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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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109 comments

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LeadenSkies replied to Ace | 1 month 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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Bungle_52 | 2 months ago
5 likes

Has any one else noticed a significant deterioration in the standard of driving around cyclists in the last couple of days, or is it just me?

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stonojnr replied to Bungle_52 | 2 months ago
4 likes

Yes, I don't want to think it's more than coincidence, yet, but I've encountered alot of crap driving around me on my bike this week, more than it has been for a long while.

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Clem Fandango replied to stonojnr | 2 months ago
3 likes

Latest from my neck of the woods. No details obviously but smacks of a hit & run (only a bloody non tax paying lycra out anyway)....

https://www.surrey.police.uk/news/surrey/news/2024/05/witness-appeal-fol...

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ooblyboo replied to Clem Fandango | 2 months ago
0 likes

Does 'single vehicle collision' suggest that the police don't think it was a hit and run?

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Clem Fandango replied to ooblyboo | 1 month ago
0 likes
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Rendel Harris replied to Bungle_52 | 2 months ago
3 likes
Bungle_52 wrote:

Has any one else noticed a significant deterioration in the standard of driving around cyclists in the last couple of days, or is it just me?

I thought not from commuting this week, but just returned from a 40 km round-trip through South London traffic to visit the mater and received four passes which very definitely felt like they were deliberate intimidation (unfortunately none of them showing well enough to report as they were swerving in towards me from behind then moving away as they passed my front facing camera). I'd usually expect to receive a deliberately intimidatory close pass (rather than a MGIF one) once a week if that, so make of that what you will.

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VIPcyclist | 2 months ago
10 likes

I remember, 40 years ago, telling my dad, who was a Daily Telegraph reader, he's now 'graduated' to the Daily Mail, that not everything in the Telegraph was correct. He responded by telling me, in his authoritarian manner, that the Daily Telegraph was a 'paper of record' and that if it was printed in the Telegraph it would be true.
Of course if the 84 km/h is so easily falsified, and let's be honest every cyclist who saw it thought BS, then it has to bring the Daily Telegraphs status as a paper of record and truth teller into disrepute.

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stonojnr replied to VIPcyclist | 2 months ago
1 like

I think the days of it being a record of truth are long gone, its just into sensationalism now.

Today it's moaning about obesity and people who eat pies in Wigan.

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john_smith replied to VIPcyclist | 2 months ago
1 like
VIPcyclist wrote:

the Daily Telegraphs status as a paper of record and truth teller.

A while back (around the time of the farcical 2016 referendum) you could read it online without an account. You presumably never availed yourself of the opportunity.

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Hirsute | 2 months ago
21 likes

Chris Boardman
I don’t normally get involved in calling out headlines but it’s just getting bonkers.

If this was directed at a gender, race or religion it would be rightly called out as the hate speech it is. Mums, dads, sons and daughters being labelled as killers. It’s just got to stop.

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kingleo | 2 months ago
20 likes

The Embankment is where two years ago a drunk and drugged car driver killed a woman and her three dogs, he was doing more than 65 MPH on a 20 MPH limit road. According to the Telegraph, cyclists are the great danger to pedestrians on the Embankment.

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Clem Fandango | 2 months ago
11 likes

This is just how desperate the outgoing lame duck of a Government is. Clearly cyclists are high on their list of culture war targets to use as a distraction from actual issues and/or a woke scapegoat in an appeal to the gammon vote. It's going to be a long election campaign....

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stonojnr replied to Clem Fandango | 2 months ago
2 likes

It would be nice to think it was just the current government.

But the opposition benches are notably also quiet, when there hasn't been anything in the past few months they haven't expressed an opinion on.

It will be interesting to see what the Sunday papers and the round up on news channels brings.

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chrisonabike replied to stonojnr | 2 months ago
2 likes

Obviously Labour are focused on doing nothing to rock the boat until the election (having had a few years reinventing themselves as "definitely not the bonkers Socialist party").

However I don't see any evidence of great interest in this area by them - indeed I think the overall views about transport are similar across most parties (save Labour's railway ownership changes and of course Welsh Labour's default speed limit reduction).

