US judge dismisses attempt to sue Strava after cyclist killed while trying to recapture segment KoM

Judge rules family of William 'Kim' Flint can't sue app maker for encouraging dangerous behavior

by Simon_MacMichael   June 6, 2013  

strava

A judge in San Francisco has dismissed a lawsuit against Strava brought by the family of William ‘Kim’ Flint, killed when he collided with a car on a downhill stretch of road while apparently trying to reclaim his King of the Mountain (KOM) status on the social networking and ride-tracking site.

Judge Marla Miller said: “Mr. Flint assumed the risks of bicycling and that the defendant [Strava] has shown that bicycling is an inherent risky activity,” reports Bicycle Retailer.

Flint’s parents had claimed that the 41-year-old was using Strava at the time and that Strava’s app encourages dangerous behaviour and fails to warn users vying for KOM status that the road conditions are unsuitable for racing.

Strava had denied all liability, and in a statement issued yesterday, company spokesman Mark Riedy said: “The death of Kim Flint was a tragic accident and we reiterate our sincere condolences to the family.

“We are extremely gratified by the judge's ruling, which demonstrates there was no case against the company.

“Every cyclist is responsible for their own safety and the safety of those around them.

“We ask all athletes to exercise common sense when they are running and riding and to encourage good behaviour within the community."

Strava had maintained that when Flint became a member of the site on 7 October 2009, the terms and conditions he agreed to electronically included a clause absolving Strava from liability for claims arising from a member’s use of the site.

While many Strava users log their rides to gauge their own personal progress against their training goals, it’s the competitive element introduced by the KOM leader boards that has seen the company attract criticism.

Sustrans has highlighted use of Strava and similar apps as encouraging some cyclists to ride at excessive speed on shared use facilities such as the Bristol-Bath railway path and on routes through Bristol’s Ashton Court and has warned some cyclists that they need to slow down.

Earlier this week, we reported that riders so inclined can now even artificially enhance their Strava data by giving their data an artificial boost with the help of the website DigitalEPO.com.

 

19 user comments

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Blimey a legal decision in America that allows common sense to prevail. Surprise

cidermart's picture

posted by cidermart [470 posts]
6th June 2013 - 9:44

11 Likes

don't worry they will appeal and be awarded 1 billion dollars and the first born of every Strava employee.
That'll make things right again.

Personally the only segments I think are worth looking at are uphill, all it takes to go down hill fast (on the road at least) is massive nads and a little skill.

posted by mrchrispy [337 posts]
6th June 2013 - 10:55

8 Likes

yee ha for common sense Plain Face

posted by Gary rb [19 posts]
6th June 2013 - 10:57

10 Likes

It's ridiculous to blame Strava. I usually agree with Sustrans but they're well off the mark with this one if you ask me.

Martin Thomas's picture

posted by Martin Thomas [584 posts]
6th June 2013 - 10:58

10 Likes

cidermart wrote:
Blimey a legal decision in America that allows common sense to prevail. Surprise

Surprise equally shocked, but relieved too. Would have been a very bad day had it gone the other way.

for me - The ride is about adventure, camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment that comes after a long day in the saddle.

Mountain-Nic's picture

posted by Mountain-Nic [119 posts]
6th June 2013 - 11:16

13 Likes

Martin Thomas wrote:
I usually agree with Sustrans but they're well off the mark with this one if you ask me.

I find myself disliking Sustrans more and more, they only appear to pipe up nowadays to assist in placing blame on cyclists and highlighting the minority of jeb ends and then have the stones to rattle their begging pots under the noses of the very same cyclists they've helped marginalise and demonise.

They're just a caricature set of yoghurt knitting, earth mother types with a platform to large for them.

I reserve the right to change my mind if they ever do anything of note that is positive to cyclists but I'm not holding my breath.

posted by farrell [1580 posts]
6th June 2013 - 11:18

13 Likes

Thank god for some common sense. If not you may as well sue mavic for making wheels as they can make you go fast.

