Cycling is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, not only for form of fun or exercise, but as a less expensive and more environmentally conscious way to commute to work. According to one statistic, in the 20 years between 1990 and 2009, bike commuting in the US rose by 64%.
However, while cycling is becoming increasingly popular, drivers often stereotype cyclists as angry and irresponsible. There is some truth to this belief – cyclists often yell at drivers who com too close, bang on their hood, or zoom around cars in traffic – but it is equally true that drivers also yell at cyclists, come too close, or put everyone on the road in dangerous situations with reckless or distracted driving. A report from the United Kingdom showed that many drivers believe cyclists should not be on the road, because drivers could not empathize with non-drivers. There was also a belief that cyclists were selfish for going slowly and not moving out of the way, even if the road was too dangerous or narrow for the motorist to pass.
Cyclists need protection from aggressive drivers, and until recently, this protect consisted of only lights, reflective gear, helmets, and hand-signals. When accidents happened, it was a battle of he-said-she-said. When cars hit cyclists, even if no one was seriously injured, cyclists rarely remembered the license plate number or make and model of the vehicle, and drivers never stuck around to exchange insurance information. And bikes have no identifying plate numbers, so drivers had no recourse against unsafe bikers.
A new trend in bicycle safety is emerging. Small cameras attached to bike helmets, or worn on a cyclist’s head, can capture the entire accident in a clear digital format, which helps prove who was at fault, and even who was involved.
Evan Wilder, a cyclist highlighted in a New York Times article recently, used his helmet camera to catch the dangerous driver who hit him while he was commuting to work. Mr. Wilder was able to look through the footage of his accident frame by frame, and found a clear picture of the car’s license plate number. The driver was charged with leaving the scene of an accident.
Mr. Wilder says that the camera is not just a good deterrent for drivers – it helps him make safer choices, too. “I know my actions before and after some event are going to be recorded if I’m the one being a jerk,” he told the Times.
Gary Souza, also interviewed by the NY Times, used his camera to ward off a physical altercation. Mr. Souza had crossed in front of a car to make a turn, and the driver got out of his car to confront the cyclist. Instead of yelling back, Souza pointed to his helmet camera. “I said, ‘Don’t be stupid,’ … He quickly ran back to his car. I’m certain I avoided a couple blows.”
In an interview with the Fraser Coast Chronicle, Jan Swanepoel says he uses his helmet camera like a form of insurance – “you get it but you hope you never have to use it.”
“The other day I had a truck passing me and he just started coming closer and closer and almost ran me off the road,” he said.
The tiny cameras were originally marketed for skiers, snowboarders, kayakers, BMX bikers – anyone who wanted to document their extreme sport. But, as the cost of the cameras falls below $200, more and more cyclists are able to afford them, and use them to not only capture a beautiful view of their city, but to keep themselves safe.
David Behroozi, quoted on the Cascade Bicycle Club’s blog, says, ““They are great to use as a black box for evidence.”
The cameras have so far proven very useful for general road safety. Not only are cyclists assured they have legal recourse, but their own aggressive behaviors will be equally recorded, and therefore they make safer decisions. Perhaps, with this unbiased digital third party, the war between cyclists and drivers will come to a peaceful resolution.
If you are unsure of your rights, as a driver, pedestrian, or cyclist, and you have been injured in an accident, the experienced lawyers at Strom Law, LLC, can help. Please contact us for a free consultation. 803.252.4800.