A major story in the New York Times about people wearing helmet cams while riding has sparked a national dialogue (at least in the bike world) about documenting the daily commute. The trend toward using helmet cams as a last resort for traffic justice has been going on for years and — thanks to smaller, better, and cheapers cameras — has exploded recently.
Back in February 2011, in Helmet cams for justice and for advocacy, I shared how two Portlanders put on-board cameras to use on our local streets to document dangerous conditions. Then last month, I shared how southwest Portland resident Andrew Holtz has built up an impressive collection of on-bike camera footage via his YouTube channel — especially the dangerous intersection up on Highway 26 at Sylvan.
It turns out riders all over the U.S. are doing the same thing. Here’s a snip from the NY Times article:
“Now small cameras — the cycling equivalent of the black box on an airplane — are becoming an intermediary in the relationship, providing high-tech evidence in what is sometimes an ugly contest between people who ride the roads on two wheels and those who use four.
Video from these cameras has begun to play an invaluable role in police investigations of a small number of hit-and-runs and other incidents around the country, local authorities say. Lawyers who specialize in representing bicyclists say they expect the use of cameras for this purpose to increase as awareness of the devices goes up and their prices, now starting at around $200, come down.”
I’ve yet to hear of such footage being used in a local bicycle traffic case here in Portland, but it’s only a matter of time. Especially with guys like southeast Portland resident Mark Allyn around. At a recent bike event he told me he’s now equipped with two cameras — in order to capture the front and rear views.
(Photo: Mark Allyn)
Mark installed his two Contour cameras back in May, after he saw a rider get hit right in front of him. “In that case, the motorist was going slowly and did stop,” he wrote via email yesterday, “The cyclist was not seriously injured and rode off after exchanging papers with the motorist and the police.” That collision was amicable; but it got Mark thinking; What if it was a hit-and-run? “One thing led to another and I made the decision to make the plunge and get the cameras.”
Mark velcros the two cameras to his helmet and puts a plastic cover over them when it rains. It’s like having eyes in the back of his head.
The Times article will likely only catapult this trend into the stratosphere. Like bar-mounted GPS units, power meters (for racers), and ultra-bright lights, I suspect tiny cameras from companies like GoPro and Contour will become much more common for everyday riding. Will they lead to more safety, sanity, and justice on our streets? We can only hope for a similarly positive trend.
What about you? Do you roll with cameras for everyday riding? What do you think about these pedaling video-vigilantes?