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« Retro style jerseys | Main | Time to throw in the towel »
Tuesday
Jun192012

Pretend Races

Two years ago, 41 year old William “Kim” Flint lost his life descending a hill in Berkeley’s Tilden Park. Flint was apparently chasing a new fastest time on the popular cycling website Strava, which allows users to compare times with other riders over a section of road or trail using GPS units.

Flint lost control of his bike when he had to brake suddenly to avoid a car. Now Flint’s family is suing Stava for encouraging the cyclist to ride at dangerous speeds on public roads. Flint was descending Grizzly Peak on June 19, 2010 at least 10 mph above the posted speed limit of 30 mph. He was seeking to regain his Strava King of the Mountain, lead, which he had just lost to a fellow Strava user.

There are two lines of thinking in this case. One is that William Flint was an adult and should be held responsible for his own actions. He knew what the risks were, and as tragic as William Flint’s death was, should his family be looking blame someone else?

On the other hand is it a good idea to have a website that encourages people to race on public roads without supervision, or consideration for their safety or that of other road users.

Riding on any descent, there has to be a limit to how fast a person can go. By the very nature of these unsupervised record attempts, eventually this limit will be reached and quite probably someone will die attempting to go over that limit.

Cycling is a unique sport in that it takes place on public roads. Any group ride can, and often does, turn into an unofficial race. If a group of people were playing an unofficial game of baseball or soccer in a public park, with coats or backpacks to mark the bases or goals; tempers would flair if someone rode a bike or walked a dog though the middle of this game.

It is no different when a group of cyclists are sprinting for some imaginary prime at the top of a hill. Any motorist coming upon such a scene will not understand that there is some sort of friendly competition going on. All he sees is a bunch of annoying cyclists all over the road; car horns are sounded, and tempers flair on both sides.

Cyclists need to always be aware that theirs is not a game in the park, but one that takes place on public roads, where everyone has a right to travel. Dangers are very real, especially for the cyclist. This is why we all need to think about what we are doing, take responsibility for our own actions, and realize how these actions will affect our safety.

Here is another incident that all cyclists should consider as a wakeup call. On March 29, San Francisco cyclist Chris Bucchere,  slammed into 71-year-old Sutchi Hui at the juction of Castro and Market streets. Hui, who had been legally crossing the street, died days later.

Bucchere has been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter. One of the pieces of evidence that the prosecution is bringing, is that the cyclist was making some unofficial attempt to beat his own record on his commute to work. His GPS shows him doing 35mph in a 25mph zone.

Bucchere is also an adult at 36 years old, but never-the-less showed poor judgment by “racing” on crowded rush hour streets.

If you want to race, join a club and train for and enter proper sanctioned events. Don’t be racing in these "Pretend" unofficial races, if you do don't get carried away and take it seriously.

The only prize is a satisfied ego if you win, and possible death for you or some innocent victim if you lose.

                       

Reader Comments (12)

Wow, some sad stories here. As much as I feel for these people who've died and their families, & wish it didn't happen, I can't escape the fact that they were both going over the posted speed limit. That speed limit isn't for cars only. If we are breaking that limit on our bikes (no matter how much fun it is), there can be serious consequences beyond getting a ticket. That's why there's a speed limit. I hope your post here helps more cyclists learn that fact THE EASY WAY. I'm fortunate, I live very close to an awesome off-road bicycle path.

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDevon

I like Strava, but really.. tracking speed down hill? That's not a measure of fitness, it's a measure of risk taking!

Comparing speeds on ascents is much more useful, and who breaks the speed limit going up hill anyway?!

Great blog, excellent content.

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJason Hansen

This really isn't much different than the story of the shared bike path. In all three cases, there was a participant who was breaking the law in some way. In each case there was an alternative which would not have dire results. Two elements not in play are lack of responsible behavior for decisions and actions and awareness of individual contribution towards possible outcomes in a given situation.

Just like the poor, "The irresponsible you have with you always."

BTW: There is never a good excuse for irresponsible behavior, be it calling out "on your left", a site recording speed records or trying to exceed a personal record.

