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Cyclists should buy a camera to capture accident evidence (slate.com)
51 points by jseliger on Nov 13, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

I've cycling since 2 years old, and when I was 10 I built my own bicycle from scratch with my older brother. He's stil running his bikeshop.

The world needs a bicycle for the current age. I see many new ideas on kickstarter and news outlets presenting new bikes with all sorts of features. Most take one idea and built a bike around it. Some take more ideas but none actually solve my day-today problems with bikes:

- They get stolen

- They need regular maintenance on the drive train

- Lighting breaks easily

- Not robust enough

- Traffic lights cost a lot of energy

- Charging is a hassle

On top of that, I'd like some tech bolted on top of my bike:

- Camera's

- Safe & usable mapping system

- Citylight & countrylight

- Electronic lock

- Electronic tracker (when stolen)

Lastly, it should use mostly standard parts.

I think the technology must be decoupled from the bike. The worst thing to happen to biking would be the planned obsolescence that pervades all sorts of newly "smart" devices.

What's more, I think things likes mapping and camera should be integrated via the user's phone. Why spend money on a camera assembly when you can drop in a 240GB SSD, a small power supply, and use the phone to log video and display a map?

To me, the ideal bike would be a fixed-frame hybrid or cx bike with an internal drive shaft (not a belt) and disc breaks to minimize maintenance, fenders. Basically like a bikeshare bike but without the bikeshare weight and the upright angle.

Chains and belts, caliper brakes, shocks, are all maintenance pain. Cam shafts are cheap to maintain but require a bike that is built around a shaft drive - they're not compatible with a standard frame setup.

Put all the electronics in a detachable pod on the handlebars. Light, horn, camera - all there. You can easily pop it off and take it with you.

Edit: if I were crazy enough for a hardware Kickstarter, an all-singing electronics pod would be it. A long-necked bike light with yellow leds down the side for side visibility and a pair of buttons for horns - a quiet pedestrian chime and an earsplitting horn guaranteed to cause hearing damage if used carelessly.

Low-maintenance and maintenance-free drive shafts are a solved problem, but expensive currently. Locks are a necessity where I live, I don't want to put a €500+ bike without 3 ore more locks. I want a lock to fasten the bike to a fixed item (e.g. pole) and both wheels locked to the frame. Then I want an electronic lock.

The electronics are dispersed over the whole bike. frontlight, backlight, camera's (I'm thinking 3 or 4), integrated mapping,, electronic lock, possible electric steering make it impossible to put all tech into a detachable unit. It's simply out of the question for a well-designed bicycle. I can see it adding some value for current bicycles though.

For the frame I probably want aluminium, because it's cheap and light enough. Shocks are not needed as my country has excellent biking paths. For most other countries shocks don't add too much value, especially not when using the bike in an urban environment. Then they are just maintenance-prone weight-gainers.

Low-maintenance and maintenance-free drive shafts are a solved problem

Shaft-driven bicycles have been a solved problem since the late 1800s. [0] But I’m too lazy to do the conversion needed to determine if 125 1898 dollars is expensive. Bikes in the 1800s were priced more akin to modern cars than modern bikes stamped out in an Asian factory. But it’s been done, and by what was a major brand at the time. I’ve ridden them, they’re heavy (like every other bike back then), but nice to ride. I don’t see why it couldn’t be coupled to a modern set of enclosed planetary gears.

[0] http://oldbike.wordpress.com/1898-pope-mfg-columbia-chainles...

Electric steering? But why?

Lights: I bought a $15 set of lights off eBay ~3 years ago. The alkaline AAA batteries need replacing a few times a year, nobody can be bothered stealing them because they don't look expensive.

Why all the cameras?

Why an electronic lock?

As for locking both wheels, in my experience changing from QR dropouts to something that requires a simple tool for taking wheels off solves that problem. The tools on my bikes are small enough that I Gorilla tape them to the underside of the seat on each bike.

