April 6th, 2012 by Cynthia Shahan
Bicyclist Visibility & a Flashy Bike Helmet
One afternoon as I loaded my bike on the front of a bus I noticed a young man ride up behind me. I sat down on the bus happy to see another cyclist using integrated transit as I was. This is rare in the Florida city where I live. There is only a small niche of bicyclists who ride faithfully to work and elsewhere. This small Florida city is overrun with cars, like most of Florida. Cyclists are often invisible to others in the transit system. The cyclist’s experience is one of being marginalized. This Florida city is unlike European cities and our progressive northwestern cities and university cities where a cyclist is seen, even expected, as part of a lively landscape of changing participants in transit. In this city, a helmet like that above (with spinning LED lights on top) might help protect often invisible cyclists.
In the lesser educated viewpoint (note: I don’t mean academically educated), there is somewhat of a hidden stigma to riding a bike as opposed to driving, and certainly to owning a new car. This is definitely an issue we seek to change in Florida. In my perspective, the time of imaging one’s ego with a car is giving way to a less pretentious, a more conscientious imaging or self, and a more environmentally involved individual. I may be thinking idealistically, but I believe (and hope) it is actually a keen observation of the cultural anthropologist in me.
Even after living here for three decades, perhaps I am still being a ‘Yankee’ on some levels. My experience in the town that I live in is that there is a lead ceiling regarding transit in Florida. In fact, there is a lead ceiling regarding common sense, in my experience. Think of what a community could do with all the money that is spent on rather idiotic things. Honestly. People supporting annihilation of true beauty are missing the point of life. Meanwhile, 1200 children are homeless in this city and only a few of us even know or acknowledge this. Everything is connected. But getting back to my story….
The young man sat across from me on the bus, smiled, and offered his story to me. “I have a video camera in my helmet now.” I looked on quizzically. He continued: “Next time I get blamed for an accident that I did not cause I will have proof.” He was young, healthy, and vibrant. The young cyclist went on to tell me of several accidents in which he was blamed wrongfully. I found out this is not individual to this young man. It is the woe of many a cyclist, as noted by Laura Laker in a couple of recent Guardian articles.
Bike Helmet Video Cameras Storytelling
Laura gives us a good list of bike video cameras to consider. “We all have those moments where something happens and we wish we had a camera. This is as true on the road as anywhere else. Many cyclists now use helmet cams to record their journeys, good and bad, and in the past month several have even helped convict dangerous drivers.”
In a related article by Laker, one finds that even with video this is difficult. “The police do not necessarily take one seriously.” But one hopes that eventually the evidence is the evidence. Let’s take a quick look at the Guardian’s report of road rage caught on video for how different a story can be with a bike helmet video camera….
From that piece, vindicated cyclist Porter said: “Obviously Scott Lomas would not have been convicted if I had not had my helmet camera. It was, however, a real difficulty getting the police to take it seriously.”
From another story in the piece: “The Birmingham cyclist Rob Styles was riding home in August last year when a driver pulled up alongside him as he tried to join a right-hand filter lane. Styles said: ‘I saw the driver coming along from behind, already shouting. He then pulled up on the inside of me, mounting the pavement and got out of the car, shouting. There was no build-up, no pre-cursor, it just happened.'”
Styles added: “Despite having a very clear admission from Lomas on camera, the police who first reviewed the evidence thought it was unimportant and claimed there was insufficient evidence.”
With helmet cams one can simply record one’s ride. Many cyclists are also finding support with video as evidence of innocence and protection from harassment, marginalization, and blame. So, what helmet cams are on the market?
Cameras for your Helmet
Continuing is a list of cameras that Laura Laker suggests:
GoPro HD Hero 2 (Outdoor Edition) 1080p (pixels)
£299 from Action Cameras
Marketed as a professional extreme-sports camera, GoPro’s Outdoor Edition captures stills and video, has waterproof housing (to 60m!), strap fittings for helmets and your head, adhesive mounts and even an Inspector Gadget-like pivot arm for mounting the camera on to awkwardly angled objects.
£269.99 from Action Cameras
Also marketed for extreme sports, the Drift has a wireless remote and LCD screen for viewing footage before and after you capture it. It captures still and video, and is water-resistant for things like rain showers and momentary submersion if you take an accidental dip. (Full waterproof housing is sold separately.)
£129.95 from DogCam, including 4gb Micro SD card
An altogether different animal from the first two cameras, the DogCam is a stripped-down, compact, lightweight – and less expensive – offering, designed for city cycling. It has just 720 pixels as opposed to the other cameras’ 1080p, and a 135-degree lens angle where the other two offer 170 degrees. Captures video only.
For more of Lakers comments on her likes and dislikes of these cameras, read her Guardian piece on them.
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