Strava and Assumed Risks


by Byron on Jun 06, 2013 at 11:35 AM


The same week this cyclist sued, Rapha announced a Circle of Death Ride, one of many virtual challenges marketed to Strava users

While agreed that participants in Strava have assumed the risks of bicycling, the app should do more to discourage the behavior that led to this death and without such mealy-mouthed language defending themselves. Leaderboarding and self-affirming segments are really no different than pulling a handle on a slot machine repeatedly for the big payout. At it’s core, Strava is gaming its users to participate in what I’ve called an athletic prosthetic culture, where competing is digitized.

As Outside told us in a recent article, about social facilitation

So-called social facilitation, the theory went, demonstrated something we now consider obvious: humans try harder when matched against others. Later work would demonstrate that the mere presence of others could inspire us to work harder.

For similar reasons there are no dislike buttons on Facebook and they operate under the principles of homophilly, or the “love of the same.” What that does is train users to commodify themselves and friends. With Strava it’s your workout files and with Facebook likes, links, and photos. Put simply, let’s all ride hard like PROS do, but virtually!

Last year Northumbria University released their study about pushing the limits of performance, beyond a body’s metabolic reserve. The mental trick those researchers are looking for exists already on Strava with KOM and in segments. Cyclists are pushing themselves against an imaginary opponent and to the limit.

They want that winning high and the same one a slot machine may give a gambler if they keep pushing that spin-the-wheels button.

The difference with gambling though, is you’re not doing that in traffic, on open roads, with no sanctioning body or legally-binding responsibility to a community of cyclists.

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I disagree. Strava and other apps like Garmin Connect and Mapmyrun are essentially fancy bulletin boards. They shouldn’t be held responsible for user’s inconsiderate, negligent or criminal behavior. People have been racing for the city limits and blowing through neighborhood stop signs for decades. Saying “Strava made them do it” is absurd. Our paper carried the news that Taylor Phinney cracked 110kph on a local descent based on an interview, not based on his “downhill KOM”. Anyone attempting to match or beat that time can’t blame The Daily Camera for their decision.