As for shocks being maintenance-prone: my daily commute is on a bike with Suntour shocks from 2002. They've never had maintenance. Basically everything else on the bike has been replaced except for shocks and frame.

To be honest, a cheap light is a cheap light.. but I have had my rear light stolen before now and had to cycle home in the dark without one (in truth, it was like 1 am and I went via the back roads but I still felt very exposed and pulled off when a car approached). I currently have a rear pannier frame which has a built in reflector and have thought it would be useful for that to be a light, though I can't charge batteries on the bike so they need to be removeable easily. I'm nervous about leaving anything on the bike that is easily removable though.. so a small light is enough. The LED ones these days easily fit in my pocket and are way bright enough for city riding where all you need is visibility.

I'm intrigued about that chain drive though..

> "my day-today problems with bikes..."

> "They need regular maintenance on the drive train"

Regular maintenance is not needed daily; lights don't break daily. Charging a light is not a "problem". Buy a few lights and then charge them all at once in one weekly charging session or something.

"Not robust enough"... for what activity are they not robust enough?

"Safe & usable mapping system"... Cyclists shouldn't be looking at maps while riding. Stop and use your phone if you get lost. Also.. most cyclists don't need maps unless they're tourists, who will happily stop and use phone because tourists ride slowly and stop frequently.

Sounds like you're over cycling. Get yourself a motorbike or car or electric bike!

I have had quite some bicycles, and I have replaced everything on them. Including frame, front fork, wheels, steer, axles... I'd like them to be more durable.

Regular maintenance on the chain and gears should be done twice a week in fall conditions. In winter, this is true too but since we salt the roads, you must also clean chains at least weekly. Less maintenance simply wears of the chains much quicker. I think I replace them around 3-4K KM, but I have no exact numbers here.

Lights break about every month when commuting daily. Batteries go empty, cheap lights break because bumps, charging them is a hassle.

I'd like to throw my bike from 2 meters down and know it's not broken anywhere. In the city, people fight for parking spots and play rough with others peoples bikes.

I want a mapping system which is safe and usable. I know it can be done, but is has not yet been done. I'm thinking integrated sounds & lights in the steering wheel. I have seen some interesting kickstarter projects trying to solve this problem.

I have a Cateye RapidX3 light which is good quality and lasted a long time. ( cateye.com/en/products/ ) ... USB charge, good battery, very bright.

The problem is 1) bicycles are made in Asia (for decades) for their market (we just import it), 2) so a lot of different manufacturers, 3) stealing bikes isn't such a big problem in e.g. China, 4) expensive gear catches of thiefs, a bicycle is easy to take (most sold locks are a joke, the good ones are very heavy/unpractical)

Better make the hi-tech stuff invisible, hide it in the bicycle frame - putting motors, akku packs, cameras inside the frame is doable. Some spend 5k to 10k for a new bike, so there is a market.

I doubt asian produced bikes dominate the market in the west. See eg http://www.conebi.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/European-Bic... - 7M imported and 13M produced in 2015. The asian industry is also much younger so the "decades" is not really an advantage.

Most bikes in US and Western Europe are made in China. Then they get shipped in parts to US and Western Europe and the bikes are assembled there. Often enough such small tasks count to label it made in xy.

Only smaller volumn hand made premium bikes are made locally.

Also bikes get imported from low cost countries with cheap labor like East Europe and China since at least 1990.

It's actually fascinating to see various constituency behavior in relative terms. Drivers are often overly aggressive and downright dangerous vs cyclists on the streets. Then you go to a college campus and cyclists behave as if they have the right of way over pedestrians (ex: stanford).

Perhaps it is simply a symptom of human psychology and entitlement/power.

Then you go to a college campus and cyclists behave as if they have the right of way over pedestrians (ex: stanford).

This varies a lot from place to place. In San Diego County, cyclists would yell at me "Excuse me!" And you knew they really meant "Bitch, get the fuck out my way." While they were on the sidewalk instead of in the bike lane right next to it.

