Suit blames smartphone app maker for bicyclist’s death

by Walter Olson on June 22, 2012

Kashmir Hill explains at Forbes:

Strava ‘player’ William “Kim” Flint got so competitive that when he lost his first place rank as “King of the Mountain” for a steep route in Berkeley, California, he raced down the road on his bike at 40 mph to try to reclaim his title. The 41-year-old electrical engineer had to brake suddenly; he flipped over a car and died on the 2010 ride, reports ABC News. Now his family is suing Strava for negligence, alleging that the start-up is responsible for Flint’s death.

More: BerkeleySide.

{ 4 comments }

1 marco73 06.22.12 at 8:26 am

So a 41 year old engineer was completely taken over by a smart device app? Who knew?
Or maybe it’s the fact that the company has $15 million in liquid assets. Just your standard hunt for a deep pocket.

2 DEM 06.22.12 at 10:08 am

It is very easy to hit, and substantially exceed, 40mph on a steep descent, even if you are not using Strava. I participate in a few weekly non-competitive group rides where no one of racing against the clock, yet our top speed for the ride is in the mid 40′s on a fairly moderate descent. I seriously doubt that Strava drove this person to go materially faster than he otherwise would have.

Moreover, any experienced cyclist knows very well that 40 mph+ descents are quite dangerous under any circumstances. You cannot suddenly stop a bike that is going that fast, and even a moderate imperfection in the surface of the road can cause a serious fall.

3 smart dude 06.22.12 at 11:27 am

Google maps guides you to roads where danger awaits.

Big money awaits if you get into an accident! Especially if you are a dangerous driver, yourself.

4 gitarcarver 06.22.12 at 12:43 pm

Take it from someone who received a ticket for traveling too fast down a hill, it is easy to reach the speeds to which DEM refers. Also, in braking, most cyclists will grab both brakes hard during an emergency stop on a hill. That will send you over the handlebars. You need to grab the rear brake hard and the front brake not as hard.

That being said, a couple of things on this suit…..

First, the app has a disclaimer: “You expressly agree that your athletic activities, which generate the content you post or seek to post on the site…carry certain inherent and significant risks of property damage, bodily injury or death, and that you voluntarily assume all known and unknown risks associated with these activities even if cause in whole or part by the action, inaction or negligence of Strava, (which is obviously not worth the “paper” it is written on.)

Secondly, the guy was breaking the law. He was traveling over 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. He had posted previously that he had achieved a speed of 49.3 coming down the hill.

A comment on the ABC article says the “King of the Mountain” title the guy was going after is only for going up the hill – not down it. This is consistent with other sanctioned bike races where ascending, not descending, determines the “King of the Mountain.”

Lastly, according to the same comment and the Stava site, it is the users that determine the segments and areas to “race” against each other – not the company.

It seems to me this lawsuit wants to reward a person or their family for illegal behavior and the inability to control their vehicle causing an accident, and at the same time holding the company 1) to police and verify all user generated “routes” are totally safe, 2) be held accountable for a person’s actions AFTER the so called race, and 3) demand all cyclists install a speed governor on bikes to be tied into a new network that would send electronic signals to the governor from the speed limit signs, thereby restricting the speeds of the bike.

(Of course, if the guy was killed while involved in a threesome on the bike after scheduling a cardio stress test….. )

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