Family sues Strava over descending death

Family of Berkeley man killed while chasing a downhill KOM sues social training site; Strava says suit is meritless

Two years ago, William “Kim” Flint lost his life descending a hill in Berkeley’s Tilden Park, braking suddenly to avoid a car and losing control of his bike. According to his family, Flint was chasing a new fastest time on the popular cycling website Strava, which allows users to compare times over a section of road or trail using GPS units.

San Francisco’s local ABC News affiliate has reported that Flint’s family is now suing San Francisco-based Strava for the death, claiming negligence and that the website encouraged him to speed.

“His family basically wants justice for him,” said Susan Kang, the Flint family’s attorney, to ABC.

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 KOM, or King of the Mountain, lead, which he had just lost to a fellow Strava user.

Strava, the 2011 Velo Technical Innovation of the Year, does not inspect and monitor individual segments, though it does allow users to flag and remove any segment they deem to be located on a dangerous section of road or trail. The site’s terms and conditions, which must be agreed to before signing up for an account, include language designed to exclude the site from blame related to any bodily injury or death incurred during the athletic activities users pursue related to the site.

The family takes issue with this lack of accountability. “They assume no responsibility,” Kang said. “They don’t put cones out. They don’t have anybody monitor and see whether a course, or a specific segment, is dangerous.”

Strava spokesman Mark Riedy issued a statement saying, “The death of Kim Flint was a tragic accident, and we expressed our sincere condolences when it occurred in 2010. Based on the facts involved in the accident and the law, there is no merit to this lawsuit.”

Flint’s death is not the first to be tied to the cycling website. The San Francisco Examiner reported that cyclist Chris Bucchere has been charged with felony manslaughter in the death of pedestrian Sutchi Hui on March 29th of this year. According to prosecutors, Bucchere was tracking his speed using Strava at the time, and his on-bike GPS showed that he was moving more than 35 mph in a 25 mph zone.