Running safety is no joke, and while most companies lock advanced features behind paywalls, Strava announced today it’ll make its live location-sharing feature Beacon free for everyone.
How Beacon works: When you record a workout, you can choose to send safety contacts text messages with a link. Those people can then see your current location in real time, your past locations, as well as where you started recording. Once you’ve finished, they’ll be notified that you’re done. You can also manually text a link to someone, regardless of whether they have the Strava app.
If it sounds too good to be true, there is one small catch. The free version of the Beacon feature will require you to carry your phone to work. Strava does offer this feature from connected devices — a Garmin or Apple Watch, for instance — but those will remain behind a paywall. Strava says that’s because of the “added complexity of supporting those integrations.”
Still, opening up safety features to everyone is always a good move. This is especially true now, as more people have taken up outdoor exercise during the pandemic. The company says that among its users, the number of solo marathons tripled in 2020 compared to 2019. Meanwhile, the number of recorded outdoor walks also tripled, and overall, Strava members increased outdoor activities by 28%.
This Strava move follows two recent updates that made it easier for users to lock down what exercise routine information was publicly shared in the Strava app. The updates allow both free and paid users to customise which metrics were shown to followers, as well as tweak the visibility of their GPS maps.
In the age of connected fitness, it’s become incredibly commonplace to post your routes online. However, as fun and motivating as that can be, it’s also freakishly easy for stalkers to learn a little too much if you’re not careful. A 2019 Runner’s World survey also found that 84% of women reported experiencing “some kind of harassment that left them feeling unsafe” during an outdoor run. Logging miles is hard enough without safety concerns, so kudos to Strava for doing the right thing by making this feature more accessible — and not a privilege you have to pay for.