Hi-Viz, the new helmet debate.

Hi-Visibility clothing is designed to make you stand out. The bright flourescent colours absorb UV light and output it in a light form that is visible to us. Hence why during the day, they stand out but at night, it’s a different story.

With every Tom, Dick and Harry wearing Hi-Viz on a bicycle, does it actually make you stand out?

When cyclists talk about hi-viz, we normally refer to yellow jackets. These things are normally too heavy and thick for day use, which the hi-viz is designed to work in. Reflective strips of tape make you stand out in the dark. Are these jackets actually effective at making you visible or is hi-viz the new helmet debate?

A recent study in Australia shows us which one is true.
The study was conducted on a closed road circuit at night where driver participants of various ages were in a specially equipped vehicle and bike rider participants wore various combinations of clothing.
Due to hi-viz working off UV radiation, the hi-viz is useless at night due street lighting and headlights not producing UV radiation. The results showed that flourescent colors did not provide a significant improvement on black clothing at night.

Due to many cyclists thinking that Hi-viz makes them stand out at night, they could be putting them selves at risk if their clothing doesn’t contain reflective material.

Even when the cyclists wore a reflective vest, the drivers said it wasn’t as clear as reflective 3M scotchlite tape on their ankles and knees. This is thought to be down to the torso of a cyclist mostly being still and the ankles and knees are more often than not moving.

Whilst there aren’t many studies out there about Hi-Viz and its apparent safety features for cyclists, I don’t think the study in Australia is one to be sniffed at. It certainly makes more sense that reflective tape on a cyclists ankles will be more attention grabbing in car head lights rather than a vest which won’t get as much light.

I’m not a fan of the Altura NightVision jackets and similar jackets because during the day they are too thick for wearing and at night the reflective tape is often covered by a bag.
And as the study shows, the opinion from drivers, is the hi-viz doesn’t work at night and reflective tape is much better situated on the leg where it is moving more than the torso.

ProViz came up with the idea of using a strip of lights on their jackets and bag covers to make yourself more visible. I’ve yet to see one of these in the real world so I can’t comment on how well they work.
Some cyclists over at CycleChat have been talking about self illumination to make your self morevisible, that is pointing an LED light at yourself rather than the other way. To clear results have yet been seen but it can’t hurt trying.

My personal feeling on hi-viz is just go with out. With over 70% of cyclists wearing it, you really don’t stand out whilst you’re in it. I would much prefer to spend the money saved on Hi-Viz on some reflective tape and a good set of lights for my bike. I use my lights during the day to make up for the lack of hi-viz.

The legailty of Camera use

I often get the internet lawyer telling me that I’m braking several laws by videoing vehicles and posting videos of them, the drivers and the vehicles number plates online.
As we all know, vehicle number plates are publicly viewable and identifies the car. We can use these to complain about the drivers behaviour. What we don’t know from the number plate is any information about the driver.

I know in the past, that magnatom asked the information commissioner of Scotland what the position was, legally, of him doing what he does. The response that he got, was that it’s fine for us to do and it’s not breaking any data protection laws.
Magnatom has always stated that he isn’t sure if this applies to the England as well.

So to confirm where i and other helmet camera users stand on the matter of legality of posting videos online, i contacted the information commissioner in England and asked the following questions;

  • Is recording bicycle journeys made in england and posting footage on youtube breaking any laws? This includes posting footage of number plates of dangerous drivers that put cyclists life in danger and in some cases the faces and conversations with these drivers.
  • are there any restrictions to it, such as is advertising that you have a camera against the law e.g. a sign saying ‘video recording in operation’ on the cyclists back.

A few weeks later i got a response and it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. As magnatom’s response, i was also told that the videoing and posting videos would fall under section 36 of the data protection act. Which states

Personal data processed by an individual only for the purposes of that individual’s personal, family or household affairs (including recreational purposes) are exempt from the data protection principles and the provisions of Parts II and III.

This exemption means that individuals do not have to provide fair processing information to data subjects and so signs will not be necessary in a situation such as the one described. Equally, however, it would not be illegal to display such signs that warn of a camera.

Apart from the data protection act, I don’t think there is any issue with filming, and if there was, I’m sure I would have been brought up on it by now. My footage has been passed to various police departments in London, and none of them have come back to me saying I’m braking any laws.

A Guide To Helmet Cameras

Helmet cameras are becoming popular with cyclists. For evidential purposes and down to videos of cyclists just having fun. With the increase in users and more people watching the videos, i get asked regularly about my set up and what cameras i recommend. It’s time for me to create a detailed list of what cameras are out there and which camera to buy.

There are lots of things to think about when buying a camera, the most important being how much you want to spend. But lets not forget about; video quality, size, weight, waterproofness, battery life, battery replacement and the list goes on.

