Collision-catchers: how helmet-cams took off

Cyclists are attaching video cameras to their helmets. Alas the police don't like it.

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Dizzying scenes of barrelling waves and feats on mountainsides? Sure. The daily grind of the cycle commute? Not so exciting. But mini cameras, once the preserve of surfers and skiers, are starting to appear on the helmets and handlebars of bike riders, the latest weapon in a (silly, I believe) war on the roads.

Bike retailers report growing demand (75 per cent in the last year at Evans Cycles) for cameras that capture spills rather than thrills, recording evidence of bad driving. While still in the minority, video-cyclists have become numerous enough that two recently crossed paths when a driver pulled out in front of them. Their videos swiftly appeared on YouTube, showing a near miss and an angry exchange. "Look up your number plate on YouTube and you'll see the video!" one cyclist shouts. "You'll be on there twice," the other says. YouTube hums with such footage and sites such as PoliceWitness.com, run by a former police chief, try to get videos into the courts. The site also sells a range of "justice cameras" for use by drivers and cyclists, while other models serve as much as black boxes as cameras. The Cateye Inou includes a GPS chip to record the location of an incident.

Elsewhere, accelerometers tell cameras to save the last 10 minutes of footage in the event of an impact.

All very well, but the police don't like it (they and the Crown Prosecution Service say prosecution based on video evidence is unlikely). Nor do I. As a cyclist and driver, I say the wearing of cameras and what feels like the pursuit of confrontation by some only fuels a combative culture on our roads that contibutes to many of the incidents committed to YouTube. Is this worth it in the hope of an unlikely prosecution, a momentary shaming or any supposed visual deterrent offered by cameras? I say not.

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