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.