I live in the suburban wasteland of North Austin where I have been a commuter cyclist for the last 12 years, and car free for the last 9 years. While there is some cycling infrastructure in this area, there are also a lot of high speed arterial roads and plenty of impatient distracted drivers. I was hit and run on about 10 years ago, and I have experienced a number of very near misses – some of which I am convinced were deliberate. (Shouldn’t we call these ‘near hits’ instead, since they involve nearly getting hit?)
I was first introduced to the idea of helmet cameras by my son, who always wears one when he rides his motorcycle. In his case it was for recording exciting high speed rides out in the Texas Hill Country. Fortunately, one day he hit a patch of gravel and burned off some skin and damaged his bike. I say fortunately, because he grew out of being reckless that day and is still alive to talk about it. At the time there weren’t many choices other than action cameras, but I came across a kickstarter for a cycling specific camera made by Rideye. I purchased one, but it did not work reliably and died prematurely. The company that made these cameras seems to have disappeared.
One morning on the ride to work I was run off the road by a gravel truck driver coming at me from behind. He swerved out of my lane at the last second as I hit the ditch. There were no other vehicles on the four lane road we could have been sharing, and I am convinced that this was a deliberate assault. On the way home from work I stopped at my Local Bike Shop and picked up a Cycliq Fly 6.
I have now gone through a number of Cycliq cameras. They work really well – just long enough for me to leave five star reviews, but then fizzle and die after about 6 months and become very expensive paper weights. I have been looking for a replacement, and I am considering the YI 4k, but nothing really jumps out as being a great solution.
We need reliable and inexpensive safety cameras. Here’s what I think would be good criteria for cycling specific safety cameras:
- Must be rechargeable, and the battery must be replaceable.
- Looping overwrite feature is critical.
- Small, light, streamlined (not shaped like a box), and waterproof.
- High resolution like the YI 4k reportedly has.
- Keeps recording for 15 minutes after an impact and locks the files so they cannot be overwritten.
- Front and rear interchangeable.
- Turns images right way up no matter how they are mounted.
- Easy to mount with a quick release like the Cycliq CE, but includes adapter to fit GoPro stuff.
- Under $75, including SD card, battery, and mounting system, with at least a 2 year warranty and real customer service based in the same hemisphere where most people will use it.
- Keep it simple. No extra frills such as alarms, lights, etc. Fool proof on and off. It’s not a toy or something to use to admire yourself for passing your ex-wife’s new boyfriend in a triathlon. It’s for gathering evidence, so that when that evidence is needed you won’t mind having to plug it into a computer with a USB cable. (OK, I get how having the video immediately accessible on a smart phone might be useful to show to law enforcement right on the spot.)
And none of this requires anything new to be invented!
We have to get more people using cameras and filing incident reports, but it seems like we are in a Catch -22. I suspect that most of us using (spending a lot of money on) safety cameras are already pretty good cyclists with lots of experience and knowledge about being visible and how to take the lane etc. We are less likely to need to report incidents than inexperienced cyclists who are also not going to drop nearly $300 on a Cycliq Fly 12. Not that experienced cyclists don’t encounter bad drivers sometimes, but my guess is that overall we don’t have as many close calls to record. And to get the outcomes we want, we need to gather a lot more data.
We need more safety camera choices!