Then I went to Fresno and it was an extremely different climate. People would warmly say "Hi." And some of the cyclists would go around instead of yelling at you and acting like the pedestrian was in the wrong for being on a sidewalk.

Then I left California entirely and although I am supposedly in a bad part of town, people are so much nicer here that I am having trouble adjusting. I think the insane housing costs in California are so eroding quality of life for many people that it is literally making them crazy. The social fabric there seems pretty messed up, and it is worse in some places than others.

I feel that the feeling of right-of-way is less a feeling of power but instead a measure of the effort required to stop. Pedestrians can stop pretty easily: they just stop walking. For bikes, it's a more complicated process, requiring braking, possibly putting your foot on the ground, and then extra pedaling to speed up again.

> ex: stanford

Stanford seems to be particularly bad about this and I really don't understand why. The only bicycle "bump" incidents I have ever had were at Stanford.

One dude had the misfortune to bump me near my wallet. My city-bred reflex reaction (which even surprised me with how fast it was) knocked him right off the bicycle. Of course, he was pissed at me for clocking him. Umm, yo, douchebag, people will leave you alone if you don't bump into them.

Of course, he was pissed at me for clocking him.

So you lashed out at someone because they accidentally bumped into you and they are the douchebag?

So you lashed out at someone because they accidentally bumped into you and they are the douchebag?

Yes, definitely the cyclist is the douchebag.

A cyclist is often traveling much faster than a pedestrian and can easily injure someone. The burden of proper behavior, especially in a mixed cyclist/pedestrian environment, must fall mainly to the cyclist.

Usually a "clocking" is because a cyclist is behaving recklessly. People often want to dismiss something as "an accident" when instead it was easily foreseen "negligence".

If a cyclist didn't slow down / change course for a pedestrian on stanford campus, then yes, they are in the wrong, as a bike is a vehicle.

I'm glad you've never had to deal with pickpockets.

I recommend you stay out of cities, though.

I have two cameras on me when I ride. One is the Fly6 rear cam shown in this article. The other is a helmet mounted GoPro. I would not ride without them for a lot of the reason brought up in the article. Not only were they helpful after the two accidents that I've had, but they also help out for everyday riding. As folks drive much better when they see a camera strapped to your head.

I doubt if many people notice the camera, although perhaps society as a whole will get used to the idea with enough incidents.

Many do. But this is still fundamentally victim-blaming; growing ridership and sensible infrastructure design have been shown again and again to be the drivers of safety, not shame-driven rider-specific pieces of tech.

First day I got my bike cam, I was riding near park slope and coasted straight through a green light. Almost to the crosswalk on the other side of an intersection, a kid maybe 5-6 years old just books it right in front of my bike. I swerved into the center of the street to not hit him(luckily I had just looked over my shoulder 10 seconds earlier and knew no cars were behind me). Day in the life of a NYC biker, but the father(who was talking to someone else when his kid ran away from him) started yelling obscenities at me for almost running over his kid, and started chasing me down the street. I got away easily and nothing ever came of it, but I am so glad to have the dash cam because I would have no way of showing that the kid ran out in front of traffic, and not that I ran a red light and almost killed a kid.

I have trouble picturing it - it sounds like the kid went out into a crosswalk, over an intersection, with a green light. I agree the dad should keep a closer look at the kid, but that doesn't sound like he was the one at fault.

I was going straight through an intersection with the green light - the kid ran across the street perpendicular to my motion across the crosswalk which had the orange hand.

This is extremely unsubtle payola. It reads like an infomercial. I figured slate was better than that.

Yup. "You should buy a camera. Specifically this o- [tab closes]"

Yea I thought this was an ad tbh.

