As the small cameras become more affordable and more readily available with more makers entering the market, more and more cyclists are hitting the record button before hitting the road. Wesley High ordered a small keychain camera off of eBay before he bought his Contour Roam in November 2011, following six months of daily commuting and breaking the first camera.
“I’d have an incident where some person would do something stupid, or malicious, and I would sometimes get into a verbal altercation with them, and sometimes not, and just be really angry that there was no way to prove that anything happened,” says High.
The month before getting his camera, the first anti-harassment ordinance established to protect cyclists became law in Los Angeles. The ordinance recognized “That harassment of bicyclists on the basis of their status as bicyclists exists in the City of Los Angeles,” and that current laws did not provide enough protection or recourse to cyclists, harassment endangered cyclists, and that people had the right to ride safely in the street without such endangerment. The law made it possible for drivers to be sued in civil court for treble (triple) damages—but it’s tough to make the charge stick in a he said, she said environment.
“In many instances, the only witnesses to an incident are the parties actually involved,” says Commander Fletcher. “Video recording may provide a valuable piece of evidence above and beyond the testimony of involved parties.”
This legitimate rationale in combination with the potential legal repercussions unsafe drivers faced has prompted many more urban commuters to arm themselves with their own digital witness. Like High, Pittsburgh cyclist Amy Super strapped a camera to her helmet shortly after the passage of another law was enacted to protect cyclists. Within a year of Pennsylvania’s Governor Corbett signed the Safe Passing Bill into law, Super had submitted footage of a driver who had repeatedly harassed her without recourse.
“When the incidents started, I did not have a