Something which is often overlooked but very important is storage and editing of footage. If you choose to go with a HD camera, then you will want to make sure your computer is up to scratch with editing the footage. The company that make the cameras should be able to supply you with the information you require on minimum system specifications for their camera. Look at how much storage space you will require if you want to keep some of your videos. HD recordings will take up a lot of space.

My top 5 list of helmet cameras to buy.

  1. Veho Muvi
  2. ContourHD
  3. GoPro HD Hero
  4. Drift HD170
  5. VIO POV 1.5

Veho Muvi
The camera which came out a little over a year ago which has made helmet camera’s popular and affordable is the Veho Muvi. It can be picked up for around £60. You are limited to about 1h30m max on the battery and due to the size of the camera it can be very discreet. The camera it’s self isn’t waterproof, but a special case or good positioning can sort this issue out.

A copy of the muvi is the MD80, and can be picked up at a fraction of the price without losing much quality.
There are a few copies of the muvi, a few are good but most are bad. Look out for the switches on the side of the camera, if they are buttons then avoid the camera!

I have to put the Muvi at number one because of the sheer amount of cyclists that use it and its cheap price for great quality.

ContourHD
The ContourHD is my camera of choice, i have the old 720p model and a 1080p model. Both very much worth the money and hopefully my reasons for choosing it will be outlined below.

The ContourHD pretty much covers every base with what you need from your camera. Superb quality, good variety of mounts for all situations, water-resistant, replaceable battery, rotateable lens, two lasers to line up the perfect angle and a button configuration that is very easy to use without looking at the camera and using gloves.

Things to know about behind the scenes with the camera and the company, vholdr have set up a community where you can upload your videos and a decent forum where questions are answered by other users. Differently worth checking out. There is some software which is available to edit and upload your videos, and change the quality and various light settings.

A key thing for me, was how the camera looked when mounted on the helmet. The contourHD appears to be bullet like and fairly flat, with a red recording light that is visible from the front and the side. This was a big factor for me when choosing it over the gopro HD Hero.

GoPro HD Hero
This is definitely the best camera from a picture point of view. The features and accessories are similar to the ContourHD, in fact there isn’t much difference between the GoPro HD Hero and the ContourHD. They are both amazing cameras, offer great options, deliver great video and are easy to use.
The two downside’s for me with the GoPro are the shape of it and you’re not able to rotate the lens. It’s square and looks ridiculous when you put it on top of a helmet. Rotating the lens means that you can still get the perfect angle when recording but having the ability to mount the camera in strange positions and angles.

One way around this downside is to mount the camera somewhere on the bike, where other oddly shaped things are mounted. MrOrigamist on youtube has done just this, mounted on his stem i believe, it gives a really interesting perspective that no one else currently uses and it looks great. So it’s only downside may not be relevant if you’re not actually going to mount on your helmet.

Drift HD170
Another HD camera here with some different attributes. Similar to the ContourHD the HD170 lets you rotate the lens so that you can get the perfect angle where ever you are mounting it. But where it lacks in laser pointers, it makes up for it with a screen which you can use to watch playback and check your angle. It also comes with a little remote clicker which you can use to start and stop recording.

If I’m honest i think the screen and remote are gimmicky. In day-to-day use I wouldn’t use either of them. A big problem for me is the buttons and their spacing. Due to their close nature and quite small size, it would be hard to operate the camera whilst it is on your helmet with gloves on. This was the main decider for me no to get a Drift HD170.
Apart from that the camera is just as good as the ContourHD and GoPro HD.

Vio POV 1.5
The Vio POV is an expensive option for a helmet camera, but it’s a damn good one. I doubt it’s the camera for most people anyway. It’s a 2 piece unit, a camera and a recording unit (DVR) these are connected via a cable. You will need to find a place to store the DVR whilst you are cycling, this is easy if you have a back pack. The DVR has all the buttons you need and a screen to go with it. On the screen you can watch recordings or the live feed. This gives you an easy way to check the recording angle without taking the camera off or going back to your PC.

The VIO makes it onto my list due to the technology it uses, the better lens and CCD recording chip means the image quality (whilst not HD) is truly amazing. The camera will also be much better in low light when compared to the cameras listed above.
The ability to upgrade the camera or DVR separately is also something that is attractive, especially if one breaks.

Conclusion
The muvi is the best value for money and one of the most widely used cameras among commuters (including clones). The HD cameras in my opinion are the best way to go. The quality they provide means that number plates and actions of cars are clearly visible. But the price jump between the Muvi and the HD cameras is huge, and if you don’t want to spend that money but want better quality then don’t disapear, as there is a gap that the companies have filled.
GoPro, Drift and several other companies have cameras that are in the non-HD range and are of still good quality with good features. If you want one of these, then i will suggest checking out the footage of that camera on youtube or similar.

This is just a list of my top 5 cameras i would recommend. I will do a detailed list of all helmet cameras i know about.

