Mountainbikeroute Den Treek, Strava Metro analysis change in route usage

The series of maps below show how sport-recreational cycling has changed in Den Treek forest and nature reserve between 2016 and 2021. In it, we look primarily at the use of forest trails by mountain bikers. The pdf of this story can be downloaded here:

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In order to facilitate mountain biking, the Den Treek mountain bike route was officially opened in April 2020, together with the Henschoten mountain bike route. The realization of the route was the result of years of discussions about facilitating or maintaining mountain biking in Den Treek. Before the route was built, a lot of 'random' mountain biking had already taken place on the estate. This led to friction with other users of the forest (hikers and horse riders), but also to nature damage (according to the AD in 2016:

In this analysis we look at the effect that the construction of the new mountain bike routes has had on the use of this nature and recreation area as a whole. For this purpose we used data from Strava, the most used app by sporty cyclists in the Netherlands. About 50% of all Dutch cyclists use the app Strava to record cycling rides, about ~800,000 Dutch in total. Mountain biking falls under this category. Earlier counts on the ridge also showed about 40-50% of mountain bikers use Strava to record mountain bike rides.

TRACK-landscapes obtained access to the Strava Metro data platform from Wielerplatform Utrecht, in collaboration with the Province of Utrecht. Through this platform -based on aggregated, anonymous data- images of path use can be made between 2016 and 2021. The changes in path use of Den Treek, stood out strongly. This additional analysis was made and compiled.

Where was cycling and mountain biking done before the construction of MTB route Den Treek?

Images shown below show route usage of Sporty/Recreational cyclists who use Strava. This concerns about half of all sportive cyclists in the Netherlands. The images from 2016 tm 2019 are very identical, substantial differences/changes in route use are not or hardly visible.

We therefore take the image of 2019 to make the comparison with 2020 and 2021, in which the MTB route 'Den Treek' is there. MTB route Den Treek opened in April 2020, but was also unofficially usable as of February 2020.

On several roads in and around Den Treek cycling is and was allowed. The two map (below) shows in BLACK where the paths are where cycling is and was allowed. The GREY paths are hiking trails where cycling is not and was not allowed. This has always been prohibited, but since 2016 this prohibition is also enforced (instead of tolerated). Cycling on the green paths can/could result in a fine.

But in 2019 (and also in the years before that) several "hiking trails" were already being used by mountain bikers. Despite the fact that this was therefore not allowed. We know that these are mountain bikers (and not road cyclists) because almost all of them are forest paths or dirt roads. These can only be ridden on a mountain bike or gravel bike/cyclocrosser.

There is especially one clear through route visible (colors green, marked with arrows). It runs diagonally through the area from northeast to southwest, from the bike viaduct at Nimmerdor past the Hazewater and the YMCA in southwestern direction along the new heathlands to the junction of the Doornseweg with the Zeisterweg. It was the route to the mtb route Zeist from Amersfoort, and was passed >2500 times a year (with Strava).

This route was well known to local mountain bikers as a fun route to take on mountain bikes, despite not being allowed to do so (Before 2016, people talked about the so-called 'tolerated trail').

And several of these 'unofficial' mountain bike trails also ran in the southeast corner of Den Treek. Actually, almost all of Den Treek's trails were used by mountain bikers. Admittedly to a lesser extent than the clear diagonal line.

Use of bike paths and mountain bike trails by sporty cyclists

In the years 2016-2019, the use of the Den Treek by Strava-sports cyclists remained almost the same. But between 2019 and 2020, major changes are visible due to the constructed mountain bike route.

In addition to the new mountain bike route (see map below, white dotted route), it can be seen that the regular, asphalted bike paths are also used significantly more intensively in 2020 and 2021, compared to 2019. This is due to a sharp increase in the number of cyclists and mountain bikers, who also cycled more frequently. The use of Strava also increased significantly as a result (increase ~70% in Utrecht province).

The official mountain bike route (above map, white dotted route) is not completely taken in the Strava analyses, some parts are not yet drawn in the OSM map that Strava uses as a basis for the measurements. This is not a problem though, they are only intermediate sections that are missing. The usage there is logically not significantly different than the pieces before and after.

You can also see that in 2021, the official mountain bike route was used slightly more often than in 2020 (slightly more purple than red).

Use of footpaths by sporty cyclists/mountain bikers

The use of hiking trails -by mountain bikers- has decreased significantly since the construction of the Den Treek mountain bike route.

The unofficial, diagonal mountain bike route was passed 100-250 times in 2021, about 10 times less than in 2019! So that's despite the sharp increase in mountain bikers and Strava users!

The use of the entire forest -although the trails in it- has visibly declined. Only a few trails still achieve >100 Strava passages in 2021. That's two to five Strava cyclists per week. If 50% of mountain bikers use Strava, that's about one mountain biker per day on average. A pretty negligible amount. This is also despite the increase in Gravelbikers, for whom these trails could still be interesting.

Only in the eastern corners are two more sections visible that are regularly used; these are clearly approach routes to the mountain bike trails from the surrounding area. They are just two short connections.

In short; the construction of the Den Treek mountain bike route has virtually curtailed the unauthorized use of hiking trails by mountain bikers. And that is exactly what the co-intent of the development of mountain bike routes.