June 19, 2012— -- Two years ago, William "Kim" Flint died while riding his bike down a Bay Area hill more than 10 miles over the speed limit, in an attempt to reclaim his title as "King of Mountain" on the cycling website Strava. Now, his family is suing the website for negligence, arguing Strava is partly responsible for his death.
On June 19, 2010, Flint, 40, was killed while riding down South Park Drive in Tilden Park, Berkeley. He was trying to break the speed record for that stretch of road on the cycling website www.strava.com.
Flint was a very active user of Strava, a sort of interactive social network for cycling enthusiasts. Routes are posted on Strava, and users try to top each others' speeds on specific courses. On certain paths, the fastest rider is named "King of Mountain." Flint regularly posted links to his Strava profile on his Twitter account, along with pictures of his speedometer clocking top speeds and routes on which he became "KOM."
Flint held that title for South Park Drive, until another user beat his time. When he was alerted he'd lost his KOM title, he headed back to the hill to try to reclaim it.
The speed limit on the road is 30 mph, and Flint was clocked going over 40 mph down the hill. He had to brake suddenly in front of a car, causing his bike to flip over, fatally injuring him.
His family's lawsuit claims Strava should assume at least partial responsibility for Flint's death, because at the time of his death, there were no warnings on the site about dangerous courses, including the one he died on. That changed after Flint's death, and now South Park Drive Descent has been "flagged as hazardous."
"For a user to get a KOM title, they have to go really fast and break the law," Susan Kang, the Flint family's attorney told ABC News, "and Strava creates a wild, wild West culture where that is encouraged and rewarded with no warnings about the risks."
In a statement, Strava spokesman Mark Riedy said the company expressed condolences to Flint's family when he died, and they plan to fight the case.
"Based on the facts involved in the accident and the law, there is no merit to this lawsuit," Riedy said. "We again express our condolences to the Flint family, but we will defend the company vigorously through the legal process ahead."
"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," the Disclaimer of Warranties and Liability section reads in part.
Kang agrees that Flint, as an adult and avid cyclist, is responsible for his actions, but she also maintains that Strava needs to do more to prevent similar accidents.
"Is it 100 percent Strava's fault? No, of course not," Kang said. "Do they have a responsibility to the public to encourage safety and take down the more dangerous routes from their website? We think so."
Another high-profile accident is being tied to the website, ABC News affiliate KGO reports. A cyclist who killed a 71-year-old pedestrian in San Francisco's busy Castro District was reportedly tracking his time on Strava.
Steve Bollman has cycled the road that Flint died on before, and he told KGO he has mixed feelings about the lawsuit.
"On the one hand, I could see why you would think they should have some responsibility," Bollman told KGO. "On the other hand, descending on a bicycle is very dangerous business."