BBC reports on the rise of the helmet-cam

More riders gathering their own video evidence against bad drivers

by Mark Appleton   February 1, 2011  

Helmet-mounted video camera.JPG

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.

An article associated with the TV report appears on the BBC news website and quotes DCI Nick Chalmers, who runs the Metropolitan Police website RoadSafeLondon.

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.

10 user comments

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I was very disappointed when Bill Turnbull said asked "oh, right, when are we going to be wearing a helmet to do our shopping? Who will we complain to when someone is mean to us there?"

I thought highly of him but his insinuation that filming someone taking the last box of cornflakes is somehow on a level to a road user having their life threatened saddens me.

not all carbon is the same.

Jon Burrage's picture

posted by Jon Burrage [1081 posts]
1st February 2011 - 20:30


Thinking of getting a camera myself and for my wife too


posted by OldRidgeback [2551 posts]
1st February 2011 - 22:42


Why doesn't the article on the BBC web site embed or link to the videos shown on "Breakfast" this morning? I saw the report, and was stuck by the thought that, although these videos don't always lead to prosecutions, as Martin Porter and the bloke almost killed by the lorry at the roundabout in one of the clips have found out, they do render the typical "well, but cyclists run red lights" response utterly untenable. The web site article, lacking this, of course has attracted hundreds of such comments.

Part of the report can be found here. Probably the reason this particular video did lead to a conviction, unlike many others, was because the driver got out of his vehicle and approached the camera. There is nothing like a point-of-view shot, especially of someone who clearly has rage-issues, to elicit sympathy from a judge or jury. It is filmmaking 101. Suddenly the driver becomes the member of an out-group - specifically the troglodytes-with-spanners tribe - not the cyclist. Plus, the moment he stepped out of his vehicle, he ceased to contribute to overall economic activity - commuting or delivering or on his way to consume something - so the cyclist could no longer be perceived as an obstruction to capitalism and thus deserving of scorn, as many people seem to believe.

Of course, the report was by Richard Westcott, the programme's go-to man for human interest dross (his previous two reports were, according to the BBC News search engine, on a school for novice pig farmers, and a visit to the London Ice Sculpting Festival.) So, despite the best efforts of the CTC guy who was interviewed, it didn't exactly probe the issue with getting cases to court, or obtaining satisfactory verdicts or punishments, camera or no camera.

posted by handlebarcam [545 posts]
1st February 2011 - 22:55


Maybe if all the white vans were painted pink or chroma-key green, the drivers' attitude would change. Yes; singular use of 'attitude'---I swear I've talked to the driver featured in the BBC report ... three or four times, since Christmas, in Cambridge.

Kevin Steinhardt's picture

posted by Kevin Steinhardt [30 posts]
2nd February 2011 - 5:44


I've had my brushes with the driver in the white van as well. He's also got a BMW.


posted by OldRidgeback [2551 posts]
2nd February 2011 - 9:30


I've used a helemt camera for over a year, partly in case of an accident or near miss, but partly to capture some of the good stuff on a bike. I would recomend one.

One thing is that if you know you are filming youself, you are less likely to behave badly as you don't want to see that when you play back the footage.
Using it when reporting driving to Roadsafe is good as you don't have to remember the numberplate, or spend ages describing what happened.
I have had an occurance where a driver had commented on a YouTube video of their driving and argued that despite the what was clearly shown, her driving was safe.

The comments below the BBC story are mostly the ill-informed, vitriolic rubbish worthy of a Radio 5 phone-in.

posted by thereverent [351 posts]
2nd February 2011 - 13:04


I use a helmet cam which is either on my helmet or on my handlebars depending on the bike. I feel "naked" now on the bike if I don't take it with me. I am also now considering geting a rear facing camera for the commuter. The helmet cam along is not sufficient to get all the details of incidents at roundabouts and the like.

I have reported the most serious issues and had a good response from the police, the others end up on YouTube in a karma satisfying vent Devil

Aushiker's picture

posted by Aushiker [6 posts]
2nd February 2011 - 15:46


Watch out folks. Jeremy Clarkson just mentioned this report on Top Gear, and used it as an opportunity to slag off cyclists. So thousands of his acolytes will be out on the roads on Monday morning, with blessing from their master to teach pesky, non-road-tax-paying cyclists a lesson. It was a relatively mild attack, by his standards, and, in what was probably a well-rehearsed "conversation", Richard "The Hamster" Hammond (he's not a real hamster) pretended to stand up for cyclists (although he obviously didn't consult with Carlton Reid for notes on how to counter the fatuous road tax argument.) I guess the script writers toned it down a bit because they know cyclists are a larger, more vocal minority than Mexicans in this country.

The good news is that I don't have to watch Top Gear again for a while, as they are unlikely to target the same minority twice in one series.

posted by handlebarcam [545 posts]
6th February 2011 - 21:54


Maybe it was part of a cunning plan to help nail the road tax lie when Top Gear are forced to issue this week's apology - it would certainly get the message across to a lot of people Thinking

Or maybe they're just idiots…

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
6th February 2011 - 22:49


You don't have to watch Top Gear again, ever, or at least until the odious Jeremy Clarkson is given the boot for being an overpaid, big mouth, incapable of spouting anything other than bilious right wing nonsense. He really should work for The Daily Mail, it's his spiritual home. I thought Steve Coogan's reaction to the latest bit of nonsense from the Top Gear team was spot on.


posted by OldRidgeback [2551 posts]
7th February 2011 - 9:42