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Telegraph journalists told "check your research" after front page claims cyclists hit 52mph chasing London Strava segments... despite that being faster than Olympic track cyclists

"Clearly they've found a bad GPS glitched segment and taken that as hard fact": Newspaper ridiculed after reporting that London commuters are cycling to work faster than Tour de France sprinters...

"52mph in a 20 zone... Lycra lout cyclists are creating death traps all over Britain."

That is the news sat proudly atop The Telegraph newspaper's front page this morning, the promo for an in-depth analysis of Strava segments across London and the respective speeds reached to achieve their fastest times. However, as many people have since pointed out online, the speeds cited in lots of the paper's examples appear not to be the feat of unsuspecting cycle commuters who should really be ditching the suit and tie for a summer challenging Mark Cavendish at the Tour de France, but rather just the result of dodgy GPS data.

The feature centres around a segment on Chelsea Embankment, Tite St to Chelsea Bridge, where the Telegraph claims a cyclist (who probably "felt that was a commute well spent") had covered the 630-metre segment at 52mph (84km/h), evidence "cyclists are turning UK roads into death traps". 

What the feature does not appear to question or fact check is why a London cyclist on their way to work would be faster even than what six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy says was his fastest ever speed, 80km/h achieved on an optimal indoor velodrome in the keirin, a track cycling event where riders slipstream behind a derny to achieve faster speeds.

On another cited segment the newspaper alleges a cyclist smashed past Lambeth Bridge at 46mph (73km/h), hitting a max speed of 52mph, despite the average speed for their ride being 16mph (25km/h). A third claims a rider, whose power meter (a calibrated device giving an accurate measure of how much power a rider is putting through the pedals) reports he averaged 204w, but had taken the fastest time at a speed of 42mph (67km/h).

According to Bike Calculator, an 80kg cyclist riding a bike weighing eight kilogrammes (on a perfect summer's day with no wind) would have to hold 2,500w to ride the earlier Tite St to Chelsea Bridge segment at 52mph.

As one cyclist on social media responded to the article, "If you can ride through London at 52mph, please contact your local professional bicycling team. They may be interested in your skills."

Others pointed out the "GPS glitches" apparent in the segments used, Chas Pope telling the newspaper: "You might want to check your research on the cycling article you've splashed on your front page. Virtually all of the fast times on the Strava
segments you chose have GPS glitches".

Political reporter at The Guardian, Peter Walker, called the story "my absolute favourite anti-cycling news story of all time".

"But congrats, I suppose, to the Telegraph for opening a new (if entirely fictitious) front against cyclists: being able to travel at 52mph on the flat," he wrote on social media.

The story raises concerns about cyclists racing Strava segments putting pedestrians and other road users in danger, the story coming days after the ride-sharing app reminded the public that it already has a feature to flag segments as "hazardous", removing the leaderboard.

Strava was commenting to road.cc in light of calls from the Royal Parks to remove a segment in Regent's Park following the death of a pedestrian in a collision with a cyclist back in 2022. The rider involved will not face prosecution as the Metropolitan Police deemed there was "insufficient evidence for a real prospect of conviction".

The case, thrust into the spotlight since a recent coroner's inquest, reignited the discussion about cycling, the government now moving forward with introducing tougher legislation to prosecute cyclists who kill or injure through dangerous or careless cycling.

Commenting on the discussion around segments, Strava told us: "We are aware of the tragic cycling incident which occurred in London's Regent's Park in June 2022 and our condolences go to the victim's family.

"At Strava, safety of our active community and those around them is a priority, and we have community standards that note that 'sports happen in dynamic environments that we share with motorists, pedestrians, other people, equestrians, pets and wildlife'. Strava expects those in our community to 'prioritise everyone's safety and enjoyment of our shared resources and respect the law'. The behaviours related to this incident violate Strava's 'community standards'.

"At the end of last week, we received a request from Royal Parks to discuss the cycling route segment where the incident occurred. The ability to flag a cycling route segment as hazardous already exists in Strava. Anyone can report a segment that they would deem as hazardous. If segments are flagged as hazardous, achievements are not awarded for that segment and leaderboards are disabled. Any Strava community member who cycles on that same route segment will receive a warning of the hazards on that segment."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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108 comments

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JAPD | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

The Telegraph has now issued a correction:

"CORRECTION: This article and its headline have been amended to remove speeds recorded on Strava which Strava has now deleted and which appear to have been erroneous. Data is uploaded to Strava by users, either automatically or manually, and cannot be checked or independently verified; the data is accepted on trust. We are happy to clarify this point and correct the record."

