Bike-cams Help Catch Hit-and-Run Drivers

As many of you know I’ve ridden cycles most of my life including racing, commuting every day in large cities and long tours. It wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco that I personally experienced a hit-and-run accident.

A van exceeding the speed-limit crossed the white line, side-swiped me and knocked me over. It amazed me that despite many people standing nearby watching traffic no one could describe anything other than a white van. I was hit at the corner of Pacific and Hyde where people were waiting at the bus stop, sitting outside at the cafe, standing on the corner waiting to cross…plenty of witnesses but no help. In fact, they just stood and watched while I picked myself up, checked my bleeding injuries and moved my bike off the street.

StreetView on Google, strangely enough, shows a white van speeding away from the scene where I was hit.

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The NYT writes that this risk equation is changing with use of cameras on bicycles.

“It’s a fact of life that on American roads that you get punked, cut off purposely, harassed, not once but on a regular basis,” said Bob Mionske, a former Olympic cyclist who is now a lawyer representing bicyclists in Portland, Ore. “If motorists start to hear about bikes having cameras, they’re going to think twice about running you off the road.”

A video by Berkeley cyclists, mentioned in the NYT article, provides a good example of how this can work. At 2:35 a black Acura Integra suddenly side-swipes two cyclists and then speeds away, exactly as it happened to me.

The video, which shows the Integra’s license plate, led police to the owner. The owner then apparently claimed it was stolen at the time of accident.

Of course the police should ask the car owner “do you have video to prove that it was stolen?”

A recent decision on “undisclosed recording” (Maryland v. Graber) suggests “video taping of public events is protected under the First Amendment.”

Here is a year of video by a cyclist, as presented by CNN:

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