The ‘Efficacy’ of RoadSafe Website

Anyone that has gone through my previous blog posts will know that I’m a user of the RoadSafe London website and I was invited to meet the team that run it.

Only today I reported two incidences to RoadSafe, one for a white van that overtook me far to close and another where I’m concerned that a scooter rider hasn’t done his CBT and is putting him self in danger due to his riding style.

Recently a Freedom of information request was logged by Tim Lennon asking the following questions to the Metropolitan Police Service about the RoadSafe Website. Questions are in bold and the full FOI can be found here.

  1. How many people have visited the site since its inception?
    Since November 2009 the site has been visited 8235 times.
  2. How many copies of the form have been filled in? by how many individuals?
    From Nov to Dev 2009 = 12 Reports
    from Jan 2010 to date = 1213 reports
    The system does not capture data to provide detail of how many individuals have filled in forms.
  3. What transport method was in use by those filling in the form?
    Details of mode of transport is not logged
  4. How many people have been contacted (i.e. those listed in ‘driver details’ or ‘vehicle details’)
    We have sent 659 letters to resisted keepers and/or companies
  5. How many individuals and individual vehicles have been named in these forms?
    58 drivers named
  6. What action has been taken in each instance? (if detail is expensive to provide, you may simply advise how many have been cautioned , how many have had words of advice or similar, and how many have been pursued with further legal means.)
    Nine specific tasks aimed at disqualified or drink drivers. Resulting in two disqualified drivers arrested, one suspected persistent drink driver stopped.
    Eight reports generated and forwarded to our criminal justice unit for a decision on prosecution.
    Twenty eight intelligence reports passed to the MPS Cab Enforcement office.
    Four interest reports added to the ANPR database.
    Twenty one Intelligence reports disseminated to other MPS units.
    Twenty nine previously unreported collisions received.
    Four company visits made by our Commercial Vehicle Unit.
    Twenty one cycle intelligence reports passed to newly formed cycle team to deal.
    Eleven reports passed to our Traffic Management Unit to investigate alleged problems with road engineering. One of these resulted in recommendation to council for engineering solution. This has now been completed with new bollards and signs put in place.
    There have been 393 instances of no further action from reports created.
  7. Has any cost benefit analysis or similar been done of the site and its activity (if so, can you supply this data or report?)
    No

I don’t know the person that requested this FOI, or what there intentions where, I’m unaware if they are a blogger as i was passed this link by one of my twitter followers and he found it in the comments of another blog post.

A lot of people are complaining that this is no better than before. The roadsafe website makes it easy to make a complaint about a vehicle and their driver but without proof the police are unlikely to do anything about it. Which to me is understandable.
And you have to be realistic with what you expect them to do.

Looking at the results of the FOI request, it’s clear that they are using the information they are getting in a positive way. The information is being passed on to specific teams that can deal with them in a better way, and arrests and prosecutions are being made where possible.

With 1225 reports made with RoadSafe in nearly a year and 659 letters sent out to the registered keepers and/or companies. Your complaint has a 1 in 2 chance of having some action being taken place. A letter might not do much, but it should be kept on record against the vehicle that they have been contacted about their driving in the past.

More than 40% of the reports are about cycling ‘near miss’ this just shows that a vast majority of the users of it are cyclists. And I know that most of the London helmet camera users will report the worst stuff they see to RoadSafe, So I expect a vast majority of those 530 cycling near misses will be accompanied by video evidence.
With lots of video evidence going to the police with regards to issues that we cyclists face on a daily basis, one can only hope that they listen and help to do something about it.
Clearly we are going a step in the right direction as the cycling task force has been launched and they are tackling various issues across London by bicycle.

The only bad thing to pick up from this information is the fact that the traffic to the webpage is quite low. I still haven’t seen any advertising about this form, and I only found out due to word of mouth from other cyclists.
I recall from when I met the officers that run the website, they said something about a soft launch first of all and then going public later. An extended testing period?

Silly Cyclists

A coconut bunch

Image via Wikipedia

For as long as I have been publishing videos on youtube of bad drivers, I have had comments about why I don’t show videos of cyclists doing dangerous things. The reason was mostly because the cyclists are putting them selves in danger and not others.

About 2 months ago I half changed my mind on this case. I make videos to highlight the dangers of cycling in a place like London, and often the issues which come with cycling and how to get around them. But with other cyclists not reading from the same hymn sheet, I decide that making regular videos about the dangerous positions I see people putting them selves in to be a much better learning tool if anyone sees them.

These regular videos where daily at the start. Showing everything I saw. I soon changed this format to a weekly video with a commentary over the top. This format has made Silly Cyclists an important learning tool. I talk about what you shouldn’t do and what you should do in those situations. Watching the videos you soon learn what the common issues are, it seems to me that undertaking large vehicles such as buses and HGV’s is still a regular accorance.

Below I have added the latest Episode (14) and here you can find a playlist with all episodes in.