Its down to the individual, I see some strava segments and have no intention of going for them because they are clearly not on a safe section of road.

Sustrans are talking out of their ****

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [395 posts]
6th June 2013 - 12:08

11 Likes

Sorry, don't understand why people are slamming Sustrans so much. Sustrans are trying to create an environment where cyclists and pedestrians co-exist.
I use the B2B cycle path 2 or 3 times a week, and have seen other riders on tri bars, trying to eke out speed. Just as racing a Ferrari on a dual carriageway full of normal traffic isn't appropriate, time trialling on a shared path isn't on.

posted by JeevesBath [131 posts]
6th June 2013 - 12:40

8 Likes

Does this mean that Strava will finally stop their pussy-footing with regard to 'hazardous' segments and anything that brings you closer to sea level faster than sinking through solid earth?

posted by Ham-planet [103 posts]
6th June 2013 - 12:47

13 Likes

Martin Thomas wrote:
It's ridiculous to blame Strava. I usually agree with Sustrans but they're well off the mark with this one if you ask me.

Well, if people are posting segments on shared use paths - which they were, and riders certainly go way to fast on the Bath-Bristol path - then you can't really blame Sustrans for having something to say about it. The story now has a link to that article but here it is as well. I wouldn't say there's too much in it that anyone can really complain about. Although I'm sure someone will find something
http://road.cc/content/news/83496-slow-down-or-else-sustrans-warns-cyclists

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4160 posts]
6th June 2013 - 12:52

4 Likes

Ham-planet wrote:
Does this mean that Strava will finally stop their pussy-footing with regard to 'hazardous' segments and anything that brings you closer to sea level faster than sinking through solid earth?

I don't see why it should. I've reported downhill segments where they had side roads that made them dangerous and the present system works fine as far as I can see.

Strava can't reasonably know the reality of every hill / mountain descent on the planet so I don't have a problem with them leaving it to sensible locals to flag dangerous segments and riders to only push hard on descents that they know well enough to be safe on (i.e. responsible riding).

posted by racingcondor [122 posts]
6th June 2013 - 13:03

12 Likes

Quote:
...and fails to warn users vying for KOM status that the road conditions are unsuitable for racing.

That just forgoes all common sense that roads are not meant for racing using any kind of vehicle, let alone having to be told this by a website.

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [603 posts]
6th June 2013 - 14:22

9 Likes
ColT's picture

posted by ColT [225 posts]
6th June 2013 - 14:50

12 Likes

There are two types of dangerous segments

a) where you're a potential danger to others e.g. Children and pedestrians on shared paths who may wobble in front of you but they get hurt
b) where you're a anger to yourself e.g. Downhill where you may lose control of your bike

Sustrans are quite right to argue against segments in case a) and considering most of the time they've lobbied for the cash to build the paths, they've got more right than most to have a say
Personally, if you want to put yourself at risk downhill, that's all part of the game and fine by me.

posted by Moylj1 [8 posts]
6th June 2013 - 20:25

8 Likes

I ride on a number of roads with shared use (only motor vehicles are restricted) and I have to agree, going flat out on them can be quite dangerous. I have a flat 8km ride alongside a river and at peak times, if you were in full TT mode, you'd have problems. I have almost hit kids running out of the treeline and did once hit a pedestrian. I came off worse than she did (she was a bit sore but nothing broken or bleeding) but ploughing into her at 30kmh wasn't really that much fun for either of us.

Shared use means you should really be able to stop in case of the unexpected. Check out some of the times for people along the canals in London.

posted by atlaz [158 posts]
7th June 2013 - 12:02

6 Likes

farrell wrote:
Martin Thomas wrote:
I usually agree with Sustrans but they're well off the mark with this one if you ask me.

They're just a caricature set of yoghurt knitting, earth mother types with a platform to large for them.

