Tompkins County is conducting a survey to determine the reality of cell phone coverage in our area. As we all know, it’s really weak in rural areas in particular, and coverage on a number of the trails we all run on is especially poor.
Given the utility of cell phones for navigation and safety while running alone, I’d encourage everyone who has been frustrated by this to submit your favorite running locations with weak coverage to the survey. You can just click the map to select a location, then say how good the service is and what carrier you use. There’s no problem submitting multiple entries (I entered the Hammond Hill parking lot and Danby Down & Dirty start/finish for T-Mobile).
Sorry Adam, here I have to disagree. We did fine before cell phones were invented. Trail runners and other back-country visitors should be prepared with map and compass, water, and a general knowledge of the area (maybe by shorter hikes for reconaissance). Reliance on technology gives a false sense of confidence, and bleeds over into over-confidence in one’s physical ability. Hence the increase in wilderness rescue. In the Tompkins County case, the areas w/o cell service are all hilly, and the way out of these area to “civilization” is obvious – head downhill or in one direction until hitting a road.
This is true, but the reality is many people still do go into the woods relying on phones for maps and emergency contacts while not realizing they won’t have service. We can recommend a map, compass, extra water, etc, but they may not heed the advice. Expanding cell coverage will at least reduce the likelihood of involving search and rescue. Personally I’m in favor of it as long as no one will be constructing new cell towers on or adjacent to public land.
My thinking is that while it’s always good to be more capable and self-reliant, how one achieves that evolves with the times. Paper maps and compasses are the high technology of our yesteryear, but I’m sure there were those in the more distant past who bemoaned their use in comparison with being able to read the stars and understand the lay of the land. In today’s world, a paper map would likely be found on the Internet and printed from a computer or phone, and the compass would be an app on the same phone. So I’m not perturbed by someone extrapolating mapping and navigation to GPS-enabled and Internet-connected devices—it’s certainly how I’d prepare for any outdoor activity in an unknown area. (I’ve done an orienteering race with a paper map and traditional compass. It was eye-openingly difficult. )
More generally, when it comes to the promotion of trail running and enjoyment of the great outdoors, I see accessibility of the commonplace technology as something that breaks down barriers to entry. That’s especially true for populations who may never have had an opportunity to learn outdoors skills and who may have identity-based safety concerns. During last year’s FLRC Challenge, I heard from numerous people that the RunGo directions we provided—imperfect though the system may have been—were still a huge help in encouraging them to explore trail running for the first time. In my mind, that’s a win.
Regardless, this is just a survey and would most likely inform changes that would benefit homes, not large swaths of wilderness. Either way, I’d prefer our government to base its actions on reality, rather than data (those existing federal maps) known to be imperfect.