More and more people are buying helmet or lipstick video cameras and using them to film all sorts of interesting video footage. This is being fuelled by factors such as low cost cameras, cheap solid state memory, etc.
One of the most interesting uses of this sort of camera to me is that of cyclists using them as CCTV to film all the time they are riding. It's something I myself do, and I have an Oregon Scientific ATC-2000 self-contained camera mounted to my bike for this. It's really easy to operate, at the start of each ride I simply delete the previous footage, and start the camera off, plus regular battery charging. In fairness, cycling is so safe that I hardly ever get any footage of incidents worth keeping, but every once in a while I'll film some bad driving or something else worth taking a look at.
There are quite a few cyclists who have video cameras on their bikes in the group I hang out with, and this has led to loads of funny and interesting YouTube videos.
Why film all the time?
I do this for three main reasons:
The common view is that anyone can ride a bicycle and that it doesn't take much skill. Unfortunately the truth is rather different, and there are quite a few different skillsets involved in good cycling. One is that of integrating properly with other traffic on the roads, which includes things such as road positioning, signalling, negotiating with motor vehicles, etc. There's a lot of skill to proper cyclecraft - just check out the book by John Franklin.
A video camera of your riding is a really useful way of looking at what you did, sometimes on a frame-by-frame basis, and then analysing what went well, and what you might have done better. I've improved my own riding through filming myself and discussing what I did on message boards on the internet, as well as working with videos of other people riding. I'd like to think that quite a few people without cameras have also learnt from these videos.
Even the most innocuous and peaceable cyclist will occasionally get undeserved verbal abuse or even road rage from an ignorant and badly-behaved motorist. Telling them they are on camera almost always stops any further incident from happening. This is the best solution by far, though it might be boring from a Police, Camera, Action point of view.
I also often see people on mobile phones whilst commuting to or from work, and will always make a point of telling them to stop using the phone. For the few that refuse to do so, simply visibly pointing the video camera at them has never yet failed to make them drop the phone instantly.
If the worst should happen and I'm involved in a road traffic accident, then I'd hope the camera would record evidence of the other party's fault. Perhaps it sounds arrogant that I'm almost automatically assuming that someone else would be to blame, but it's not meant that way as it's just the most likely cause. One study of accidents found that out of collisions between a cyclist and a motor vehicle, the cyclist was to blame in only 17% of the collisions, which is certainly borne out by most of the anecdotal accident reports one reads on the internet.
Of course it's always worth remembering that camera use is a double-edged sword, in that it will also record your own mistakes. To me that's just motivation to further improve my own riding.
There seem to be two main mounting options for most people:-
On the handlebars
This gives nice steady footage, but it does force you to point the camera forwards only. This is how my camera is mounted, but I can easily take it off and point it by hand to get views of other directions. This also tends to transmit more vibration through the camera mount, and that trashes the already poor sound pickup of the ATC-2000 camera.
On your helmet
I myself don't wear a helmet when cycling, but this mounting method does have some very good advantages. The camera is much more visible, so it has far more effect on other road users. The camera also looks where you point your head, though that means it doesn't move as much as your eyes do. The disadvantage is that looking around causes very quick changes of view in the video footage, and that can be disconcerting to watch.
I'm very happy to have a video camera filming all my riding. For the most part I don't even think of it whilst riding along. I've been very pleased with the effect it has had on drivers and other road users when they've realised I'm filming them, and with the results from the couple of companies I've written to in the last year. Most of all I'm chuffed with how I've been able to improve my own riding through using video as a tool.
And for anyone doubting the power of one, just one of these commuting videos and a letter of complaint convinced First Bus of Glasgow to take part in the "Give Cyclists Room" campaign thanks to one member of our video group. Click here for the newspaper article, and well done to First Bus.
http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~ijackson/bikecams/ - this is a great example where one cyclist has mounted two cameras, one facing forwards and one facing rearwards on his bike, and combined the videos. He has some telling examples of poor driving on his site.
http://www.actioncameras.co.uk - A good source of information, albeit a helmet camera online shop.
Thomas's ATC helmet cameras site.
I was quite pleased to see that other people have been thinking along the same lines:
Stop Dangerous Driving - http://stopdangerousdriving.wordpress.com/
http://www.betterdrivingplease.com/ - featured on a Road Rage program on the BBC.
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