Not sure why you're describing them as 'earth mother' types whom generally you'd find would suggest people are responsible for their own actions. Largely I agree with your point but it's a bit free with rhetoric really. They're rather closer to a government quango than to 'hippies', IMHO.

posted by roseofwinter [46 posts]
7th June 2013 - 18:08

7 Likes

It looks like an easy case because he killed only himself. But actually he splatted to death on an SUV in the oncoming lane after losing control and crossing the line. I don't know who had to clean up the blood but I'm sure it wasn't nice.

But what if he had smashed though a windshield and into a child strapped into a retaining seat and so unable to dodge? Then of course Flint's freedom to kill himself doesn't sound so convincing.

If there's a way to reduce >innocent< people getting killed on the road, should it be considered? Specifically, if that way is "don't encourage bicycle riders to attempt feats beyond their skill level where they may lose control on public roads" is it a moral obligation to enforce that?

The usual "wait until the crisis hits" way to go about it would be to wait until an innocent person is killed and then let the emotional tsunami wash through the court system. Obviously smart people don't wait until the crisis.

There is a new case of a Stanford U team rider killing a elderly pedestrian during a light change in San Fransisco. He was recording on strava via his cellphone in real time; I don't know if he was on a segment or not. But now he has the strava stigma involved in his case, and strava has the stigma of the rider who killed a pedestrian. The rider is healthy and fine.

To anyone who records on strava in realtime via a cellphone, you should consider that if you get in an accident, even if it is somebody elses fault, that strava recording is likely to be used against you if at all possible.

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [109 posts]
8th June 2013 - 6:00

6 Likes

I'm playing Devils Advocate here. I do not use Strava (Endomondo user here) but I know how it works, so it does not unqualify me to make comments and observations. Human nature being what it is means we are are fallible bunch, easily encouraged to do things we perhaps shouldn't. Accepting terms and conditions when that App is used doesn't mean Strava is free from a duty of care. I'm sure they do care and I agree they are NOT responsible for that cyclists death, but they could do more in my opinion.

The app has encouraged unsafe competition between cyclists on public roads and routes that are just not safe and it encourages riders to take gambles and risks that I feel wouldn't be taken if they weren't using the app. Of course I am not suggesting this App makes all riders lose all sense of rationale, but it must affect a percentage of riders, who see it as a safe, measured risk, but their judgement is affected by their competiveness.

Just because Strava are not liable for any accident or death in the eyes of the law doesn't mean the use of their app hasn't contributed in some small way to accidents and deaths. It has to, simply.

Strava need to do more to minimise the dangers and one solution might be by 'hotspotting' certain routes (cant say blacklisting any more...) or segments where the dangers and risks are higher than is acceptable, given that there is always some measured risk every time bikes, vehicles and pedestrians mix it up. Accident stats on well know segments are ready and available now, so why aren't Strava doing something like this, where it say "no timings allowed - accident hotspot".

That will encourage riders to find safer routes where they can go all out, and those routes are out there already. Just my musings....

posted by Critchio [117 posts]
9th June 2013 - 10:04

10 Likes

Oh, for crying out loud...! This is yet another example of mindless, ignorant, arrogant morons looking to find someone else to blame for their own failings.

It has nothing to do with Strava or anyone else "encouraging" you or me to do something stupid. If certain clowns choose to ride at inappropriate speeds at inappropriate times on inappropriate routes, the blame is entirely theirs. Just because there's a bit of technology which allows comparisons of performance does not justify disengagement of the brain.

The same applies to people getting killed or injured in time trials on wholly unsuitable busy dual carriageways, and to road racers hitting oncoming cars on blind bends when the roads have not been closed. We all have the choice, nay duty, to ride within reasonable limits and it is crass and cowardly to apportion blame to others for our own bad judgements.

ColT's picture

posted by ColT [225 posts]
10th June 2013 - 14:11

8 Likes