cycliq

A Close Call -The Importance of Bike Cameras

Gerry.jpg

“Education and awareness are always the way to go and the results can be most rewarding for all. I hope this helps everyone become better bike ambassadors on the roads, paths and trails.”

Guest Post by Gerry Stephenson – Cyclist, Commuter, and Bike Ambassador

*Gerry uses the Cycliq front and back bike cameras.

Hi, my name is Gerry and I have been cycling since 2001. Presently, I commute to and from work about eight to nine months a year and have been doing so the last four to five years. My route varies from 10-12 miles and includes both road and bike paths. When I ride, I always try to be a safe rider and educate others when it makes sense.

While commuting home on June 29th, 2018, I was riding north on a neighborhood street approaching a T-intersection. It was late afternoon; traffic was very light. I noticed a car and a fire truck preparing to come on the road behind me. The car passed with plenty of room before the intersection and my impending right turn. However, to my surprise, the fire truck driver decided that they had enough room to pass me only to turn right in front of me with clearly not enough space. I had to brake hard to avoid being hit. It should be noted that the fire truck had no flashing lights or sirens on at the time.  

Footage captured from Gerry’s Cycliq bike camera.

Footage captured from Gerry’s Cycliq bike camera.

I did not attempt to confront the driver or squeeze in to the right of the truck. I did swear and was very upset at this close call. Knowing that I had this entire incident recorded with my Cycliq bike cameras (front and rear mounted cameras), I chose to wait until I got home and review the video and decide what to do. Cooler heads always prevail, and my focus is always on educating others, be it drivers or cyclists, in times like these. After reviewing the video, it was very clear that the fireman was at fault for not allowing me the three-foot rule, and I felt that they did not realize the actual size of the vehicle they were driving.

I emailed the fire department and very politely explained what had happened and included the video of the close call. I never once mentioned that I wanted the driver of the fire truck reprimanded or charged. What I asked for was an apology, and that this video be used to show and teach the department to be mindful of cyclists. Later that evening or possibly the next day, I received an email from the fire department apologizing and promising to add this video footage to their department training. This incident was reported by the liaison to the fire department commander as well.

First response from the fire department’s liaison:

“Hi Gerry,

First let me send you my apologies for the incident with our department, I have notified the Lieutenant and Battalion Chief on duty the day of your incident and the Chief of Staff is aware and corrective actions will be taken.

I will make sure the Chief gets your video and we will be sure to use it as a training piece in our driver/operator program so this never happens again.”

 Second email from the liaison:

“I believe a lesson learned/corrective action is being written, then it will go to the whole Department, then I believe the Fire Chief will send it to you.”

My Email:

“Hi, I truly appreciate your timely response and apology. I try my best to be very viable and obey all the rules of the road while cycling and all I ask in return is that all drivers do the same. So that you know I have a great contact for training in the matters of cycling and traffic laws. Her name is Megan Hottman; she is a lawyer that helps educate everyone on the laws of Colorado. She has done many classes all over the state for law enforcement and the cycling community. If you are interested I can put you in contact with her. Thank you again.”

 A couple of weeks later, I received another email confirming that the fire department had in fact updated their training for the entire department and would be sharing this training with other towns.

“Here is the ‘Lessons Learned’ that was made from your incident. It has been made required training for all crews on our department and was reviewed by all the command staff.”

The following is an excerpt from ‘Lessons Learned’:

Background: In June, a fire truck was responding non-emergent to a commercial fire alarm in a neighboring district. While proceeding northbound on Main, fire truck passed a bicyclist as both were approaching a T intersection. Fire truck Engineer determined that, at the current speed, he could safely pass the bicyclist, and proceeded to do so. The pass and lane change were made into the right turn lane. Upon review of the video provided from the cyclist perspective, it appears that clearance was closer than intended.

Generic Corrective Actions:

1. A general review of the Colorado state laws regarding passing of a cyclist.

§ 42-4-1003. Overtaking a vehicle on the left

1. The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to the limitations, exceptions, and special rules stated in this section and sections 42-4-1004 to 42-4- 1008:

a. The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the vehicle at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle

b. The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the bicyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver's vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.

c. Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of the driver's vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

2. Be diligent in making sure that the perspective and safety of the cyclist is given a greater regard.

·      Always be aware of the size of, and space needed for the engine to maneuver.

·      Be sure to maintain constant Situational Awareness (SA) while driving apparatus and avoid becoming complacent about driving responsibilities due to mental focus on the incident the apparatus has been dispatched to.

