When drivers hit someone on a bike, they tend to have a common excuse: They didn’t see the cyclist. And it’s usually pretty impossible to prove fault, even though around 50,000 cyclists are injured by cars each year and end up in emergency rooms, and several hundred more are killed. Now, though, cheap cameras could start to change that, and eventually might also start to change how people drive.
A new camera that was just funded on Kickstarter called the Fly6 takes footage of accidents as they happen. It’s definitely not the first camera to be used on a bike--cyclists have been strapping GoPro cameras to their helmet and backpacks for at least a few years. But it’s one of the first (another includes Rideye) to be made specifically for the back of a bike.
“GoPros aren’t designed for cycling, they’re designed for action,” says Andrew Hagan, CEO of the Australia-based Fly6. His design mounts to the back of a seat post, replacing a taillight, so it can get steadier footage than something on the helmet of a moving rider. The battery lasts five hours, so it works for longer rides, and when it has recorded the maximum amount of video, it loops and starts recording again, so the cyclist doesn’t have to erase footage of uneventful rides.
If something goes wrong, and your bike is lying at the side of the road while you’re being taken off to the hospital, the camera automatically kicks into accident mode, continuing to record for another hour and keeping an hour of footage before your bike fell over, in case there are any additional clues about what happened.
But the main purpose of the camera isn’t just to help in individual accidents; it's really meant to begin to change the way drivers act around bikes. “Once people are aware there are cameras out there, they’ll start to back off a little, much the way they do when they see a traffic light camera,” Hagan says. “They’ll be a little bit more cautious.”
At first, drivers might not recognize that the flashing red device is a camera and not just a taillight. But Hagan is counting on the fact that the videos taken during accidents will quickly generate media attention and driver awareness.
"Because it's a video, it's the kind of thing that will get played on the news, and on the Internet," Hagan says. "Especially because accidents can be scary and dramatic. When it gets played, that's how motorists who don't cycle become aware of it."
Already, as the company has tested 150 prototypes with riders throughout Australia, the media theory has proven true: A rider in Brisbane, out with a group of other cyclists on a morning ride, used the camera to capture an irate driver who refused to change lanes, instead honking and eventually ramming the bikes with his car. The video ended up on YouTube and, later that same day, the national news.
"It seems that the relationship between motorists and cyclists is deteriorating on our roads," Hagan says. "We want to help change that. And we think it will help make roads safer for everyone."