude
riders who have forced people off of trails at both Boggs Forest and Highland
Springs Reservoir, popular spots for STRAVA riders. Boggs Forest has been the
site for many years of sanctioned, organized bike races. These are held on
weekends and the public is notified of the event and which trails are to be
used. Unfortunately, now with STRAVA, every day on any random trail can be a
race day. No longer can a hiker wanting a peaceful back-to-nature experience
know that they can walk a trail without the threat of meeting a high-speed
cyclist on any trail at any time in these two popular venues. Older people out
bird-watching, families out for a stroll or young people learning to ride a
horse all are at greater risks now. There has even been documented (through the
STRAVA website) evidence of cyclists racing on Mt. Konocti, where bikes are
Fortunately there are solutions here. Right now all trails at
Highland Springs and Boggs are open to cyclists and can be traveled at any
speed. Public property managers,
following the lead of other counties, could designate separate trails for these
incompatible user groups. Even bikers who are not trying to set speed records
usually travel three to five times faster than hikers or equestrians on narrow
trails. Bikers themselves would feel
much safer riding and racing on trails set aside for that activity.
The rest of us could avoid those trails.
Volunteer monitor crews could periodically walk or bike trails to encourage
compliance and educate the public. As it
stands now, however, it's the wild west on all of the trails in both of these
places. Bicycling on narrow single-track trails is considered an extreme sport.
The majority of bicyclist ride on fire roads, wide multi-use paths, established
bikeways or city or county roads. We need our county officials along with
responsible users from all three groups, hikers, equestrians and cyclists to
meet and create solutions to this growing problem.