A couple months ago I mounted an inexpensive (~$140) 360 view camera to my helmet for my bike work commute. Here's some recent footage: https://youtu.be/aTTEEWxJImk

It works well and might one day capture an accident. I just need to remember to charge it. I wear it even when it is not charged because it seems cars are more cautious around me when they see the camera poking off the top of my helmet.

This bike path in your video looks pretty treacherous wedged in between fast traffic and parked cars: https://youtu.be/aTTEEWxJImk?t=3m15s

Here's a nice alternative design in Vancouver that takes about the same amount of road space: https://goo.gl/maps/mYbHusprLmy

What camera do you use?

This is the one I bought: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B071NPLVZH/

It looks like it might be discontinued, but there are other similar models available: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=sr_nr_p_36_2?rnid=386442011&key...

If you try this a good helmet mount is important. This one works well for my hardshell helmet: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008BNEXH4

This is a technical solution to a social problem.

Taking video to the police of centimetre close passes (1m is legislated) in Australia just yields "your camera is not calibrated to measure distance so we cannot accept this", and stonewalling.

exactly. the solution is more people on bikes getting fresh air and exercise instead of road-rage in their cars

I follow the BikeCammers subreddit. Based on what I've read, it seems that in a lot of jurisdictions, police have to actually witness the offense in order to issue a citation.

But if the cyclist has video footage of the vehicle involved in the offense, and footage of the diver of the vehicle, then I don't see a reason a citation couldn't be issued if the cyclist was willing to testify as a witness/victim during the trial.

As in for an infraction? Surely reckless or negligent driving rises to a misdemeanor, and video is used for those all the time.

I am riding a bicycle on a daily basis in Amsterdam. No one is using dash cams here, but I do(YI action cam) and it helped me a lot when a had the accident : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUY7psClcbQ

The irony of the driver's vision blocked by a bunch of bicycles parked on the corner.

What was the outcome of this? I think you assumed right of way a bit too much in this instance and went flying through without slowing down. Car was moving very slowly and you still hit it!!

This is exactly where a lot of tension between cyclists and cars comes from. Cyclists have much better visibility and should avoid accidents like this.

the outcome - I broke a bone in my palm and spent 6 weeks with the cast around my hand, the car driver fixed my bicycle, his insurance company paid all my expenses : public transport costs, medical costs("own risk") and the compensation for "pain and suffering".

That's surprising. To me it looks like you sped through an intersection without slowing down or looking out for cars.

You hit the car, the car didn't hit you.

Also, bicycles at that speed can stop very short if brakes in good order. You didn't brake! Sorry... I don't mean to be rude. But I ride in the city, and there's no way I'd speed across an intersection without making sure it was clear.

Lucky you're living in Amsterdam because in Australia you would be paying for damage to the car!

Legally, not sure I agree with you. It looks like an uncontrolled intersection (I don't see any signage requiring the bike lane to yield in any way, although I'm not familiar with Amsterdam's signage). Looks more like an alley to me than a road, too.

Cars turning right are obligated to yield to others going straight in this instance. The van turned into what looks pretty clearly to be a bike lane.

Practically speaking, I totally agree with you though. Bikers need to be way more defensive.

From my experience cars ALWAYS let bicycles go on those intersections here in Amsterdam. In my situation the driver's view was blocked or he didn't check it as it was 8am and I was moving very fast, shit happens.

I agree with you, sort of..my riding style was too aggressive and too fast on those days..It changed significantly thanks to this accident :-)

Good to hear. It's good you had the camera anyway, which was your main point, and also good you survived!

I’ve looked into helmet cams since I had an accident that cost me a tooth (sideswiped by another cyclist). It seems that most of them only have about 2 or so hours of record time on a charge. That doesn’t seem sufficient. Don’t need the additional lights, though.

"2 or so hours of record time on a charge. That doesn’t seem sufficient."

I'm not sure why the blackbox style of camera hasn't caught on more. (like eg http://www.rideye.com/, but I'm sure there are others).

