When a car and a bike collide, there’s often little cyclists can do. On average, two cyclists die each day in bike-motorist collisions, and in most areas, bike infrastructure is woefully minimal. We live in a car-centric culture where bikes aren’t seen as just another mode for commute or exercise but as a nuisance on our roadways.
Some drivers take it upon themselves to warn, scare, or downright assault bike riders who interrupt their day. When contacting police about this kind of behavior, it’s often been the cyclist’s word against the driver’s. And without hard evidence, that cyclist’s word has often proved worthless. But a growing number of cyclists are arming themselves with a powerful tool that gives them a voice in the fight against aggressive drivers: Devices like the Cycliq Fly6 and Fly12 are some of the most valuable investments a cyclist of any caliber can make for her bike.
The Fly6 and Fly12 are bicycle lights with built-in HD cameras for capturing a wide-angle scene in front of and behind your bike. The $139 Fly6 captures the rear view for up to six hours; the more expensive (and feature-filled) $299 Fly12 illuminates and records the front for up to 10 hours.
Cycliq co-founder Kingsley Fiegert decided to create the Fly6 after going on a ride with his son. Someone in a passing car shot Fiegert in the backside with a ball bearing fired from a slingshot. Injured and angry, he thought a rear-facing camera could help in the future, but with little space available on most bikes and a light also being a critical bike-safety component, he decided to integrate the two in a combination light and rear-facing camera.
They’re not perfect—many complain that the quality of the Fly6 isn’t high enough for capturing license plates—but they, and similar cameras, are certainly better than no camera at all. Cycliq reported record sales in September. GoPro, another popular option for recording cycling activities, could be wise to steer this direction too. A new entry-level GoPro model from the company announced for 2018 may increase how many land on bicycles, too: Cyclists could pair them with lights they already own.
And a handful of recent driver-cyclist collisions illustrate how important this type of evidence can be. Without a camera, you’re relying on eyewitness testimony in the case of an incident. With evidence from a camera, you can speed up the investigation process and actually send an accused criminal to jail, even if you’re riding on a remote road.
Take, for example, one September incident: A car rammed into a group of cyclists at the Jensie Gran Fondo, a popular event that draws thousands of avid bike riders to San Francisco’s North Bay. Four were injured, including one with major injuries who was helicoptered to an area hospital. While none of the cyclists were armed with onboard cameras, they lucked out: A nearby motorcyclist was and captured some shots of the vehicle that were eventually used to rally the community to find the driver. He was subsequently identified and apprehended.
For many hit-and-runs, there are no additional witnesses. In cases like these, police have historically sided with the driver rather than the cyclist, even when evidence points to the contrary. (In many European countries, this isn’t so: The law assumes a driver is at fault unless the driver can provide evidence that wasn’t the case.)
Armed with an onboard camera, though, you can capture the make and model of a vehicle and the assailants—as this woman did when she was apparently assaulted by three men driving over 50 miles per hour. Often, even if the video quality isn’t great, it’s enough that law enforcement can piece together who the driver is.
“I had something very similar happen to me when I was boarding home last year,” one Redditor said in response to the above video. The rider had high-quality GoPro footage of the incident, but unfortunately, due to motion blur, you could only make out three or four license plate characters. “Luckily, 3 characters was all the detective assigned to my case needed,” the Redditor wrote in his post. “Within 2 hours he had tracked down the car and all three of the people in the car.”
Video footage has also made an incredibly useful tool possible: the Close Call Database, a repository of driver-cyclist incidents with vehicle information. With the Close Call Database, cyclists armed with cameras can start to identify repeat offenders—and show authorities what a pervasive problem aggressive drivers are.
As more of this video evidence crops up in the news, hopefully it will start to change public opinion on driver-cyclist collisions. And with the help of online forums like the Close Call Database and law enforcement, video evidence can also start to take aggressive drivers off the road.