I’ve been thinking about buying a small video camera and mounting it on my helmet or my bike’s handlebars. At the risk of sounding macabre or fatalistic (or scaring my mum), if another road user injures or kills me when I’m out cycling, I’d like them to be held responsible. Surely a reasonable request.
The problem when a bicycle and a motor vehicle collide is that one party is at a massive disadvantage. In 2007, when I got hit head-on by a car that zoomed across my path through an intersection, I had to go to hospital - they had to go to the panel-beater.
On that occasion I was fortunate – an off-duty police officer behind the car that hit me offered to testify on my behalf (I was also lucky to escape serious injury).
But what if there hadn’t been a credible witness? How many times has a driver told police, “He veered into the road, officer”, with the cyclist unable to argue because they were, well, dead? How many more times have cyclists been hit or run off the road by cars, only to have it come down to a case of one person’s word versus the other’s, and no punishment for the party responsible?
Last Sunday in the Sun-Herald, I reported on a court case involving a cyclist who crashed after a car swerved into the Centennial Park bike lane. The police and an ambulance attended the scene and interviewed all those involved. The police decided the motorist was not to blame, and instead issued the injured cyclist with a $59 fine for “riding a bicycle negligently”.
Luckily for him, one of the other cyclists had a helmet camera. At significant financial risk, he went to court, and the camera evidence proved crucial in helping him have the fine overturned (you can read the full story here).
Yesterday, a clip of a recent incident in the ACT was doing the rounds of Australia’s cycling internet forums.
You have to ask yourself two questions when watching the footage.
Firstly, how the hell did that guy stay upright, and how calm was his query, “you get that on video?”, at the end of the clip? (Yours truly would have been emitting a steady stream of bleep words.)
The bigger question is, would anyone have believed this happened without video? From comments posted on YouTube, it appears the cyclist involved is pursuing the matter, but without the footage it would be hard to impress upon anyone that a tragedy was narrowly averted (it could have been a lot worse if the trailer was one with protruding wheels).
News report: Helmets, roads a turn off for would-be cyclists
Of course, the law is not so simple that some video footage of a road user breaking the law, submitted to the police, will automatically result in a fine or a conviction.
Because if it was, a bunch of us could stand at the side filming people breaking the law – texting while driving, tailgating, running red lights (yes, yes, cars AND bicycles) – and with the resulting slew of fines, we’d probably have bad road behaviour cleaned up within a month. I wish.
It’s highly unlikely such footage will be acted upon, even if the vehicle was identifiable (so please don’t post comments about cycling registration, that was two weeks ago).
But it’s fair to assume that video evidence would become more crucial if someone was injured or killed. Which might have come in handy in Ku-Ring-Gai national park last weekend, if the person overtaking me on a double white line into a blind corner hadn’t managed to miss me by 10 centimetres.
It’s also possible that when word gets out that cyclists are wearing video recorders, that minuscule percentage of truly ugly motorists will be less inclined to threaten and abuse cyclists.
With studies suggesting that motorists are far more likely to be at fault when bikes and cars collide, I’m thinking of a video camera. Nothing flashy, just something that does the job.
If I get involved in an accident, it might just come in handy. And if I don’t, at least I’ll have lots and lots of lovely cycling footage.
Do you use a video camera while cycling, or are you thinking about it? What kind of camera do you use?