Video: education through electronic evidence

This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 69.

Typical of content captured from handlebar-mounted video: a car shoots past and immediately turns left.
Image as described adjacent

Anyone who commutes by bicycle will be under no illusions about the safety of the pursuit. Sharing road space with fast, heavy, metal objects is not only intimidating in itself, but is compounded by the attitude of some motorists. During my own experience, where I’ve put my head through a windscreen (the specifics of which I can’t recall) and been knocked off by a taxi (which sped off), I thought that a video recording would have been useful. Technology has now made this idea possible, and the Internet has provided a forum to share such experiences.

To mount a camera on my bike I use the ‘RAM’ mounting system, two brackets connected by a rubber ball-and-socket joint. The recording is handled by a flash based video-camera (an Aiptek DV5700, not pictured) fitted with a 1 GB card. This allows 45 minutes of recording at broadcast quality (640×480 pixels at 25 frames per second). The total cost of the setup is approximately £100.

Greg’s digital video handlebar mount.
Image as described adjacent

Having the camera rolling gives me a feeling of security, knowing that should an incident occur there will be a record. This leaves no ambiguity between a person’s recollection and what actually occurred. (For example, when I was ‘taken out’ by the taxi driver, there were no other witnesses). With some basic video-editing software, the incident can be extracted and shared online through the cyc-o-vision website.

What do I hope to achieve through this project?

The primary goal would be to educate the motorist by examples seen through cyclists’ eyes. It is my suspicion that, on passing their driving test, the majority of motorists will never commute by bicycle again. This is not their fault, but as a result they will have little empathy for cyclists. A more long-term use for the project may be to provide a source of information for anyone interested in commuter issues in general, perhaps even up to a local-planning level. Finally, there may well be an entertainment value, as the actions of some motorists certainly make me shake my head and laugh!

None of these goals will be achievable without contributions from fellow cyclists to expand the database and to make it more representative. Of course this will require the initial investment in a setup similar to mine. This is not cheap, but prices should fall over time. It is my hope that others will feel more secure on the roads with similar equipment in place.

I have always thought that, as the most vulnerable (and environmentally friendly) road user group, cyclists deserve respect and protection. It is my hope that through video recorded anecdotes some progress can be made towards this.

Greg Lee