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/05/16/competitive-strava-cyclists-...

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Hirsute | 2 weeks ago
1 like

" New record - 5.4km in 28 seconds, giving me an average speed of...... 694 km/h. Should I call the daily mail?! " - CykelTony

//pbs.twimg.com/media/GOhY_hwXIAAk5El?format=jpg&name=small)

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brooksby replied to JAPD | 3 weeks ago
2 likes
JAPD wrote:

The Telegraph has now issued a correction: "CORRECTION: This article and its headline have been amended to remove speeds recorded on Strava which Strava has now deleted and which appear to have been erroneous. Data is uploaded to Strava by users, either automatically or manually, and cannot be checked or independently verified; the data is accepted on trust. We are happy to clarify this point and correct the record." https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/05/16/competitive-strava-cyclists-...

Or

"CORRECTION: Sorry, people - we totally failed to fact check on this one but don't worry, we'll make sure they don't get away with it next time!  We are happy to clarify this point and correct the record."

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john_smith replied to JAPD | 3 weeks ago
1 like

"It's not our fault; it's theirs."

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JAPD replied to john_smith | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

The article still contains at least one reference to the now infamous 52mph. And loads of other questionable speeds still in the article.

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Don Ruperto | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

I'm afraid the once respectable Daily Telegraph has now become one of the most reactionary rags in the UK.  Pretty well all of its contributors are desperate hard-right agitators.  A rogue's gallery of talentless grifters with an axe to grind.

It's not really my thing to talk politics on cycling forums, but in this case, we can now see the political dimension to recent attacks on our community. 

What worries me the most is that anything which encourages drivers to further dislike or disrespect cyclists clearly endangers our safety.  

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stewb62 | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

This might shock some people, but Strava can be used by anyone, not just cyclists. You can even drive a motor vehicle and record the segment, not necessarily being truthful. 52mph on a bike you say? I wonder what the actual mode of transport was.

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brooksby replied to stewb62 | 3 weeks ago
2 likes
stewb62 wrote:

This might shock some people, but Strava can be used by anyone, not just cyclists. You can even drive a motor vehicle and record the segment, not necessarily being truthful. 52mph on a bike you say? I wonder what the actual mode of transport was.

Could it be on someone's phone and they "forgot" to turn the app off?

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Rendel Harris | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Happened to glance at my Strava this evening - Battersea Bridge to Lots Road, leader 178 km/h! Stop the madness!

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Hirsute replied to Rendel Harris | 3 weeks ago
5 likes

And here are the culprits

//pbs.twimg.com/media/GOGDBVsWcAEN-A6?format=jpg&name=small)

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OldRidgeback | 3 weeks ago
5 likes

There was once a time when The Daily Telegraph was a respected newspaper to the right of the po;litical agenda. 

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Rendel Harris replied to OldRidgeback | 3 weeks ago
3 likes
OldRidgeback wrote:

There was once a time when The Daily Telegraph was a respected newspaper to the right of the po;litical agenda. 

Indeed, my grandfather used to read it even though his political opinions were towards the left, he said he found it the most objective and best written of the broadsheets. I very much doubt he would read it nowadays.

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ooblyboo | 3 weeks ago
7 likes

Astonishing that the Telegraph would allow such an obvious and basic error to make it to their front page. Then again, these Strava speeds look like fact if you aren't thinking too hard and want it to fit your agenda. It's chilling stuff - puts cyclists up and down the country in danger.

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miekwidnes | 3 weeks ago
5 likes

That's nothing - I did a 10,000 mile ride once in only a few hours

 

Started just SOuth of teh Bering Straits and rode as fast as I could to teh banks of a canal near Warrington - across part of teh Pacific, right across the USA and across the Altantic, Ireland and the Irish Sea

Then rode back home a bit slower

I should have applied for a World Record but I though using the Eco assist level on my Legal ebike might disqualify me

Must have been true as STrava said so!