·      If there is any question as to the safety of a pass, yield to the cyclist, and do not pass.

Note: The name and city of the fire department in this incident have been omitted at their request as well as any public sharing of the video.

Riding with a Camera: ALWAYS a good Idea!

"Typically it's the drivers who hit a cyclist from behind that try to get away from the scene because the cyclist is often not in a position to ID the fleeing driver,” Hottman continues. “Also cars that hit cyclists from behind tend to be traveling at a faster speed, hence the increased need to capture backward-looking footage. Forward footage is good, too, but most cyclists don't have the cash or desire to run two cameras on every ride.”

Check out today's Bicycling Magazine article on this topic! 

http://www.bicycling.com/culture/how-cyclists-can-get-on-bike-video-footage-taken-seriously

 

Where Should I Put My Camera?

We received the following inquiry and figured it presented a perfectly great chance to discuss the topic here on the blog! 


"Megan, we met several times at different lectures - it's always reassuring to know you have cyclists back.  My question is more for my information and if ever needed your benefit.

Concerning riding with a GoPro.  If I have only one camera to use while riding which mounting do you find most useful in court - 1) back view of the bike from the seat post, 2) front view of the bike on the handle bars, or 3) front view of the bike on the rider's helmet?

Also, I'm wondering if you have any feedback on having the camera on the back - will motorists see it there and tend to think twice before pass[sic] the rider?

In this day and age I don't believe you can have enough leverage in a dispute.

Thanks for your time - I hope to never need your services.  Sounds weird." 


Great questions.  First- Allow me to refer you to a previous blog post/article on the topic of camera use by cyclists here. 

Next, let's discuss the placement of the camera if a rider only has one, and cannot place both a front-racing and rear-facing camera.  (Because yes, two cameras can be quite expensive!). 

There is no truly right or wrong answer to this question, it's more a strategic decision by the rider.  Based on our firm's caseload over the years, the vast majority of cases we handle are of three types (which also jive with the state and national bike crash stats):

1- motorist makes left turn directly in front of/into the oncoming cyclist (failure to yield on left turn);

2- motorist makes right turn from a position parallel to the cyclist, either into the bike or directly in front of the cyclist (right hook); or

3- motorist strikes cyclist from behind/side swipes cyclist from behind (does not allow proper passing distance/3 feet/fails to see cyclist at all/impaired/distracted driving).  

Based on our specific expereinces and the facts of our clients' collisions, I would say the injuries caused to the cyclists struck from behind or are side-swiped, tend to be the most severe.  (Not always mind you, but in general, because the motorist is typically at speed at the time of the collision).  

Therefore, I would recommend if a cyclist has only one camera, to mount it backwards-facing.  This also increases the chances of a good shot of the car, license plate, and most importantly -the face of the driver.  Camera footage does not provide the cyclist means of recourse if the driver cannot be identified.  It is critical that wherever the camera is mounted, and whatever camera the cyclist chooses, that the footage or images be clear enough to show the person behind the wheel of the car.  Otherwise law enforcement often cannot use the video to file charges- as the car owner can claim "someone else was driving my car." 

I do believe that motorists who see a camera on the bike behave differently/better than in instances where there is no camera (this is based purely on my own observations while riding with a GoPro camera).  Any time a motorist may realize they will be held accoutable for their actions, it logically follows that they think twice before behaving badly.  

Additionally, consider that often times the cyclist is able to whip out their cell phone to capture forward-facing or still shots.  Many cyclists now ride with their smartphone mounted to their bars, or I think it's safe to say all cyclists have a smartphone in their back pocket or bag.  Capturing rear-facing footage on the fly is nearly impossible, however.  

A camera we like for rear-facing footage with a light, is the Cycliq Rear Bike Camera with light.  

Check out also, the Garmin Varia, which alerts cars approaching from behind of the presence of the bike and also tells the cyclist the speed/relative threat of the approaching car by syncing with the rider's bike computer. 

A third product we recently learned about, which promises to eventually include turn signal options for a rider who is using a smartphone, is Cobi.  (It won't surprise us if this very soon includes recording/camera options also).

And of course the tried-and-true brand, GoPro, offers many bike camera options and its app is user-friendly and the entire system is easy to setup and to use! 

In general though, any footage is better than none, and any data is better than no data.  Often times video footage combined with Garmin or Strava/similar data, can really help a cyclist who was riding lawfully and is struck by a vehicle.  

This is a great time to ask Santa to bring you a bike camera and some new bright bike lights too!