A new weapon in the cyclist’s safety arsenal?

14.34 | 2 February 2011 | | 6 comments

A miniature camera which can be attached to a helmet or handlebar is the latest device in the cyclists’ arsenal to tackle their conflicts with other road users (BBC News).

Ben Porter, a cyclist from London, bought a camera to show friends and family just how dangerous his daily commute could be.

According to the BBC News report, for most cyclists ‘naming and shaming’ drivers is as far as it goes. But Ben decided to take things further after one van driver overtook him too close and then jumped out to confront him.

Ben took the footage to his local police station and the van driver was eventually prosecuted and found guilty of a public order offence and driving without due care and attention. He was fined £300, with costs of £150 and given five points on his licence.

Mr Porter said: "I think he wanted to teach me a lesson. It wasn’t very nice, but he didn’t notice the camera."

Simon Robertson, from West Sussex, was undertaken by a coach while crossing a busy roundabout. He said: "The driver was in the wrong lane and cut right in front of me from the left, forcing me into the lane to my right. I was just lucky there was no car there – it was terrifying."

Simon posted a link to his video on RoadSafeLondon, a Metropolitan Police website set up for road users to report bad driving. The coach driver was fined £150 and given three points on his licence.

DCI Nick Chalmers, who runs the website, said: "The greater the number of cameras covering London’s roads the more likely we are to secure a conviction for what are very serious offences.

“I think head-cams will help produce more considerate driving but video footage does not always show the full picture and the police will only prosecute if the evidence is clear."

Paul Kitson, a lawyer specialising in personal injury cases involving cyclists, said: "A camera helmet can secure a case for you, but personally I think it’s going a bit too far. I do own a cycle helmet camera but I use it for skiing."

But cyclists who use them hope they will encourage other road users to be more considerate.

Click here to read the full BBC News report.


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    The ‘war’ word is used by papers and magazines to artificially generate conflict to increase viewing or reading figures. Unfortunatly, the conflict is copied in road rage arguments. The BBC should do better being a public service broadcaster.

    Helmet cameras are a frustrated response to try and get justice for cyclists. Even where another road user is seriously injured or is killed, without perfect evidence a driver will not be convicted. “If you are going to kill, do it in a car” is a sad but true statement.

    Thankfully death or serious injury whilst riding a bike is rare.

    Finally, I must just reply to a couple of Derek’s comments.

    By ‘road related taxes’ I think you mean VED. To be clear, there is a common misunderstanding that VED on its own pays for the roads. The roads are paid for out of general taxation and not VED alone – that is a tax on pollution, and some cars are exempt just as cycles are.

    You also say you always keep to the left leaving as much room as possible when cycling. I might be wrong but it sounds like you are cycling in the gutter? In current Bikeability training this is taught as the wrong way to cycle. It will cause more close overtakes and increase the chance of you being knocked off. In general, about 1m from the kerb is a good distance and in some cases you should be cycling in the centre of the lane to prevent dangerous overtaking. Unfortunately, at the same time as increasing safety it can antagonise drivers who don’t understand what you are doing so needs to be used with care, assertiveness and adapted if necessary to prevent conflict.

    Phil Shore, Cambridge
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    Psychology has a great impact on road safety and Derek has touched on this in a valid way. Some psychologists refer to it as tribalism that has been deeply engrained in our psyche since the time when we were, well – tribal. Like Derek, I too used to cycle every day to work, dressed for the office, and wearing nothing more ‘segragationalist’ than a pair of trouser clips. The principle of group-identity is all around us. Commuting cyclists who look like Tour de France riders. Weekend motorcyclists in colour-coded racing leathers aping Valentino Rossi. Dad on holiday in Benedorm wearing a Man U shirt. Schoolboys in uniform but with a unique way of wearing a tie. It shows we belong but unfortunately it sometimes drives us to regard those who don’t belong to be regarded as the enemy. Put this into a road safety setting and we have a problem hence the talk of white van man, black cab driver and the charge of the lycra brigade. It adds dimension to road safety that we should embrace.

    Roy Buchanan, Sutton
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    There was no need for the van in the BBC reported clip to have overtaken when he did. As Ben indicated, the van did stay right when Ben shouted, but after that there was an audible ‘thump’ as the van did finally overtake. Immediately following this the van driver braked sharply and remonstrated with Ben. We might guess that Ben struck the side of the vans body work with his fist, such an action would have caused the reaction seen, though an unnecessarily exaggerated one. It was the van driver remonstrating at Ben, not the other way round.

    Life today has many challenges, and has many causes of frustration and anger outside of the road. Sadly it is on the road where such frustrations are likely to be displayed, as we all mostly use the roads and become judge and jury of others from a personal point of view. Only there can we be seen and heard.