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OldRidgeback replied to miekwidnes | 3 weeks ago
1 like

That's nothing, I once rode from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in 11 hours on my Raleigh 20 folder I'd shipped in my hold luggae from the UK. That was in the old days though so no Strava and my camera broke so I've not got photos either. I had to ride a bit faster through Central America because there were several wars on at the time, otherwise it would've been 12 hours. 

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BigglesMeister | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

I dug out the Strava Sement "Tile St to Chelsea Bridge", and the KOM speed shows as 68.7kmh (42.9mph) which was set in March 2012.  Not sure where the journalist got 52mph from.  Looking at the speed for the ride analysis doesn't show any odd speed spikes either, so, did they make the 52mph up ?

https://www.strava.com/segments/13106975

 

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mikewood replied to BigglesMeister | 3 weeks ago
3 likes
BigglesMeister wrote:

I dug out the Strava Sement "Tile St to Chelsea Bridge", and the KOM speed shows as 68.7kmh (42.9mph) which was set in March 2012.  Not sure where the journalist got 52mph from.  Looking at the speed for the ride analysis doesn't show any odd speed spikes either, so, did they make the 52mph up ?

https://www.strava.com/segments/13106975

Average 42.7mph  max 21.3mph   therefore a Strava/GPS calc error

Also, looking at some of the other "rides" on this segment, the data for those is very weird and not how you'd expect it to look after a real ride. There's also no recording device listed either which all points to virtual rides of some description as suggested elsewhere

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BigglesMeister replied to mikewood | 3 weeks ago
0 likes
mikewood wrote:

 

Average 42.7mph  max 21.3mph   therefore a Strava/GPS calc error

Also, looking at some of the other "rides" on this segment, the data for those is very weird and not how you'd expect it to look after a real ride. There's also no recording device listed either which all points to virtual rides of some description as suggested elsewhere

Agreed - but still no sign of the mystery 52mph!

 

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Hirsute replied to BigglesMeister | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

Rendel found this

"This is the current Strava leaderboard for Albert Bridge to Battersea Bridge along the (flat) Chelsea Embankment, from whence they presumably drew this data, with the leader at 86 kmh. If they weren't so eager to grasp at anything to demonise cyclists they might have noted that her alleged power output to achieve this feat was 92W; by my reckoning, even for a 60kg rider on a 7kg bike, it should require over 3000W!"

//cdn.road.cc/sites/default/files/styles/main_width/public/Screenshot%202024-05-16%20at%2022.24.10.png)

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HLaB replied to BigglesMeister | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

It'll not show on that leader board because apparently it was a Tacx virtual ride  7

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Ace | 3 weeks ago
1 like

Bikes can do unbelievable speeds special along the embarkment, there are a new breed of cyclists that think the road belongs to them, there also very good cyclists a balance must be fund not to punish those that ride responsible, 10 years ago all cyclists would stop at red lights there are people that are vision impaired that is a dead trap to them

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Simon E replied to Ace | 3 weeks ago
18 likes
Ace wrote:

Bikes can do unbelievable speeds special along the embarkment, there are a new breed of cyclists that think the road belongs to them

Absolute bollocks.

Do you write headlines for the Torygraph or is this a ChatGPT-generated comment?

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john_smith replied to Simon E | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Yup. There are no fast cyclists (especially not on e-bikes), and all cyclists behave like saints all the time. Anyone who suggests otherwise is lying or a bot. Welcome to the world of road cc comments.

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chrisonabike replied to john_smith | 3 weeks ago
10 likes

What kind of e-bikes? Are they legal EAPCs - only powered up to 15.5mph, most have limits on "power without pedalling"? Or do you mean "illegal electric motorbikes"?

I think we already have laws for those? (And indeed "cycling in the footway.
").

We could have clearer laws or perhaps greater punishments - but wouldn't it be better to perhaps sort out how they might be actually caught (police resources, public video reporting) or do something to discourage the motorbikes in the first place?

So do more to mildly discourage *actual high street stores selling e- things that are totally illegal to operate most places* Currys, never mind the interweb. Or maybe have a look into the very grey area of food delivery companies and their management of (and duties towards) their "definitely not employees, we've established that in law".

