BBC Breakfast news today ran a report on the use of video cameras by cyclists who increasingly, it seems, view them as a pre-emptive evidence gathering tool, potentially bolstering their case against negligent and/or aggressive motorists.
The report came live from Waterloo station in London and featured footage of an actual crash which sent a rider sprawling across a car bonnet and onto the road in a near head-on collision. Another sickening sequence captured the terror of a rider negotiating a roundabout when a tanker enters from his left and cuts straight across his path, missing him, it seems, by inches and even then only after the rider takes evasive action.
Footage filmed by a third rider, Ben Porter, who was squeezed into the kerb by a van and subsequently banged on the its side only to be threatened by the driver brandishing a wrench, demonstrated that such material can be used in court to secure a conviction. The driver in question was successfully prosecuted, receiving a fine of £300 with costs of £150 as well as five points on his licence.
CTC’s Roger Geffen was interviewed and suggested that helmet- and handlebar-cams are an understandable response to the SMIDSY problem. He attempted to play down the notion of an “us and them,” cyclist-versus-driver dynamic, preferring to stress the need for all road users to treat each other with respect but reminding motorists just who the vulnerable party is.
He also raised the issue of how prosecutions against motorists tend to be for “careless” rather than “dangerous” driving, suggesting that helmet- or handlebar-cam footage could be useful in steering prosecutors towards the latter charge in more cases.
He 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."
Let’s give him the benefit and assume he also meant that more camera-using cyclists around the rest of the UK will equally help other police forces secure convictions. It’s good to hear a police officer taking such a view, and as the price of micro video cameras comes down while picture quality and run-time improve, it seems a safe bet that plenty more of us will be attaching these devices to ourselves and our bikes in future.