Thursday, October 24, 2013

response to Bicycling article on Kim Flint and Strava

I couldn't believe what I was seeing when I got an email from Bicycling magazine promoting an article which discusses Strava's responsibility in Kim Flint's death in June 2010. The article is here. It spawned an even more remarkable set of comments arguing Strava had responsibility in Flint's fatal crash, which resulted when he went after a downhill KOM in the Berkeley Hills. There was a law suit resulting from the crash, pressed by Flint's family, and Strava won. The result of the crash was Strava's segment flagging policy, as well as a beefed-up user agreement bludgeoning the potential user even stronger with the idea of personal responsibility and the inherent danger of the roads. It additionally resulted in Strava's Stand With Us policy, calling on users to support it's vision of friendly competition with personal responsibility.

Here was my response to that Bicycling article:

Any argument that Strava should take responsibility for removing downhill segments is poorly thought out. Once Strava gets into the game of personally deciding what is safe and what is not, numerically or humanly, it's a dangerous precedent. Sure, this segment on which Flint died may well be viewed as dangerous, but what of a predominantly climbing segment with a short descent along the way, as many extended climbs contain? What of an ultra-endurance segment, crossing a state, which invariably crosses intersections, perhaps with stop signs or traffic lights? For every "dangerous" segment I can show you another which would generally appear reasonable, yet which contains similar dangerous aspects.

So instead Strava has put the burden on users: users to exercise judgement for their own behavior, users to flag segments for which no reasonable attempt at speed can be considered safe. Indeed, it's often argued this flagging goes too far by allowing a single user to permanently flag a segment.

So the answer: Kim Flint is responsibly for Kim Flint's death, and perhaps the driver if the driver was also speeding for the conditions of that road. Nobody else. Not Strava. Not the creator of the segment. Not you or me. The roads are a dangerous place, we know that, and we must act with appropriate caution. Being employed by NVidia is not a guarantee against stupidity in all aspects of life.


Rodrigo said...

Thank you for your article !!!
This is something I've been saying ever since Flint's death.
Even a segment without traffic lights or intersection has driveways. Even if there is no driveways, the simple fact you're going all-out, focusing more on the hard effort then anything else.
Clearly, all segments are dangerous and all should be flagged, or none and it's left to each person's decision to try them or not, just like it's a personal decision to risk your life riding a bike, or driving a car, or traveling by airplane, etc...
On a personal note there are many segments I personally consider dangerous, but I never flagged a single segment (nor will I ever)... I simply choose not to chase after them, but I wouldn't want those segments flagged. If others chase after them, it's their decision, their responsibility. Strava segments, like everything you do in life, can be considered safe for some people and considered unsafe for others... who am I to judge?
Clearly you're onto an important point on your article... following this slope of flagging segments, Strava could be signing their own demise... which would be sad indeed.

djconnel said...

Thanks, Rodrigo. I hope Strava revises its flagging policy to more of a "vote", not majority vote, but one where some number of "no flag" votes can cancel one "flag".

Anyway, I appreciate your comments.

One thing in the article I didn't address is its discussion of addiction. Anything which becomes addictive can cause problems, even blogging. That's it, I spend too much time with Blogger, I'm sueing!