Dear Editor

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;


"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.


Tom McFarling,

Lower Lake