Why you should have cameras mounted to your bike
It was 7am on a Sunday. The sun was starting to shine through the morning mist and the city was still and silent. It was just me and my mate doing our regular Sunday ride through the quiet Melbourne suburbs. Then, suddenly, I heard a loud noise and felt a car come within inches of me … at about 100 kph in a 50 zone. There was nobody else around, no other traffic — just us and him.
This was not a misjudgment of distance, nor was it an accident. It was a direct message aimed at us, and it could have been fatal.
It’s something far too normal; something I’ve experienced dozens of times. Once again I may not have made it home to see my wife and son.
This time I told myself that I needed to do something about it. I’m not going to stop doing what I love, but I am going to keep doing everything within my control to safeguard myself against something happening.
Before I start each ride I make many decisions that are meant to minimise my risk. I choose where I ride, what time I ride, who I ride with, how many people I ride with, the colour of my kit, and my front/rear lights, all to reduce risk. But none of it mattered on that Sunday morning.
But what can you do? I’ve done everything possible and the only thing left that I could think of was buying a front and rear camera. At least then I’d have some evidence of the incident to take to law enforcement. I did wonder though whether this would even help — I’ve heard on several occasions that home security camera footage rarely results in any action from the police.
I reached out to the folks at bike camera and light brand Cycliq to ask whether on-bike camera footage can actually be used to prosecute drivers who drive dangerously or illegally. We can’t give any legal advice here, but I was happy to learn that on-bike camera footage has resulted in plenty of police action around the world. Cycliq sent us a whole bunch of examples, which you can see for yourself below.
There are lots of simple decisions you can make about when, where, how and with whom you ride, to help minimise your risks on the road. But sometimes that’s not enough. An on-board camera won’t keep you safe, but at least it might give you some footage that you can take to police. Judging by the videos you’ll see below, if I’d had a camera on that Sunday morning the driver might have been prosecuted or fined.
The more of these cameras that are on bikes, the more drivers will know they’re being watched.
On-bike footage that has led to police action
Note: Some of the videos below contain strong coarse language.
Saturday Morning Bunch Ride
“This guy changed lanes to skim us and then gave us the finger out the window. The police sergeant at Sutherland Area Command was fantastic. The guy was fined $640 and docked two demerit points. I chased him to the next red light but missed him by 20 metres where he again gave me the finger.
“I’m sure he got a surprise when the police knocked on his door about 50km away.”
Angry Ute Driver
“The driver of the ute in this video slowed to yell abuse through the passenger-side window, drifting left towards me as he did. I filed a complaint with Queensland Police via the online ‘hoon’ report, supported by the video clip showing front and rear views. The driver was subsequently issued with an infringement notice for failing to give 1m clearance. I understand the penalty is $330 and three demerits.
“My objective in filing the complaint was for the driver to learn that they are always accountable for their actions and not above the law … and there’s always a camera around! Note that without the video footage there would have been no prospect of action being taken.”
“This video shows some of my morning commute to Sydney, near the airport. In it I approach a T-intersection and although the white van hesitates, it pulls out right in front of me. Luckily, I brake, swerve and yell at the driver. I had a reflective vest and Cycliq light on, even in daylight.
“I do swear a bit, but then you will see the police motorbike pull up. The van takes off and the policeman and I exchange a quick conversation were I tell him it was recorded but I’m ok. He then takes off, lights and sirens blaring, to apprehend driver. It was double demerit points day.”
Vehicle nearly hits cyclists outside Goldsboro, North Carolina
“On 3 June, Bill and I were doing our weekly morning coffee ride. About 8 miles into the ride, a driver deliberately veered off the road to give us a close call. Neither one of us was hurt, just startled and angry at what had transpired.
“When I got home and reviewed the video, I immediately posted everything to social media and requested help to ID the driver. The community was understandably outraged and before day’s end, we had identified the owner and had the deputy sheriff involved. The next morning the deputy confronted the driver who denied everything until the video evidence was produced.
“I am glad we had the video otherwise it would have been our word against his. The driver was charged with careless and reckless driving.”
Three incidents in December 2018
“Three reasons why I have a [Cycliq] Fly12 [front-facing camera], all within a month. The first incident resulted in a fine and demerit points for the driver concerned.”
Truck close pass, then drives off and almost runs me over
“A truck driver does an aggressive close pass within a roadworks zone and then, when I go to speak to him at traffic lights 25m up the road, he abuses me for being on the road. Then, as he drives off, his rear wheels all but ran me over.
“I had only had purchased the camera 10 days prior, and had a front camera on order, which arrived the next day. Based on the video evidence alone, New Zealand Police issued him with an infringement notice.”
That was a stop sign
“Running a stop sign on a double demerits weekend. Police were notified, a fine and penalties were applied.”
“A thief steals two bikes. The bikes were recovered 48 hours later. Suspect is in jail. Felony: grand larceny.”
