Thursday 20 August 2015

Why do I use a helmet camera?

There seems to be some suspicion around helmet camera riders. Indeed it isn't unusual for some to assume we're out looking for a fight, or some kind of trouble, and there has been some to-ing and fro-ing regarding this. 

While I don't really want to get in to the whole 'YOU'RE A VIGILANTE!' or 'YOU'RE A GRASS!' thing because, bluntly, I'm not going to pander to people that stupid, I do want to lay out how and why I use a helmet camera.

I'm a camera nerd - I've got rather more cameras than would be considered strictly necessary. I'm not a compulsive collector by any means but I've got different kinds of film camera, and assorted digital cameras. Photography is one of my passions, and if you really want to here, take a scan through some of my favourite shots.

When it comes down to it, helmet cameras (whether its a Muvi or a GoPro or whatever)  are cool. I mean they're really nifty pieces of technology - recording for hours on end, producing high quality video footage on to a tiny, tiny memory card. They typically have quite wide angle lenses and tremendous depth of field properties - they record images that are crystal clear and sharp as a button. They are amazing things - and I reserve the right to have a nerdgasm over a technology as great as that.

They give us opportunity to record many of the weird and wonderful things we see. But also they afford us a chance to record things that people just wouldn't believe happen on our roads - the things that if we went to tell anyone about before the days of helmet cameras no one believed. In fact I'd go so far as to say that helmet cameras have changed how the Police interact with cyclists - you've now got a chance of meeting a Police officer who's actually aware of the problems we face on the roads, although some are both aware and uncaring. If you've been riding long enough to remember before there were cameras you'll know that previously if you went to the Police with a buckled wheel they'd never believe you if you said a motorist was involved - now, at least, they listen. Its progress, but perhaps not enough. Helmet cam footage has changed the game with regard to getting non-cyclists to accept that there are problems.

But there's also the simple reality that the camera does generate 'evidence'. If confronted with a motorist being absolutely bleeding stupid I'll ask for a quote for the camera - sounds like a crazy thing to do but most often it'll calm the motorist down if they know they're being filmed. Well, maybe not calm them down, but they become cautious about leaving an evidence trail. 

And there are a lot of us with cameras now - so many that I'm pretty sure the word is out among most of the aggressive drivers that we're here and not to be messed with. I get fewer really aggressive incidents on the road when I'm wearing the camera, so much so that I wear it as visibly as I can on top of the helmet. Its a visible deterrent, it says to motorists who may otherwise knowingly be looking for trouble to go and look elsewhere. I don't wear a camera to go looking for trouble - I wear a camera because I'm looking to avoid trouble.

Helmet cameras thus give us multiple routes to defuse potentially dangerous situations, and they're fun. They aren't about being vigilantes or looking for trouble to film - they're a way that we can get feedback about our riding and record what we see out there. And there is nothing wrong with any of that.

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