My rides are commonly 100miles plus at a time - slowly - and often overnight. Not only is that too long for the camera at decent resolution, it's too long for batteries; last time I tried that, a GoPro with a 32Gb card that might've taken 8h of video died after 4h. A 5 min rolling window of decent resolution footage is all I want for crashes or highlights.

But more than this, it'd be nice to have some standardisation on bike accessories running off a single power bus, not their individual batteries. My dynamo gear is great (I use a SON hub, Edelux 2, and a Secula rear) but why was this not semi-standard; I'm in northern europe and lights are needed most of the year. And once the cabling is there, why aren't bike gadgets aimed at bus power rather than more and more batteries?

Bushch & Müller makes a device that can be used to power gadgets from a SON hub (adjustable from 2.8 to 13.3V).


Based on the information provided, it is NOT plug-and-play; you must manually adjust voltage and current for your device, and if it's not amenable to voltage sags/stoppages, you have to add a buffer battery.

Battery life is definitely a challenge. At CES last year I saw a big brand demonstrating an action camera for bikes and it was also around 2h life. I just laughed at them. My bike trips usually consist of 5-6 hours of riding each day, and it's not always convenient to recharge overnight on multi-day treks.

You do realise you are an extreme outlier, that most people think of 30 minutes as a long ride.

Do you have any evidence to support the “extreme outlier” assertion, speaking as someone in a large bike club who regularly does long rides.

I understand most commutes are under 3 miles but I think many serious club riders would ride between 50-100 miles in a single ride most weekends (might be stops for coffee and cake along the way :).

Sadly, we get close passed and threatened every week it seems.

Edit: From Strava (which would probably show more serious cyclists) UK ride figures for 2015: http://www.bikebiz.com/news/read/strava-reveals-average-brit...

That gives the impression that 2 hour plus rides are not that uncommon although, that will be skewed by the kind of rider who records their journeys.

From https://www.cyclinguk.org/resources/cycling-uk-cycling-stati...

"The average length of a cycle trip was three and a half miles, while the average length of a car trip was about eight and a half miles"

Most people aren't club riders.

Sadly, we get close passed and threatened every week it seems.

I know, I ride more than 100 miles a week.

The Fly 12 (front model of the rear Fly 6 mentioned in the article) has 8+ hours of recording time and with a small memory card only keeps the last two hours (discarding older video), also, less video time if used as light.

Since you're on a bicycle, you should be able mount a reasonably sized battery on the bike to keep it charged? Any common usb phone battery bank should work fine

I have a dynamo hub that could recharge it on the fly, with a USB adapter. It would mean wiring it to the handlebar, but I suppose I could live with that.

I've used lights on a bike and it's a necessary nuisance to have battery packs with cords - more cords and attachments is enough to discourage usage.

I would have loved to have cameras like that when someone chucked a rock at me in Milwaukee back in 2005.

Another thing that would be handy would be the ability to quickly transfer video to my phone via Wi-Fi.

Transferring files locally is still an unsolved problem. Bluetooth is cumbersome and slow, WiFi would be better, but something like AirDrop for non Apple devices would be great.

For SD-cards, many Android smartphones can be used to read it. Unfortunately iPhone has no SD slot.

So don't buy an apple phone.

Frankly I think this also applies to car drivers. Get a dashcam in case you get into an accident.

You would think that by now car manufacturers would make this easy to do. Why doesn't every car have a convenient way to both mount and power a dashcam? This whole necessity of snaking a power cable around the edge of a dashboard to connect to an unused fuse location is complete bullshit.

I would love a camera with a button that when pressed automatically saves the previous 15 seconds and the preceding 15 seconds into a clip and send it directly to the police. Every single time I go out I have to deal with dangerous and inconsiderate drivers clearly braking the law, driving as if the world only exists in front of the car.

A common bike cam feature is to detect crashes and save the previous footage. Otherwise, they typically overwrite the oldest footage first.

I agree, dashcams,have become very cheap, the main thing is people dont get around to it

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