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

It is absolutely ludicrous to assign any responsibility to the Strava website. He made a choice, it turned out to be a bad one. It's incredibly sad for his family that he's dead, but it's typically American to look for someone else to blame (and extract money from).

The case should never make it to court it is simply such an absurd notion. I don't use or have any interest in Strava or any similar website, but if I did I would man up and take responsibility for my own actions.

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlemmiwinks

I agree with lemmiwinks. It is utterly ridiculous to hold STRAVA liable for the actions of an individual.
It's like me suing Blizzard for getting sick due to lack of sleep playing Diablo III 40 hours straight.
Yet another case for America's overly litigious culture.

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterr1Gel

If one can sift through the anti-American bias and look a little bit at the reality of the situation...any company or person who promotes (and makes money from!) illegal and dangerous behavior should be held responsible in case of an accident. If you really believe that a company which actively promotes racing at 30MPH on 15MPH bike trails, running stop signs or traffic lights to post a faster time does not make our streets and paths more dangerous, I have a bridge to sell you.

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoug P

In the case of the San Francisco pedestrian death, although he is being charged with a felony, the rider did enter the intersection on a yellow light (legal) and was traveling at the speed limit, or more. This means he should have passed through the intersection BEFORE the opposing light went green (or very close to it).

Living and bicycling near / in San Francisco I have noticed that the majority of pedestrians enter a crosswalk without bothering to take even a simple glance to see if a vehicle is coming. Many of them are on cell phones or texting.

Might I suggest that in many vehicle / pedestrian strikes there is a shared responsibility for the incident. Of course the pedestrian usually loses - especially when a two ton + piece of steel is headed their way.

You noted that cycling is a unique sport. Sport? Perhaps but I don't own a car. I suppose it could be deemed "sporting" but for me it's two things: a) basic transportation and b) a way to keep my cardiologist off my back!

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

Sounds like a bunch of dumb heads to me. You get what you ask for I have no feelings for anyone that PUTS others lives in danger as they did. People dont care amymore, LIBERALS who only think of themselves FIRST. Whats this world and country coming to, NO values, If it feels good do it, WHO CARES?

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGRUMPY Crump

Yeah, it makes sense, of course. Amazing how some individuals can manifest a staggering amount of lack of intelligence. The ego...what a tragicomedy, eh?
Lesson 101 in cycling - enjoy the nature, ignore the ego.

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMicheal Blue

Unfortunately, common sense can not be legislated. I, too, am sad for the rider's family, but the suit is ungrounded and, hopefully, doomed.

The only big-picture answer I can think of is one that the U.S. is typically poor at: Education.The only way you can improve common sense is by changing common assumptions.

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVelosopher

Poster above is correct, the police state that bicyclist Buccere entered the intersection on a yellow.

They note that they based their charges on the fact that several witnesses allegedly saw Buccere running traffic controls at intersections preceding the accident intersection. I guess they intend to use this to show "recklessness."

From everything I have heard, Buccere probably was being reckless, but people do need to understand that pedestrians in San Francisco routinely jaywalk and enter intersections when the light is against them because the police practically never ticket for that here. A SF friend got a jaywalking ticket in LA and responded "That's not against the law."

June 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertde

To the writer above - Not so sure about many of these races either. Really a lot of them happen on non-closed streets and paths. That's not much safe that riding fast in traffic. Actualy it is riding fast in traffic.

There's always zombie peds on the bike paths and texting drivers on any street slow enoiugh for a stoplight. And these people don't expect that a cyclist can travel at 25mph on the flats and much, much fast downhill or downwind. That lack of understanding is what leads to collisions, not some website that tracks a cyclists supposed best effort.

Better travel ettiquite is needed. The trend towards head down - eyes on the screen is really quite a problem. And, in some small measure, cyclist testing themselves is a small part of the problem. The 800lb monster in this arena are car and especially SUV drivers. The least mistake on their part usally causes great damage. People like to call those an accident, but it 's really a collison caused by the driver of the car. Bikes? No so much. It's freakishly unusual for a bike collision to cause much damge. I 'm guessing that's what makes this interesting - it's rare.

I'm hoping this will all work out as time brings more and more cyclists.

June 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEric W

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