Sports

Did attempt to set speed record cause cyclist’s death?

Kim Flint's GPS after going 49.3 mph down South Park.

The cyclist who was killed going down South Park Drive in Tilden Park on Saturday June 19 may have been racing down the hill to regain a speed record that he had only held for a week.

William Flint II, who called himself Kim, had raced down the same hill on June 6 in 2 minutes and 7 seconds, reaching a top speed of 49.3 miles per hour, according to his Twitter posts.

“49.3 mph, on a bike. How I find religion on Sunday morning,” wrote Flint on June 6.

“Set new personal records – Centennial, 3 Bears, some others. even a KOM (King of the Mountain) on south gate descent!” he added a few hours later.

But on Tuesday June 15, another bicyclist, Pan Thomakas, bested Kim’s record by 4 seconds. That new time may have prompted Kim to try and go even faster, according to comments on bicycle chat rooms.

Flint and Thomakas are part of a subset of bicyclists who use GPS devices to track their routes and speed and then share the results on a social networking site called Strava.com.

South Park Drive in Tilden Park in Berkeley is well known in the bicycling community for its steep descent. The road from Grizzly Peak toward Wildcat Canyon Road is a 15% grade. Bicyclists can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour, according to Mark Sapiro, president of Grizzly Peak Cyclists, a 40-year old bicycling club with 570 members.  The posted speed limit is 30 miles per hour.

One bicyclist described the road this way: “South Park is the fastest descent in the East Bay; the top part has curves but isn’t twisty enough to slow you down, and then you can blast out of the last turn into the steepest part of the descent, a straightaway near a parking lot. I hit 88.5kph once (my fastest recorded speed anywhere).”

The hills of the East Bay are filled with bicyclists on the weekend, and some just want to see how fast they can go, said Sapiro.

“It’s one of the few roads in the Bay Area, especially the inner Bay Area, where you can exceed 50 miles per hour on a bicycle, so there is a certain element that wants to see how fast they can go,” said Sapiro. “I will admit I went more than 50 mph on South Park and it was really stupid and I won’t do it again.”

While the road is not too curvy, it’s dangerous, said Sapiro. There are families and pets hanging out in picnic spots along the road. They can wander into a bicyclist’s path unexpectedly. In addition, cars pull in and out of those spots.

“There are too many possibilities that something unforeseen can get in your way,” said Sapiro.

Sapiro said that bicycle chat rooms were buzzing with the news of Flint’s death, especially since he seemed to be trying to regain a speed record he had recently lost.

Flint, 40, of Oakland, was killed around 2 pm on June 19 when he broadsided an SUV, according to Lt. Dave Dubowy of the East Bay Regional Park District police. Flint was going downhill, in a northbound direction, when his bike traveled into the southbound lane and hit the left side of the car, said Dubowy. Flint had been going around a curve when his bike crossed over.

Skid marks at the scene show that Flint applied his brakes. He was wearing a helmet. He was airlifted to John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek, where he was pronounced dead.

Flint who was born in Berkeley but who grew up Danville, got a joint engineering and computer science degree from UC Berkeley. He worked at NVIDIA, a visual computing company based in Santa Clara, and had assisted Sony in the development of the PlayStation. Flint lived in Oakland with his girlfriend.

Flint was an avid cyclist, going out on long rides almost every weekend, according to his Strava account. He frequently rode in Tilden Park, and had done a long loop in Niles Canyon in Fremont the week before his death. His friends say he was not a reckless person.

“I’ve known Kim for 8 years, and he is one of the brightest and most responsible people I’ve had the pleasure to call my friend,” wrote donthebartender a friend, in the comments section of the SFGate website. “I’d like to let any readers know that he wasn’t a reckless individual. He was a consistent regular rider who knew the local roads well and was far too smart to take perilous risks intentionally. We can’t know what happened in that moment, except that what happened was a tragic accident that many people will feel the pain of for years to come.”

Flint also owned a Porsche 912 that his father had purchased just days before his birth in 1969. His father sold the car, but bought it back years later. Flint documents the car in an touching slide show with commentary on his website.

Friends will be celebrating Kim’s life Friday June 25 at 7 pm at Heinhold’s First and Last Saloon in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It is not a formal memorial, but a gathering of friends.

Photo from Kim Flint’s Twitpic account

Print Friendly
Tagged , , , , ,
  • VdeR

    what a sad story! but even careful people can make mistakes! now I wonder if I was behind him a month ago. probably someone else. It wasn’t safe to pass them as they were travelling fast and the road is just curvy enough to be blind. so sad. the people he hit must be devastated.

  • http://bit.ly/6RjLUL James Petersen

    Back around 1971 or 72, one of the lifeguards I worked with at L. Anza was speeding on his bike down that same stretch on his way to work and had his leg shattered in numerous places.

