You be the judge.
When I started getting serious about road cycling 24 years ago I bought a cyclometer. I wanted to know how far I’d gone but I also wanted to know my average speed and how fast I was traveling including my peak speed.
The guys I rode with had a friendly competition to see who could reach the fastest speed on our various rides.
There was a time I hit 68 mph going down the Carson Valley side of Mt. Rose on Highway 431. At one point I was actually passing slower vehicle traffic.
I knew it was risky. If I crashed because a vehicle from a side road pulled in front of me do you think I’d have any standing to sue Cat-Eye - the cyclometer manufacturer - because they somehow enticed me into dangerous behavior?
Hopefully, you’d answer no.
And that would be the same answer that the court should give the parents of a 41-year-old Oakland engineer who claimed their son was enticed to speed because of an Internet site they contend is culpable in his death.
They claim Strava’s website encouraged their son William Flint to speed down a steep road in Berkeley’s Tilden Park two years ago where he braked trying to avoid crashing into a car, flipped over on his bike, and was killed.
Flint - who had equipped his bicycle with a GPS unit logged into the Strava site that hosts virtual races and posts time from competitors logged in to its website for various routes as they cycle - had captured the online amateur speed title for descending down Grizzly Peak. After he claimed it, someone else topped him. So he went out going even faster to reclaim his title. He was going some 10 mph above the speed limit of 30 mph when he crashed.
Susan Kang is the attorney suing San Francisco-based Strava for negligence on behalf of the family. KRON-TV quoted Kang as saying, “(Strava) assume(s) no responsibility. They don’t put cones out. They don’t have anybody monitor and see whether a course, or a specific segment, is dangerous.”
Where to begin? The guy was a serious cyclist so he had to know that descending on a bicycle is very dangerous business even when you are going below the speed limit. He was knowingly exceeding the speed limit. He was also 41 years old that meant he wasn’t exactly an impressionable and naïve 14-year-old.
Why not sue the bicycle manufacturer too? They keep cutting weight and adding aerodynamic tricks in the frame design and components to make racing bicycles go faster and faster. They encourage people to be reckless in a way by advertising their products as helping riders go faster.
And what would the family do if this was 1985 and there was no Internet with interactive sites such as Strava and their son instead was racing against real people in real time instead of in a virtual race? Would they sue the other cyclists for enticing their son into reckless behavior?
The Internet is a lot of things, good and bad. But the bottom line is it doesn’t justify throwing personal responsibility for one’s actions out the door.
Flint’s death was a tragedy but the website is no more culpable than the company that manufactured his light-weight racing bicycle designed for speed.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.