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Nighttrain123 replied to chrisonabike | 3 weeks ago
4 likes

In the recent IDS article in the Telegraph concerning the proposed new death by dangerous cycling laws, he did mention the problem of modified e-bikes speeding around on the pavements, and he isn't wrong. However, an EAPC modified to 'go faster' is no longer an EAPC and is a motor vehicle instead and already covered by existing death by dangerous driving laws, I believe. 

Whilst IDC may be confused about e-bikes, his mistake does underscore a lack of clarity and enforcement surrounding the category. There is a tendency, I think, to lump everything on two wheels with an electric motor into this catch-all category of 'e-bike' and make an 'e-bike' problem a cycling problem.

I see a lot of heavy pedlec-style bikes zipping around the city near me and they undoubtedly should not be on the pavement, and I'm sure almost none are properly licensed and insured as mopeds (which they should be). Similarly, on the TPT near me, I sometimes see masked youths on true electric motorbikes, something going at high-speed potentially in proximity to horses and small kids.

The public just sees 'e-bikes' and consequently blames cyclists.

Even the EAPC category can get confusing because a small number of twist-and-go models have been approved under its rubric.

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Clem Fandango replied to john_smith | 3 weeks ago
7 likes

Is HE back?

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Simon E replied to john_smith | 3 weeks ago
8 likes

I'm not lying and you're still spouting complete bollocks.

People pedalling a bicycle, including a legal e-bike, along there can achieve those speeds.

It's nothing to do with cyclists being "saints", you're just an anti-cyclist moron who is not even smart enough to even try to disguise your prejudice.

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HLaB replied to Simon E | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

I hope they are trying and failing at satire because you are right its 100% bolloxs  7

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chrisonabike replied to Ace | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

I don't think "punishment" is going to *fix* it for people with visual impairments though.

Parts of London are undergoing a rapid* change in terms of street design and transport modes. Unfortunately that will be confusing and likely a bit of a mess sometimes. And those most affected are (as always) those with visual impairments, disabilities, the older, the very young etc.

We need enforcement - the threat of negative feedback is what keeps honest people honest.

Punishment is a part of that - but... enforcement requires that people are caught, charged and convicted first! And the first part of that is lacking on our streets and roads. And that's ultimately the limiting factor - more police (even just to review camera reporting) gets costly fast.

You mention "death trap" and "unbelievable speeds". That is perception - deaths are incredibly rare, and most cyclists (eg. not those using already illegal electric motorbikes) are a lot slower than "slow" motor vehicles at "20mph".

We should definitely address that "feels really unsafe / unpleasant" - that's enough to limit people's travel.

There are some people cycling who - in the excitement of actually having "their own" space - are doing so no more considerately than they would in cars. That's human nature (plus possibly a skew in the population of people prepared to cycle on our still hostile and inconvenient streets at all).

So I'd suggest the ultimate solution is better infra designs which can provide assurance of safety. Plus some "human changes": people getting used to the presence of cycles and cyclist behaviours plus the "cycling culture" settling on some "standards".

There are norms of behaviour everywhere - most relevant here are those on our roads for drivers. They're independent of the actual rules. Cycle (and indeed pedestrian) infra should guide those behaviours to be safer by default **. That's fine in part by providing convenience so people aren't *tempted* to break the safety rules. Unfortunately that's more difficult and costly to arrange for motorists because of the power and insulating effects of their exoskeletons.

* Within a generation.

** Examples (from the familiar world of motoring) would be motorways for safer fast travel (everyone is moving in the same direction and effectively same speed, there is no "crossing other traffic" outside of lane changes etc. There is actually a *lot* of design work here). Also roundabouts for safer higher-capacity junctions (compared with crossroads or other junctions).

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LeadenSkies replied to Ace | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

As someone whose mum is visually impaired and in her 80s, I feel able to comment here. She is occasionally startled by cyclists that she doesn't see but that's because she doesn't hear their approach and she is suddenly aware they are closer than she would like. She has, and will increasingly have as their numbers increase, the same issues with electric scooters and electric cars. The cars are her biggest concern as they think not only the road belongs to them but in many cases the pavement as well if their parking is anything to go by. Forcing her to walk in the road with limited vision is extremely dangerous and unsettling for her.

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