    “Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.”
    ~Douglas Adams

  • http://www.sylviapaull.com Sylvia Paull

    The only way to control a bicycle when you’re going at that speed is you use your body weight to gradually shift direction and sit up straighter to slow down a little. Brakes don’t work. After South Park Road is open for traffic in the spring (it’s closed all winter to protect some kind of lizard), cyclists should try going uphill instead of downhill. It’s a better workout and one gets the same thrill from straining the heart to its maximum output.

    i think the descent of Loma Contadas by the Grizzly Peak Stables is just as steep and even longer than South Park Drive, but that’s just what it feels like to me.

  • Jane Tierney

    Thanks for providing this follow up story. It gives a better understanding to the whole event. Condolences to the families of the cyclist and the motorist.

  • Pingback: What’s so critical about tonight’s Critical Mass? « BikingInLA()

  • Mike

    Terrible this happened.

    South Park isn’t fun to go up, or go down in my opinion.

  • Barclay

    I support the right of any person, a self-acknowledged risk taker or not, to take whatever risks they wish to their own life and limb. I do not extend that support to their taking risks with others’ safety. Anybody who races down this street endangers others besides themselves, and that is wrong. I’m sorry this man got himself killed, and I am sorry his friends and family have to mourn his loss. But his safety was not the only issue. This article does not say whether anybody in the SUV was hurt, so I assume they were physically okay. However, I know I would be horrified if I were driving my car and was broadsided by someone on a bike; I would always wonder if there was something I could have done to prevent it. If someone wants to try to set a personal speed record, they are welcome to try, but do it someplace where other people and/or animals won’t get hurt.

  • Pingback: Oakland cyclist dies in Tilden Park – Oakland North -- North Oakland News, Food, Art and Events.()

  • Pingback: Distractions » Cyclelicious()

  • JNG

    Barclay:

    SLA as said daredevil is willing to pay for their own medical bills, I’m with you. But as you can tell from some of these stories, a lot of these folks want to be reckless and make everyone else pay for it.

  • Skippy

    When people set out to make personal records they should keep it to themselves as broadcasting the info produces “Copycat efforts”!
    Riding a bike at 200+kph in controlled circumstances(world record attempts) is worth persuing but “posing” on a surburban street is likely to produce similar results to this, grief for the family & friends and nightmares for the “Innocent third parties”!
    No family deserves the grief that this unfortuneate event has caused !

  • Willy

    I hope this news article serves as a wake-up call to all cyclists that we are subject to the same traffic regulations as auto drivers. We must strive to obey the law for our own and other safety and earn the mutual respect we all want between auto drivers and cyclist. We can clamor for this all day long until kingdom comes but unless we do our part, nothing will change and could even devolve into something worse. As an avid cylclist my deepest sympathies to Kim’s family, friends and others. This was indeed for me very sad news to hear. And hey, let’s learn from this instead of using this as a benchmark for other cyclists to let themselves get carried away and try to break anymore such “speed records”. Imagine car being driven by someone coming down South Park attempting to set a personal best. It’s hard to even picture what the aftermath of a similar accident would look like.

  • djt

    In grad school with no dependents I often reached 55 mph down South Park…always on deserted mornings. Very dangerous. With three young dependents, I use my brakes now.

  • Orly

    Sympathy to the family, but really this is a totally predictable consequence of a stupid decision. I ride South Park frequently (up and down), and I do it as a responsible road user with respect for the law and my own mortality. If I can do that in my twenties, a 40-something should know better. His kind of cyclist hurt the rest of us by encouraging motorists to believe that we’re all idiot thrill-seekers too focused on our PRs to have any regard for others.

    My suggestion: if you want to push your limits in that way, do it on a mountain bike on a dedicated downhill trail. It demands skill as well as balls and you’re far less risk to others.

  • http://trampleasure.net/lee Lee Trampleasure

    Orly: Are there “dedicated downhill trails” that are closed to all but cyclist? It seems to me that trails are open to bikers and hikers (and horses in some cases), and I’d rather a speed-demon cyclist stick to roads where if they crash they end up injured, rather than on a trail where the person without the bike is just as likely to be the one injured. (Not so say that I endorse speeding in either location.)

    Personally, I’d like to see the EBRPD police set up a “speed trap” on South Park and start ticketing people for speeding (cyclists and autos). Grizzly Peak would also be a good place to increase enforcement to slow down some of those motorcyclists who drive too fast (most of them, however, ride their motorcycles at reasonable speeds).

    When I ride down hills on my bicycle, I tend to go about the speed limit (25-30) and “take the lane” to keep cars from trying to pass me, but I don’t generally go faster than 35 (in 30 MPH zones).

  • Orly

    Lee, I think you’re misreading me — on the road we just call them “pedestrians” instead of “hikers”, and yes, in either setting they’re just as likely to be injured in a crash with a cyclist as the cyclist himself.

    I’m not sure if you ride mountain bikes, but what I’m thinking of when I suggest that daredevil types push their limits on a “dedicated downhill trail” is rarely appealing to hikers. You’re certainly less likely to encounter someone traveling on foot while you’re riding down double black diamonds at Northstar than ten yards from a picnic area on South Park.

  • Pingback: Did bicycle web site contribute to cyclist’s death? – Berkeleyside()

  • Pingback: Berkeleyside’s most popular stories of 2010: The lion roars | Berkeleyside()