Commuting with a video cam?

It’s not uncommon to see videos posted of bike rides. Most digital cameras have a video feature and now the mounting hardware for handlebars and/or a helmet is easier than ever to find. Any videos I’ve taken over the years have been while I’m holding a camera in my hand (not safe and not recommended) but I have sometimes pondered the need and desire to record my daily bike commute.

The need to record my commute would be to serve as proof of the hazards I encounter regularly –
* the motorist parked in the bike lane
* the numerous potholes that force me to take the lane of motor vehicle traffic
* the cabby that cuts me off to pick up or drop off a fare

But at another level, I sometimes just want to record my daily commute for the exact opposite reasons –
* to show everyone just how convenient bike commuting is
* to prove that I can navigate so easily through otherwise clogged streets of traffic
* to replay a fun commute over and over (not just in my head)

Our friends at our sister site have reviewed video cameras in the past of their mountain biking adventures. But lately the trend seems to be in recording more daily and routine bike activities.

Not too long ago, my friend Dottie from LGRAB posted video she captured of our shared bike ride down Chicago’s lakefront path on a mild New Years Eve.

And Chicago’s very own online biking social network The Chainlink has also been buzzing over the news about how more cyclists are wearing minicams to catch offending road users.

At the moment I have a headlight strapped to the top of my helmet but so many people ask me if it’s a camera. Sometimes I really wish it was!

Lights on my helmet

I wouldn’t mind testing a minicam out some time. I could replace that helmet bike light with a helmet-mounted minicam (sadly not enough space on my already crowded narrow handlebars).

crowded handlebars

A local Chicago bicycle attorney – Brendan Kevenides – posted about how such minicams can provide evidence in the case of a bicycle crash. As he states in his blog post called the Chicago Bicycle Advocate:

One of the biggest challenges in representing bicyclists in litigation against motorists is finding a witness. The motorist and the bicyclist rarely seem to agree on how a crash occurred. Since the victim has the burden of proof in personal injury litigation, if a witness cannot be found to support the bicyclist’s version of events the case may be a lost cause. A handlebar mounted camera could, in many circumstances, tip the scales in the bicyclist’s favor by revealing exactly what happened. Dooring incidents and intersection crashes could be documented by a front facing camera.

The lawyers at Illinois Bike Attorneys told me, “Biking with minicams is a great idea, especially for a daily commuter.” The following reasons were outlined in support of minicams:

Studies show jurors retain 15% of what they hear and 85% of what they see and hear.

Plus, in terms of admissability, minicam video usually is both material and relevant in a case. And it can corroborate witness testimony and act as probative evidence.

What are your thoughts about using minicams for recording daily bike activities (not just mountain bike adventures and such)? Do you find a need or a want to record your bike commute?


  1. Fat Guy On A Bike

    I use a GoPro on my helmet b/c I commute thru downtown Seattle during rush hour and it makes for some cool YouTube videos. However, I have found that people give you more room when they see the red light on the camera blinking. I guess nobody wants to be the jerk on film who runs down the cyclist.

  2. Andy

    I’d like to start using a camera, mostly because I’ve been talking with the transit company about how the bus drivers always pass me and then turn right. They tell me that the drivers are well trained and would never do that and it must have been a rare case, but in my experience, every time a bus is near I get cut off. I’d like to use my minicam ($10 on ebay) and leave it on for enough commutes to get some footage of it to prove it to them.

  3. Mir.I.Am

    E! What a great use for helmet cam or bike-mounted cam. My buddy, and long-time cycling HERO was in an accident that had him temporarily in a wheelchair in college. If only the go-pro was around in 2004, it could have save him tons of cash in lost lawyer fees and would have won his case to pay for his hospital bills. And on the flip side, I wish we could make a smell cam to record the ripe mangoes on my way to work, or the cinnamon rolls baking nearby… Shmanks for sharing!

  4. Dan

    Not sure why, but I love watching videos of bike rides. Haven’t made any of my own in a while, but perhaps I should.

  5. Champs

    Anything to get helmet lights off the streets. Save those for the trails, where they don’t blind other people when you look in their direction. Same goes for other lights aimed at eye level instead of the road ahead. You wouldn’t drive through the city with your high beams on.

  6. Elizabeth (Post author)

    I love my helmet light. I usually have it and another on my handlebars set to blinking mode. Definitely grabs awareness more than my handlebar-mounted light. But that’s just my opinion, especially for winter commutes.

    Replacing it with a camera could prove more useful though. 🙂

  7. Mike Myers

    I’ve considered mounting a camera, but the best situation is TWO cameras. A helmet cam and a rear facing cam. When I was hit, it was from behind, and a camera would’ve shown exactly what happened.

  8. Ghost Rider

    I’m with Champs on the helmet lights. Too many cyclists use them as a weapon against motorists (even unintentionally).

    When E was researching this article, I remembered reading about a commuter in Wisconsin or somewhere else in the midwest who recorded EVERY commute he did. He had tons of evidence to go at the city when snowplows harrassed him or when motorists did something stupid. He also recorded with two cameras…one facing the front and the other to the rear.

  9. Jeff

    I recommend a camera to anyone who commutes in mixed traffic. A few years ago, I was right-hooked on a commute. Thanks to the windshield perspective of the cops, the report claimed that I was passing on the right. Without the video of the collision, I would have been on the hook for some $500 in damages to the car that hit me.

    I disagree with the above commenters who argue against helmet lights. Since adding a Vis360, near right-hooks have disappeared. Handlebar-level lights seem to be too low to attract the attention of drivers in tall SUVs.

  10. Emika_B

    I’ve been thinking about adding a camera or two to my bike but have been hesitant. Three front-facing lights, two rear lights, two sideways lights and saddlebags – I’ve got lots on my poor bike already. Still, it would be nice to have proof of how dilapidated the bike situation is in Hawaii (or at least on Oahu between Aloha Stadium and Aloha Tower). Not that I expect anything to happen – they’ve been working on the “Master Bike Plan” for at least 10 years and not much at all has been done. Oh well, maybe I will if only for the evidence factor. I’ve never been in an accident and in the many years that my Dad, who used to race, commuted by bike he’d only been in 1 accident – it’d be nice to know there’s something besides human memory that knows what really happened.

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