Does your ride count if it is not on Strava?
Strava is a website and app which cyclists can use to record their ride distance and time using any device with GPS. The data is then uploaded to the Strava website, where it is easy to compare your performance against other cyclists' or your own on previous rides.
It’s popular among the many cyclists who like to compete for the chance to be top of the leader board and named King or Queen of the Mountains. For some, it’s an addiction to try and go faster and further than others, while many use it to track their own progress and try for a personal best.
The stereotypical Strava user is a competitive MAMIL (Middle-aged Man in Lycra) who owns a high-end road bike. I’ve not seen many people who cycle in normal clothes going from A-B diligently logging every cycle trip on Strava.
Therefore this week, I was slightly confused to see reports in the Telegraph heralding that London cyclists are 'the most active in the world'.
Instinctively, I thought the conclusions in the Telegraph were just not showing the whole picture. So, I delved into the data from Strava's new Insights and contacted them.
On face value, the 8,639 London cycling commutes logged on Strava every single day seem impressive. The data shows trends and it is interesting to see Tuesday is the most popular day to cycle in the city and that almost half of all London cycle activities happen within the commuter windows of 7am - 9am and 5pm - 7pm. An average London cycle commute is 15km in length, just over 9 miles.
In the last 12 months, there were 7,052,729 journeys by bike logged in London on Strava, the highest number in the world. Amsterdam comes in a slow second place with just 2.7 million cycle journeys. So does this mean London has higher cycling levels than Amsterdam? In a word, no. It simply shows that in London, there is a higher population and therefore a much higher number of cyclists using Strava.
Simon Klima, who is UK Country Manager at Strava, agreed: “London is a real hot-bed for Strava and leads the way in terms of activity numbers across our twelve Strava Insights cities. The UK in general has been strong and early adopters of Strava. This is a reflection of the growth that we have seen in cycling across the UK over the recent years."
He added that: "London has a huge and growing concentration of both recreational and commuting cyclists, and, as cycling becomes more and more popular in the capital, Strava membership has grown. In other key European cities like Paris and Berlin, Strava is growing fast, especially now the product has been localised for these markets, they're just at a slightly different level of maturity.”
The Telegraph’s reports of a “staggering 7,052,729 journeys” do need to be taken into context therefore: London has a population of 8.4 million people, Amsterdam has just 820,000. So, call me a pedant, but shouldn't the headline in the Telegraph have read: “London cyclists 'the most active on Strava in the world'?
CTC's briefings, which are updated regularly, show that 27% of all journeys in Amsterdam are by bike, compared to 2% in London. Therefore, in the UK we have a long way to go before we are the most active cyclists in the world."
Victoria Hazael, CTC Senior Communications Officer
Getting the full picture of cycling levels on a global level is tricky, as each country and often each city counts things a little bit differently. CTC’s policy team collates the most up-to-date information and statistics on cycling in the UK and beyond.
CTC's briefings, which are updated regularly show that 27% of all journeys in Amsterdam are by bike compared to 2% in London. Therefore, in the UK we have a long way to go before we are the most active in the world.
Anecdotal evidence suggests Londoners may be more competitive and log their miles using the app, whereas Strava clearly is not as popular in the rest of Europe, especially in places where cycling every day is just a normal activity.
Simon Klima added: “Our data from Strava Insights shows the sheer size of the data points we’re working with. We have 100,000 new members signing up each and every week so we now find that Strava is really accessible and representative of the wider cycling and running audience in the UK. We have seen more and more commutes being uploaded, especially in London, with 51.4% of our London members uploading at least one commute. New updates like Strava Live, which provides detailed in-activity data when a phone is mounted on a rider’s handlebars, means that athletes are using Strava more and more for shorter commute rides because of the convenience of using their smartphones."
What is clear from the levels of Strava users and the general levels of cycling in London and Amsterdam, is the great majority of people in Amsterdam don’t see cycling to work as a race or a sport, and they don't describe themselves as 'athletes' either. The cycling culture in Holland is so ingrained in society that cycling is just how people get around. It is not how you get fit or go fast, it is just second nature to cycle.
In Holland, cycling is invested in and has been for years to the tune of £24 per head, whereas here in the UK the reality is £2 per person per year. So, that is why CTC campaigns hard for more investment in cycling. We believe the Government should create a cycling budget of £10 per person per year, rising to £20 as cycle use increases, or commit 10% of its transport budget to cycling.
One day our capital could be the most active in the world, but for now I think we’ve got a long way to go to really be King or Queen of the Mountains.
What do you think? Do you use Strava? Leave a comment below.