Cyclists were the first British road users to use action cams to record their encounters with other road users, and we’ve all seen terrifying footage of Russian road lunacy. Now it seems British drivers are picking up dash-cams in a bid to prove that everyone else on the road is a menace — and especially cyclists.
According to Paul Gallagher and Rachael Kitson in the Independent, sales of dash-board mounted cameras are booming as drivers seek to record evidence of altercations with cyclists and other road users.
Halfords saw a 150 percent increase in sales of dash-cams over Christmas, though it’s estimated that only 3 percent of drivers are using one. A spokesman for Electronics website Digi4u said: "The product is particularly popular among taxi drivers who use it to monitor their on-call drives and use the video as evidence in insurance claims in case of an accident."
And despite the Independent’s initial comment that drivers are using cams to monitor cyclists, it seems that other drivers and insurance are bigger concerns.
Halfords in-car technology manager Alec James said: "Following an incident people are often reluctant to admit guilt and risk losing their no-claims discount. In addition, the surge in fraudulent 'crash for cash' claims is causing genuine concern among innocent drivers. The range of recording devices we now offer means that we can provide drivers with the means to produce evidence."
The police are quite keen on the idea too. Paul Marshall, Suffolk's deputy chief constable, said: "Increasing use is being made by the public of digital cameras to record evidence of offences which can be used by the police to support prosecutions. This is welcomed by Association of Chief Police Officers as quite often the only evidence available is an eyewitness account which is disputed by the alleged offender."
Our tame freelance motoring journo, Jamie Fretwell can see why drivers might want to be using dash-cams though. He said: “Cyclists and motorists have to share Britain's roads, and perhaps drivers have seen an increasing number of cyclists armed with helmet cameras and decided to play them at their own game.
“The only cyclists who will complain about motorists filming them are those who are jumping red lights or breaking the rules of the road. Those who have nothing to hide needn't worry about being filmed.“
So can we expect lots of video evidence helping police nail bad drivers and erven bad cyclists? Drivers relying on dash-cam footage might be in for frustration and disappointment if the experiences of cyclists with helmet cam evidence are anything to go by.
At the end of last week, Chi Yong La was told by the Metropolitan Police that they planned to take no action against the moped rider who allegedly attempted to kick Chi off his bike on January 16, even though Chi had clear helmetcam footage of the incident. Police said a “lack of independent witnesses” meant there was no “realistic prospect of achieving a successful prosecution”.
The police have as yet taken no action against the passenger of a white Audi who appears to have pushed a rider off his bike in Farringdon two weeks ago. Helmetcam footage of the incident from a witness clearly shows the car’s registration, and the rider involved has made a complaint, but a police spokesman said no arrest has been made.
In 2010, the authorities declined to take action against a driver caught on camera threatening to kill cyclist Martin Porter. Martin is also a senior lawyer who blogs as the Cycling Silk, but it nevertheless took two formal complaints about the handling of the incident before a prosecution occurred. The driver, Scott Lomas, was fined £250 and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge as well as costs of £300 after pleading guilty to the offence of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.