Today marked the first trial run on our 32-mile loop ride from the house with front and rear-facing GoPro cameras mounted to my helmet. Brough out of a 3-year dormancy, I strapped my GoPro Hero 3+ to the front of my helmet and an older GoPro Hero 2 to the back. While part of me likes the new, integrated camera/light systems from Cycliq… the other part of me says you lose the visual deterrent value of letting motorists clearly see they’re on camera.
The latter would be especially of value if a road-raging motorist had to confront you after an incident. In fact, there was a recent incident recorded by a cyclist where a law enforcement officer pretty much drove right into him… and having the incident and subsequent exchange on camera surely clarified “what actually happened” vs. what would have been put on record in a he-said, she-said standoff: warning, some colorful language is used but completely warranted:
It was this video, more than anything else I’ve seen in recent years, that said it’s time to camera-up on the tandem, and here’s why:
Back in 2011, Georgia’s legislature passed HB-101 “The Better Bicycling Bill” back in 2011 in an effort to make the motor vehicle laws a bit more bicycle friendly and to clarify some grey areas. As part of that bill, the “Three Foot Rule” was adopted which, in essence, says motorists should be no closer than 3 feet to a cyclist when passing them on the road. Of course, bureaucrats being bureaucrats, they added some weasel words that pretty much nullify the provision, i.e., “when feasible” in this instance.
Title 40 – MOTOR VEHICLES AND TRAFFIC
Chapter 6 – UNIFORM RULES OF THE ROAD
Article 3 – DRIVING ON RIGHT SIDE OF ROADWAY, OVERTAKING AND PASSING, FOLLOWING TOO CLOSELY
§ 40-6-56 – Safe distance defined; application to bicyclist
(a) As used in this Code section, the term “safe distance” means not less than three feet.
(b) Notwithstanding any provision of this article to the contrary, when feasible, the operator of a motor vehicle, when overtaking and passing a bicycle that is proceeding in the same direction on the roadway, shall leave a safe distance between such vehicle and the bicycle and shall maintain such clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle.
As mentioned in recent posts, now that I’m retired Debbie and I head out from the house around 9:30am three days a week for a 30+ mile ride on the tandem. Having ridden a few times during the day while on off-Fridays or Staycations, I pretty much figured out that this was the “best” (as in safest) time of the day to be out on the public roads since the commuter crowd and school traffic has ended and the lunch-time traffic hasn’t started.
However, even at this time of day, during the past four weeks / 500 miles of riding we’ve had at least a dozen “close calls” where motorists — from soccer moms, to old folks with handicap tags to bus drivers to landscaper crews hauling trailers — have seemingly been more concerned with not driving outside of the double-yellow lines than they have with potentially running into people on a bicycle.
Now, to be fair, I will offer that a good many of the motorists we’ve encountered here in Georgia on our road rides do, in fact, provide a wide margin of safety when passing and that’s great! Unfortunately, the ones who don’t often times seem to be playing some kind of game with our lives, likely under the misguided notion that they are within their rights to use their vehicles as an instrument of intimidation to “scare us off the road” where, in their minds, cyclists don’t belong.
There is also another subset of motorists out there who can’t put down their “smart phones” even when the law now prohibits anyone from touching such a device when operating a vehicle that are an even more deadly threat to everyone on the road, but especially cyclists who are being mowed-down in increasing numbers year-over-year as smart phone use continues to propagate.
Anyway, with that in mind and a growing concern that our carefree retirement life could quickly be altered forever by a motorist for whatever reason, I figured it was time to start making sure we’d have a visual record of what’s happening around us during these rides.
So, today was the first time that we headed out on the tandem with the cameras mounted to my helmet. Yes, they definitely made my helmet a lot heavier, but having a camera in the front and one in the back somewhat off-set the weight each of the cameras and made for a very stable-feeling platform so it wasn’t bothersome in the least. Moreover, the field of view ended up being just about perfect.
Now, I’m not sure if it was just dumb luck or if perhaps having the cameras clearly in view on my helmet, but the motorists around us today — with perhaps a few exceptions — were all very much in compliance with the 3-foot rule. Now, we had one motorist who did not disappoint, and some stills from the video are captured below:
Here we have the Mercedes doing a great job of giving us 3-feet of safe passing space, pausing to wait until on-coming traffic had passed. In fact, their car is positioned exactly where it needed to be: pretty much straddling the centerline. Thank you Mr. or Ms. Mercedes.
Now, here’s Mr. Kia who could have easily followed Mr. or Ms. Mercedes’ lead in giving us wide berth when he passed since there wasn’t any on-coming traffic as far as the eyes could see….
Pretty much says is all….
Again, great job Mr. or Ms. Mercedes! Good safety margin, proper vehicle position and a safe return to the travel lane in the absence of any on-coming traffic.
And here’s the view from the front of the bike as Mr. Kia not only passes within less than a foot of us, but also moves right before clearing us… Classic motorist intimidation move from people who don’t think bicycles should be allowed on public roads because “it’s how they feel” since the motor vehicle say otherwise. But, don’t let the law get in the way of how you feel…
As I said, less than 1 foot of safety margin, essentially “buzzing” the bicycle for absolutely no good reason since there is zero on-coming traffic for as far as the eye can see. This isn’t just an inconsiderate motorist, this is passive road rage and we see it every day.
And, now on video…
Oh, and yes… we technically know who you are, or who owns the vehicle: Georgia Tag# CB03782. Now, as for what we’ll do with this information, hard to know. Part of me says we should forward these types of images to the Cobb County Police Department, even though they won’t do much about it.
Anyway, the only “problem” with today’s Beta test was out-riding the battery life of both cameras. Mind you, I acquired my first two GoPro cameras used back in January of 2014 and even my newest GoPro Hero 3+ was a late 2014 acquisition. They’ve essentially been sitting unused since late 2015 so the batteries are definitely “tired”. But, even still, most reviews suggest a 1.5hr run time is about all you can get for a GoPro Hero 2 or 3+ like mine and that’s at least 30 minutes short of what we need right now, and 1.5hrs short of what we hope to need by year-end. So, I’ve ordered a high-capacity battery for our Hero 3+ and we’ll see if that provides the battery life we need. As an interim step, I’ll also use the battery backpack on my older Hero 2 camera to double its run time to 2 hours. If the high-capacity battery for the GoPro Hero 3+ truly provides 3 hours of run time, I’ll try to find another Hero 3+ and that will be our “final solution” for the foreseeable future.
Yes, the Cycliq looks like a great solution since it integrates lighting and cameras into a tidy little package. But, at $479 for the front & rear camera/light… I’m thinking there’s still some value in having the more highly visible camera’s on my helmet, if only to remind drivers that “doing the right thing” is the right thing to do because you never know when someone’s looking. After all, ethics and doing the right thing truly is what good people do even when nobody’s watching.