Bike-friendly roads are still hard to come by in many states, according to rankings released in late 2015. The uneasy relationship between drivers and cyclists can also keep would-be riders off the road.
It’s rare for drivers to respond to bicyclists with intentional acts of aggression. But with more bicycles and cars sharing the road, some cyclists are arming themselves with helmet or mounted cameras for the worst-case scenarios.
“Years of experience with law enforcement teaches most frequent and enthusiastic riders that you unfortunately can’t rely on police officers to know the traffic laws as they relate to bikes, or to believe a cyclist’s version of what happened,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists.
“There is a pervasive sense that cyclists shouldn’t be in the road or should be in the gutter and therefore are in the wrong or just sort of deserved what was coming to them, so video footage can be quite helpful.”
Bike enthusiasts tend to be early adopters of technology, especially if it helps them document (or show off) their rides, Clarke said. Chances are the most hardcore cyclists in your neighborhood have long been donning helmet cameras, GPS trackers or fitness monitors for their rides.
One thing that we can all do is to upload any footage to Close Call Database, where cyclists log incidents involving vehicles (after contacting the police, of course). The database catalogs incidents by geography and sends out alerts to users in an area where an incident is reported.
Ernest Ezis launched Close Call Database in 2014 after his own close encounter. He was on a group ride outside Boulder, Colorado, on a two-lane highway with a bike lane. A semi accelerated past them at about 60 mph, so close that the side mirror nearly clipped one of his friends and rattled the rest of them off their bikes.
“You have a few close calls that are really dangerous, but usually you forget about them and move on,” he said. “This particular time, I stayed angry, and I wanted to do something about it.”
The main goal of the site is to be a centralized database to catch repeat offenders and identify roads that are more dangerous than they might seem. Ezis has come to believe that incidents documented on camera are the best evidence to bring to law enforcement.
“I think you’ll be much less likely to pass me at 60 mph and only give me 6 inches of space if you realize that might be caught on camera.”
He realizes that most close calls are not malicious or intended to hurt cyclists. But ignorance of laws intended to protect cyclists, like safe passing distances, can be just as deadly.
“Drivers need to realize that when they make a mistake, it’s often fatal to the cyclist,” he said.