Between safety conscious and being a self promoting police.
In the last couple of years the use of cycling cameras such as Go Pro increased somewhat. Resulting in some amazing footage of cyclists, motorists and pedestrians getting into some horrific incidents, or people generally causing risks amongst themselves or to others.
Now, I have been careful to say “people” rather than cyclist, pedestrian or drivers. The simple reality is that people are people, as much as it is unnecessary to point out gender or creed. People are going around sometimes causing risks to either themselves or to others.
I read many reports in the media (of many kinds) that a cyclist has filmed and uploaded onto YouTube or other platforms that they have captured the next horrific injustice to cycling. But really could it be that simple? Does it mean that they filmed it and therefore they are right? Afterall, I am sure these self promoted visualante (visual vigilante) only posts those videos which are worthy (in their mind) to be posted.
Regardless of the content, it is the fact that only the video maker is deciding whether they are worth posting or not. In many cases I can see that the videos do capture good content and shows an incident that is worth taking note, particularly in cities like London. In some cases these videos have even led to prosecution of the offender. Usually due to antisocial behaviour or even criminal intent.
However, these videos are often taken by people who are out to capture only the bad side of cycling, meaning places like YouTube is inundated by a majority of “incidents” rather than the good. Which gives tabloid media and journalists a source to sell newspapers or online news. Moreover, this intention to capture “incidents” has led many people to attach cameras to their helmets, body or bike to ensure if anything happens while they are riding to have captured the evidence. But this leads alot of these people to become “the police”. I have noticed recently more and more guys are riding around seemingly on their commute to work that they noticed an incident that caused risk to them and then arguing with a driver/pedestrian or even the police and they stand their reciting their encyclopaedic knowledge of the law.
But how often are these justified. I heard from my wife recently that she was shouted at while riding through a traffic quiet crossroad that she had become another “stupid” rider risking their life jumping the lights. However, my wife considers herself to be a law abiding citizen, so wouldn’t consider jumping the lights to be something she would do. The reality was that she was riding through an amber light in a traffic free situation, which is to my mind a very fair thing to do. But the guy with the camera consider her to be “stupid” which is not a courteous thing to say to a fellow cyclist.
Without confrontation my wife duly ignored this guy and continued her way. But after telling me the story, it would seem weird how the guy was also riding himself across the same crossroad in the opposite direction, meaning he also must have crossed while the lights were amber. Hopefully this incident didn’t make it to YouTube, after this Visualante got home and reviewed the footage and realised he was also in the same “stupid” situation.
So what is happening, well, it would seem a good number of riders who commute or generally ride with cameras are genuinely trying to add a safety aspect to their ride by recording the ride the chances are if anything happens they would have recorded it as evidence. Fair enough, I am thinking. However those who go out policing the streets on their bikes (Visualantes) are sometimes causing more harm than good. Shouting out to other riders or “people” is not really a nice way to promote cycling. In one video I noticed the rider with the camera was actually not caring much for other traffic users, darting in and out of cycle lanes and the road, then arguing with the police that he is allowed to when he was stopped. Yes, he was right that he can, but the way he was doing it was not nice to other cyclists or drivers, therefore the Policeman stopped him. We all contribute to the traffic and in certain circumstances we may be not always do the “right thing”. It is only human nature.
People are people, whether you are a cyclist, pedestrian or driver, we all can make certain types of mistake or even do things that others may find terrible wrong but others to be fair game. It is our responsibility to do things in a lawful way and resist the temptation to break these laws. But at the same time we don’t need to confront others just because they may have done something which in other circumstances ‘may’ have been dangerous.
Cycling is fast becoming an activity that may get outlawed or heavily restrictive because we either abuse our freedom or we abuse each other. We need to coexist on the roads as they belong to all of us. Most cyclists today in the UK are pedestrians and drivers too. So there is no need to be aggressively confronting each other due to some small misunderstanding or sudden decision making.
Personally I ride on the road with the mindset that it is dangerous, but that isn’t the fact, I think that way so I am aware of the dangers and therefore try to avoid such situations and to prevent myself causing dangers to others. I also do not ride with a camera as I don’t feel I need that level of “protection”, I feel I can manage the dangers or rather I can manage my safety well without the need to capture the ride in case of any incidents. If I see someone do something a little silly or wrong on the roads I may stop to give some advice or I may just ignore it. I certainly wouldn’t tell or shout at them that they just done something “stupid”. I don’t confront others whilst walking or driving, why would I do that whilst riding my bicycle.
So is it a thin line between being safety conscious and being a self promoting police. I think not, being safety conscious comes from education, learning from others of what is right and wrong to do on a bike. Being a self promoting police is basically a conscious decision to go out there to prove a point, but a point that is sometimes grossly enlarged. These people will confront others even if they drive or walk, or even swim, whatever it may be aggressive people will always find something to be annoyed about.These video footage is not the best way to educate people on how to ride and be safe on the road, we need to educate people on traffic and how to be part of traffic. Then we can all walk, ride or drive in safety and not need such huge amounts of money to squeeze in cycling infrastructures to over populated areas. Maybe with good education more people will see the benefits of using their bikes more often and not rely on cars so much.