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Jigzy99 | 2 months ago
21 likes

Reported to IPSO as well not that it will do any good.  Made me feel better.  Only hit 50 a couple of times, Pork Hill on Dartmoor (down not up) and personal record, 54.8, riding through Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote with a 35mph tailwind, hoping that no-one overtook on the traffic coming the other way nor that a gust took me over the edge into the lava fields.  

Really is lazy journalism though with serious, potentially life-threatening consequences.  Only takes one idiot who thinks they are doing the world a favour.

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Surreyrider replied to Jigzy99 | 2 months ago
0 likes

Now a Lanza descent on a blowy day is where these Telegraph speeds could be reached. I mean I'm not a fast descender but I've touched 50mph over there. 

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mattw | 2 months ago
14 likes

They are lying, they know they are lying, they are deliberately lying, and they will continue to lie.

I don't normally engage with scum-sucking writers or scum-sucking politicians, because I think I can achieve more by spending my time clearing illegal anti-wheelchair barriers off a couple of mlles of cycling or wheeling infra.

We know that Mark Harper and IDS are neing flushed down the toilet of history in a few months, so it is really only about damage they may do before that point.

Is this one worth it? I'm not sure.

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 2 months ago
5 likes

Keep up the good and useful work!

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horrovac | 2 months ago
6 likes

Never ceases to amaze me how terribly bad the british "newspapers" are. You need to fix this. If they dare claim things that are physically impossible, imagine what else they lied about. With such a press, no wonder in what state your country is at.

To be fair to them though, I did hit 92 km/h with 0 Watts. In a full aero tuck going down a long 12% descent, on a segment that I've started avoiding because I'm such an idiot and can't keep myself from trying to beat my record.

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DoomeFrog replied to horrovac | 2 months ago
2 likes

I have found myself doing 90km/h down Kop Hill, but I hope thats ok, it is a National Speed Limit road.

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Ride On replied to horrovac | 2 months ago
9 likes

I find that about news in general... it is all very believable until they report on something you actually know about, then it is obviously poorly researched/entirely misleading or takes a very one sided view.

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HLaB | 2 months ago
1 like

I wonder if they've referenced one of these dodgy segments, there's a bunch of folks who averaged 52.9mph, including my mate a local police officer who max speed was 34mph and we all know how accurate short strava segments are  7

https://www.strava.com/segments/1645861

PS Even if speed limits became applicable to bikes he never broke the speed limit, its a national speed limit road  4

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AidanR | 2 months ago
12 likes

It's all very well and good that the Telegraph is being ridiculed on a corner of Twitter, but the damage of this woeful journalism is already done.

Each person who has seen that headline and taken it as true is now a bit closer to believing that cyclists are a danger and are killing people around the country.

Each person who thinks that cyclists are dangerous is now more likely to think that "something must be done".

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AidanR replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
15 likes

TBH this has pissed me off so much that I've complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. If you want to do the same, the link is here:

https://www.ipso.co.uk/

The link to the Telegraph article is:

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

The complaint is under clause 1: accuracy, which anyone can make.

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hawkinspeter replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
5 likes
AidanR wrote:

TBH this has pissed me off so much that I've complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. If you want to do the same, the link is here: https://www.ipso.co.uk/ The link to the Telegraph article is: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/05/16/competitive-strava-cyclists-... The complaint is under clause 1: accuracy, which anyone can make.

I don't think "Press Standards" have anything to do with the Torygraph

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AidanR replied to hawkinspeter | 2 months ago
3 likes

And yet they are a member

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hawkinspeter replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
8 likes
AidanR wrote:

And yet they are a member

I completely agree!

Oh wait, you mean a member of IPSO...

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Mr Hoopdriver replied to AidanR | 2 months ago
8 likes

They are members and abide by the code of practice BUT it's really just a toothless talking shop set up to give the appearance of some sort of regulation.  They replaced the press complaints commission but all that really happened was a change of name.

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mattw replied to hawkinspeter | 2 months ago
2 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
AidanR wrote:

TBH this has pissed me off so much that I've complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation. If you want to do the same, the link is here: https://www.ipso.co.uk/ The link to the Telegraph article is: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/05/16/competitive-strava-cyclists-... The complaint is under clause 1: accuracy, which anyone can make.

I don't think "Press Standards" have anything to do with the Torygraph

My politically aligned and practically useful recommendation for copies of the Telegraph is that they be used to line Donald Trump's diapers.

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