I apologize if you clicked on the headline expecting a typical clickbait scenario, wherein the stated question leads to an article that doesn’t even address the question, or exists only to rev up outrage that the matter at hand doesn’t necessarily warrant. Because of that widespread nonsense, we rarely use question marks in headlines and (almost) never engage in bullshit clicksturbation tactics—but in this case, the question posed by the title is the topic.
Let me explain.
Last week, thanks to an intro from my pal Uwe, I spent over an hour on the phone with Craig Davis, founder of CyclistVideoEvidence.com, a website created “to empower cyclists with the tools they need to bring transparency and accountability to our legal system.” Cyclists can upload video files to the free “Incident Management System” and search for repeat offenders (assuming the license plate is captured). This hypothetically inherently objective video evidence is used to “establish potential patterns of dangerous driver behavior and generate near miss data to map dangerous locations.”
This was interesting to me for two reasons.
First, years ago, I’d come up with a product concept and done some initial research and revenue modeling for a distributed video collection system which I’ll call The All-Seeing Eyes of CityBike for the purpose of this discussion. There would have been two parts to this system: end user hardware modeled on consumer action cameras of the time—I preferred the form factor of the Contour devices—and (of course) cloud services.
To the Cloud!
Users—motorcyclists, cyclists, potentially drivers as well—would run always-on, looping TASE-CB cameras, and if they observed a violation, for example, another vehicle running a red light, they’d hit a button that would save and lock the previous couple of minutes of footage and some period thereafter, for later upload (to the cloud!) when the camera was connected to a computer. That upload could hypothetically be done wirelessly via a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone, which would simply upload later if a connection wasn’t available at the time, but that part doesn’t really matter.
TASE-CB would contract with law enforcement agencies (revenue generation, yo!), who’d have access to incident footage and information for their jurisdictions and could therefore write tickets based on the footage from what would essentially be an incentivized army of roving red light cameras. TASE-CB users would be paid a bounty based on successful convictions, and the increased likelihood of financial penalties for shitty behavior in a TASE-CB jurisdiction would help improve safety for all road users.
You’re groaning at this point, I’m sure, and that’s why I didn’t go any further with the idea. I’m sure law enforcement agencies would have peed their standard issue patrol pants with glee at the idea of a ticket-writing affiliate program, and I probably could have made millions before selling the company and retiring to a life of gold toilets and early morning Twitter rants. But there are all kinds of problems with red light and speed cameras, and more importantly, I didn’t want to be that fucking guy, the dude responsible for turning citizens against each other in the name of
a few bucks safety. Ultimately, contributing to the ever-expanding surveillance culture seemed likely to be a bigger evil than any potential good to be achieved by TASE-CB.
Turns out, the program probably wouldn’t even have needed to pay a bounty. Today, there are virtual mountains of video data captured by attention-hungry motorcyclists alone, imagined offenses thoughtfully captioned with lines like “Asshole cager!”
Anyway, the second reason my call with Craig was interesting is that there are an awful lot of parallels between motorcyclists and cyclists, many of which can be summed up with three words: “vulnerable road users.” Many riders are also riders, err… many motorcyclists are also bicyclists, or vice versa, if you prefer.
Realizing this, Craig has started looking at expanding Cyclist Video Evidence to include motorcyclists.
Those Cycling Safety Wins I Mentioned
The CVE website isn’t the circle jerk of meaningless uploads you might imagine based on my commentary about the quality of motorcyclist-captured video—the organization, which offers video deconstruction and other services for cyclists, has achieved some success in actual prosecution of assault charges based on video evidence, beginning with the “Glendale Incident.” Some Audi-driving snapperhead by the name of Dennis Reed was charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault for a so-called near miss incident: said snapperhead swerved in front of two cyclists and slammed on his brakes. According to the CyclistVideoEvidence website: “Glendale Police initially refused the cyclist’s incident report because there was no collision.” But… “Assault and reckless driving do not require a collision.”
You can watch the video evidence from the Glendale Incident here.
In other cases, like this one in Castro Valley in September 2014, a citation was written, but ultimately rescinded by the California Highway Patrol. However, according to CVE, this case ultimately led to the CHP admitting they do not have to view such violations firsthand, which the organization claims sets a precedent that “all California law enforcement can accept cyclist video evidence to cite egregious drivers for assault and reckless driving without a collision.”
Throwing Technology at the Problem
As a lifelong moto-commuter, I’ve followed some riders’ dedication to technological solutions closely, and have at times ridden with a camera myself, even experimented with permanent-mount, always-on moto-dashcam systems such as the Innovv C3 that Max reviewed back in 2015. I understand why some motorcyclists, especially commuters, won’t ride without a camera running, but recording all the time never became part of my routine: it’s another thing to do before rolling out, and frankly feels a little too paranoid for me.
The lack of motorcycle-specific systems that aren’t just differently-shaped variations on the GoPro theme certainly hasn’t helped nudge me toward becoming a one-man evidence-collecting machine, although Innovv’s K2 Dual Channel Motocam gets pretty close. The K2 comes with two cameras that record wide-angle 30 FPS 1080P video to a waterproof DVR for an ideal front-and-rear setup, and also offers a “parking mode” that keeps an eye on things while you’re away. It’s intended to be hard-wired to your bike so its looping recording function can begin recording when you fire up the bike.
If you’re looking for other options, there aren’t many, certainly not from the major action camera players. Search Revzilla for dashcam and you get redirected (searchandising!) to search results for a closeout product called “WASPcam,” which seems to be nothing more than a typical action camera with looping recording, apparently marketed to white people. Search CycleGear for the same query, and the results are even less helpful—at least if you’re looking for a camera of some sort. But over on Amazon, a search for “motorcycle dashcam” gets you more actual options, although other than Innovv they’re all from unfamiliar brands, and Innovv isn’t exactly Sony, Garmin or GoPro—although their K2 uses a Sony sensor. A company called BlueSkySea offers their DV688 motorcycle dashcam for $185.99, and another called HaloCam has a similar dual-camera, remote DVR setup for $179.89.
Recent developments in the cycling world have piqued my interest a little more, even if they’re not directly transferrable. An Australian company called Cycliq makes light+camera devices with features that set a standard well above the limited offerings for motorcycles. Both their Fly6 CE taillight (got your six!) and Fly12 CE headlight combine lighting and video recording into compact form factors that offer an impressive feature set: 135-degree wide angle video at 60 FPS or 30 FPS, 6-axis electronic image stabilization, “black box” incident protection, bike alarm, ANT+ and Bluetooth, Strava integration, USB-C fast charging, and of course water resistance and looping video.
If a Cycliq device’s accelerometer “detects the rider has been involved in an incident” the black box incident protection “automatically locks and preserves the footage.” According to Cycliq, this kicks in when the device is tilted more than 60 degrees from the vertical for more than five seconds—the unit locks the current and immediately preceding video segment and shuts down the device after 30 minutes to ensure the footage isn’t overwritten by looping.
Pretty cool stuff.
So back to the question that started this whole thing: as a motorcyclist, what do you think of all this? Does CyclistVideoEvidence’s potential moto-centric program interest you? Have you ever successfully used video evidence after a crash or other incident? Do “smarter” cameras sound better?
The comments section below beckons, awaiting your insights.