Red light cameras, speed cameras, police cameras; Video footage of Chicago drivers is being gathered all the time, all over the city. Drivers should also be aware of a new camera on the streets. As WGN’s Nancy Loo reports, a growing number of bicyclists view bike cams as a key piece of protective gear.
Travelling the streets of Chicago by bike can often be an unpredictable obstacle course. Near collisions seems to happen all day, every day. (horn honks) Close calls are why Scott Wilson regularly documents his commute to a Northwest side bike shop with a small video camera mounted to his handle bars. “There have been a few times I have been brushed by a car and I think, well, had that been one more inch over, or getting doored.” Dooring is a common problem, drivers who open their car doors in the path of a cyclist. The city fines driver $1000 if a cyclist is hurt. Personal injury attorney Gerald Bekkerman thinks more cyclists with cameras on their helmets or handlebars could keep the majority of cases out of court.”You should be filming your commute, because if a driver’s negligence is captured on video, you did nothing wrong, then you have really good evidence.” With a popular bike sharing program in Chicago, the addition of 100’s of miles of new bike lanes, and a city push for commuters to be greener, there are more bicyclists in Chicago than ever, even through the winter months. Bike commuter Aaron Holm wishes he had rigged up his GoPro camera while riding through the west loop last week. “Just riding along, a car turned into me and I landed on the windshield. For safety reasons, if I would’ve had the footage of me getting hit, I could have shown it to the police department right then and there. And, I could have sent that into insurance and everything else.” The Illinois Bike Attorneys group represents dozens of injured cyclists every year. Tom Pakenas expects bike cam footage to factor into more cases in the future. “Makes my job extremely easy. We go to the insurance company with video of door popping open at the last minute, or car making a turn in front of the bicycle rider. That’s definitive proof.” But cyclists should keep in mind that their footage can cut both ways. Video is also documenting their behavior on the roads. And attorney Bekkerman says all should be aware that a state eavesdropping law does not allow for the recording of audio without consent. “In an accident, get into a talk with the driver and you have a yelling match. Guess what? You better get consent to talk. Otherwise that audio should not be recording. I don’t think it’d be admissible. In fact, it might be a crime.” But Pakenas says, even without audio, the video could speak volumes. “It’s kind of like insurance. You never, until you really need it, then you’re really thankful for it.”
More cyclists on the roads have raised public awareness and the Illinois Department of Transportation says crashes are down. Please help us spread the word by sharing this story. .
Producer Pam Grimes, and Photojournalists Audrey Haynes, Nelson Howard, and Ted Parra also contributed to this report.