Just gotta get past
“Close pass on a freeway overpass with limited fall protection. This stupidity earned the driver a visit from Queensland Police, a $391 fine, and three demerit points.”
Red-light-runner, O’Keefe Street, Brisbane
“This is a no-action clip, but while waiting for a green light to cross a busy street in Brisbane, I captured evidence of this large truck, trundling through the light, well after it had turned red. The green pedestrian light is clearly seen. I think the casual wave of the passenger as they bowled past made me cranky enough to submit it to Holland Park Police Station for action.
“Their first reaction was there wasn’t enough proof because I didn’t capture the red light. I decided to follow this up by writing to my Member of Parliament, Minister for Transport and also Minister of Police, and that worked. The case was reassigned to a Senior Constable who tracked down the owner/driver and issued a traffic infringement notice.
“Although the driver wanted to plead not guilty, due to only having three points left on his licence, after 10 months of faffing around, he eventually paid the fine. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction derived from this!”
First successful prosecution from private video after the new passing distance laws were introduced in NSW
“There was a 70 kph speed limit in effect at this location and time in 2016. The driver decided to give me a scare with a close pass. The measurements taken off the 40 kph school zone sign in the lane show the driver gave me 0.5m instead of the required 1.5m.
“He was issued with three demerit points and a $335 dollar fine. His excuse to the police officer was ‘I was having a bad day.’
Really close shave by QCIVIL truck
“Our group, consisting of adults and young kids training, had split into two with me on the camera just in the middle of the two groups. On the back of the front group is my 13-year-old son. The truck passed extremely close to the group behind but unfortunately my SD card in my Fly6 was corrupted and didn’t catch the rear footage.
“It scared the bejesus out of me as he passed and I watched in horror at how close he went past my son who, as seen in the footage, got sucked in as the truck went past at 80 kph. The rear group had an off-duty policeman in it and we were very quickly helped by Queensland Police to take action.”
Left turn from the right lane
“This driver had the choice to line up behind at the traffic lights and do this right, but chose to go the dangerous path. Police action ensued, infringement notice issued.”
“We were participating in a local Sunday race. Three of us were off the back of the group and had just gone up a slight rise and down the other side. The road was narrow and twisty, so no chance for anyone to overtake safely. After the road straightened out we all moved left as best we could.
“The first car went safely by, but this clown decided to teach us a lesson for making him drive slowly for a minute! If you look at the front footage, you’ll note it’s a bit dusty. He actually put two wheels in the dirt after passing to kick up dust and stones …
“One of our club members is a cop, so I took the footage to him, made a statement and bingo! $365 and two demerit points (added to his already accumulated nine points!)”
Do you ride with cameras mounted to your bike? If so, what prompted you to do so? And have you ever had to use the footage?
Side Bar: What’s the footage good for?
No matter how great these products are, does recording your ride actually achieve anything in the event of an incident? Lawyer (and cyclist), Megan M. Hottman, aka, the Cyclist-Lawyer, provides her take. In short, she’s a huge proponent for riding with recording devices.
“I’ll start by telling a story of a current client who was out riding gravel roads to avoid cars. A woman playing with her dog throwing the ball was nearby and sure enough – the dog ran right into his front wheel and took him out. He suspects a torn labrum in his hip (having been through this on the other hip when hit by a car a few years back) and if not for that video, he would have nowhere to go from here. There would be no case. Instead, he got the woman’s homeowner insurance info, and with that video coverage, we now have a clear cut ‘dog at large’ case to file against the dog owner’s insurer.
“There are other cases where motorists hit a cyclist from behind and without that footage the cyclist would have no means of pursuing a driver who fled the scene. The video footage and its power cannot be emphasized enough. But a cautionary tale – it catches the entire episode. If the cyclist first threw something at a car or threw up a middle finger or somehow fanned the flames prior to the event in question, the entire episode will be on film. So it catches the good and bad. This does help cyclists and motorists behave – drivers are beginning to recognize those devices as cameras and I believe it’s changing their behavior for the better. Cyclists are riding more respectfully and lawfully knowing their conduct will be captured on their own device.
“Most law enforcement offices I’ve talked with say this evidence is hugely helpful to them in their collision investigation so long as footage does show the face of the driver. Of course, any other info like the car make/model/plates and the location, timestamps, etc all play a role in the investigation as well. But imagine a collision with no witnesses and a cyclist who is knocked unconscious… the video can be so powerful. It can make the case. I have seen judges sit up and really take notice when a video is played at a driver’s sentencing. I see district attorneys feel more inclined to take the case against the driver to trial versus to offer a plea deal. The footage matters. It is powerful.
“Bottom line: I recommend everyone who rides bikes on roads ride with a camera. If you have to choose just one, use a rear-facing one as that’s the time you’re most likely to have a hit and run scenario.”