helmet cam,” reports Super. “I documented the dates and times and description of the truck the first three times. The fourth time and fifth time, I caught it on my new helmet cam. On the last video, you can actually see him swerve in towards me, and then back away toward the yellow line after passing me, despite the fact that cars in front of him passed me safely, and the ones behind him did too.”
Finally there was more than just her own verbal accounts and mounting frustration that could be taken to the police, who took a greater interest in the complaint once Super offered video footage. Filed on the weekend, the police had contacted the driver and issued him a warning by Monday.
“It’s my opinion that it would have been pursued either way, but that the footage helped the police really do due diligence with my complaint,” she says. Based on the footage, the detective working on the case told Super she has grounds to press charges for harassment, and possibly Reckless Endangerment of a Person if the driver was problematic in any way. Super chose not to press charges, partly because the driver lives in her neighborhood, but still considers the exchange a success.
“I haven’t seen the truck at all in almost a year despite biking that road pretty much every single day,” she says, adding that her helmet cam is always there with her.
Another Pittsburgh cyclist has taken his footage even further, into the courthouse. Since getting fed up with drivers yelling, swerving, and throwing things at him, Andy Booth has presented video evidence that has twice led to the prosecution of drivers who exercised poor judgement while the camera was running.
“[The video] showed me proceeding home on my commute and riding in the center of the right lane, and it showed as I crossed through an intersection and continued down Washington Road,” tells Booth, describing the scene that eventually came under review in court, in which a pickup truck came uncomfortably close. “He came up close behind me and then he passed me and swerved back in front of me very close, within a foot.”
Even though Booth read aloud the truck’s license plate number to ensure he could reference it later, it turned out the HD camera was efficient at capturing a clear image of the vital information. And while the driver made his best attempt at arming himself with his interpretation of the law, by highlighting sections of the state vehicle code that he thought entitled him to act as he had, he was nonetheless found guilty of violating the safe passing law, and received a fine in addition to several points on his license.
In the two years that he has filmed his weekday 15-mile commute High has been fortunate to avoid any collisions, and although he submitted one of his videos of a driver performing what is know as a “punishment pass” for review to a bike attorney and the city’s LAPD bike liason, neither thought it would hold up in court. That hasn’t stopped him from posting videos of what he sees on his commute. High’s YouTube channel, Weshigh, includes more than 70 videos, mostly of drivers performing careless or hostile maneuvers.
While none of his footage has led to any drivers being cited for a violation, it has had several positive impacts, most notably an educational opportunity brought about by a Los Angeles sheriff who pulls into the lane with High and insists that he ride to the right of the sharrows, rather than in the center of the lane. The video, in which Sheriff Teufel demonstrated that not every law enforcement officer is up on the rules of the road when it comes to cyclists, made its way to the local news broadcast, noting that sharrows are not part of the California Vehicle Code and bringing to light the fact that not everyone on the road knows what those markings mean.
Other instances of educational helmet cam videos include one in which High records an interaction with a valet employee who isn’t concerned with keeping the company’s sandwich signs out of a high-use bike lane; another by Booth catches the employee of a car dealership cutting off a cyclist while entering the car lot. In Calgary one truck driver lost his job after yelling at one of the NiceGuysYYC couriers while his camera was running. A common practice among cyclists posting videos on YouTube is listing the license plate number in the title so that it is searchable for others who may have a problem with the same driver.
“Video evidence can be so compelling,” says Zisson. “With YouTube and Twitter as a way of getting it out to other people, they can highlight any sort of injustice that’s going on,” says Zisson. “It’s a very powerful tool.”