    Ken Perham’s comments I feel are valid, especially with regard to dazzling lights. One of the so called ‘road safety’ devices exacerbate the dazzling problem tenfold – speed humps. As a vehicle hits a hump or ramp, the front rises and the dipped headlight beam shines dazzlingly at oncoming vehicles. This potential hazard is ignored, or not considered as a hazard by authorities. Along with speed humps, are the poor state of the roads after a hard Winter – pot-holed roads cause a similar problem and cause vehicles to swerve to avoid vehicular damage.

    The issue of cameras on vehicles simply endorses a ‘war-like’ situation between one kind of road user against another, and picked up with apparent relish by the BBC as a new “weapon” in the armament. For the cyclist, pavement build-outs, chicanes, and pinch points create great hazards. Segregated lanes whilst appearing to be fine for cyclists, actually antagonise the rest of road traffic, as it is they who pay for them through road related taxes, it is they who suffer the restricted road space for their presence, yet it is they who are ‘banned’ from them whilst the cyclist gets usage for free – bar a contribution through Council tax (which we all pay). Like Apartheid, segregation leads to problems.

    I cycled from Wood Green in North London to Regent’s Park daily in the mid-sixties, never experienced any problems – and plenty of traffic even then. Unlike Ben in the video clip, I always kept (and still do) to the left of the road leaving as much room for passing traffic as possible, Since then, cycling has become technicolour, with London bicycle couriers reaching the level of urban cycle ‘geurrillas’ complete with visible body armour, crash hats, slick eyewear and often defiant of road traffic regulations. I never wore any of that in the sixties – and I still don’t. One cannot help but wonder if some cyclists go out of their way to become self inflicted martyrs.

    Cameras may be useful, but like any weapon – they have effects other than to keep safe. How would cyclists react to the need to display registration plates for ANPR identification?

    Derek Reynolds, St Albans.
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    This hidden camera was good in this instance. I am all for new technology making our roads safer, especially for the vulnerable!

    Sadly this will backfire on the cyclists themselves. Roy Milnes & I, Ken Perham of http://www.lightmare.org receives great support from cycling and motorcycle organisations. There are thousands of responsible cyclists and motorists!

    I am also a Licensed London Taxi Driver, who has worked the streets of this fair city for 38 years, working solely at night. This awful driver who was going to attack Ben is not a true reflection of what is believed publicly as the stereotypical van man. However, this is not too dissimilar to the cyclists that Ben must have seen that do not stop at traffic lights or zebra crossings or cycle down one way streets the wrong way. Reflective clothing is often hard to see from the rear because of obscurity from rucksacks and when it comes to lighting at night, many have no lighting at all!

    Flashing lighting is better than no lights, but research shows that this system, when used without the accompaniment of a steady light, can give trouble to those with sensitive eyes. LED lighting makes it difficult to perceive distance, hampering the judgment of proximity between driver and cyclist.

    Roy and I care greatly about all that come into contact with our roads, especially our more vulnerable two-wheeler friends. Our aim is to reduce the brightness of DRL, Xenon, brake lights and advertising, including shop frontages that blast out distracting light, taking the attention away from the road user – then, perhaps, the conspicuity of our two wheeler -friends will improve also.

    Ken Perham & Roy Milnes

    Lightmare is a worldwide voluntary group of experienced motorists including Scientists, Engineers, Mathematicians, Lawyers and Ophthalmological experts who are supported by the leading Pedestrian, Cyclist and Motorcyclist organisations committed to improving road safety by reducing glare and distraction

    Ken Perham & Roy Milnes, Surrey, Wales
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    I’d like the test of the video… I wonder how many laws did Ben break (like for example not stopping at red traffic light… and all of the other things they can’t be bothered with!)
    I can only respect a cyclist when they are made to follow the laws!

    Phil, Surrey
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    This is an interesting item for a number of reasons but an aspect of Ben’s confrontation with the van needs a closer examination. I appreciate it is not easy to get a very true picture from a helmet mounted camera but it seems to me that, on the approach to the junction, the van driver is indicating left as he comes alongside the cyclist. I accept that the driver should have stayed behind Ben and turned left after the cyclist had cleared the junction. However, from the images taken be the video camera, Ben appears to stay alongside the van shouting furiously despite the repeater continuing to indicate the driver’s intention to turn left regardless of Ben’s presence. Perhaps, if Ben had braked at this point, would the van have gone further past him prior to turning left and the incident would not have developed into the unpleasant one it did. Let me assure you, I am not defending the van driver but suggesting that a higher level of defensive riding may have reduced the confrontation whilst not excusing the driver’s negligent driving. I am mindful of the tenet Of the Gendarmerie Nationale Motorcycle Training School. “Put all your effort into collision avoidance not retaliation”

    Roy Buchanan, Sutton
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