The footage ? all too typical of what urban cyclists regularly see ? has helped convict dangerous drivers
We all have those moments where something happens and we wish we had a camera. This is as true on the road as anywhere else. Many cyclists now use helmet cams to record their journeys, good and bad, and in the past month several have even helped convict dangerous drivers.
The Birmingham cyclist Rob Styles was riding home in August last year, when a driver pulled up alongside him as he tried to join a right-hand filter lane.
Styles said: "I saw the driver coming along from behind, already shouting. He then pulled up on the inside of me, mounting the pavement and got out of the car, shouting. There was no build-up, no pre-cursor, it just happened."
Styles added: "The driver's explanation to the police is that I was 'in the way, blocking the road'. As the police pointed out to him, that's not how people should drive."
Local police approached Styles after seeing the clip on YouTube. All Styles did was "give a statement and hand the police the footage". The driver pleaded guilty in January to a public order offence. (the YouTube footage was taken down, possibly because of the swearing, but the footage is still online.)
In November 2010, the barrister Martin Porter was cycling to work in south London when a driver unleashed a barrage of abuse, which culminated in the driver threatening to kill him.
Despite the evidence, the investigating officer initially decided no further action would be taken, before Porter made complaints to senior officers. On 18th January Scott Lomas was finally convicted, on a plea of guilty, to a public order offence.
Porter said: "Obviously Scott Lomas would not have been convicted if I had not had my helmet camera. It was, however, a real difficulty getting the police to take it seriously."
He added: "Despite having a very clear admission from Lomas on camera, the police who first reviewed the evidence thought it was unimportant and claimed there was insufficient evidence."
Simon Castle of the Metropolitan Police Cycle Taskforce says the police treat such cases seriously. Taskforce officers also use helmet cams.
In some cases, he added, it is not possible to identify those responsible as often cameras are forward facing, while most danger for cyclists comes from behind.
He said although cameras are not considered as good as an independent witness, they are are helpful when there is a dispute between two parties about what happened.
Castle said: "They are helpful in convictions in that people plead guilty rather than trying it on, so to speak, so we have certainly reduced a lot of time at court."
Porter said road rage against cyclists is a lot higher than many realise, given the volume of footage on YouTube and the minority who use cycle cams. His advice for victims of road rage is to report it and where appropriate insist on a prosecution.
These clips are all too typical of what urban cyclists regularly see and experience. A recent Australian study analysing cycle cam footage showed that drivers were responsible for 87% of accidents or near-misses with cyclists, mainly due to lack of driver awareness. In a week where polls show large numbers of people believe cycling in urban areas is too dangerous, sadly the footage demonstrates why.
What such footage can do, however, is bring to book some of those who make our roads dangerous.