Monday, March 28, 2011

Ask Dr. Wally: Helmet cameras

Dear Dr. Wally,

I've been thinking about getting a helmet camera to document the encounters I've had with local motorists. Most of them are safe, courteous drivers, but a small percentage are either baffled when they meet cyclists on the road or they're angry. I had a nasty security guard at a local business tell me I couldn't lock my bike to the fence outside. I'd really like to document this. Do you have any advice regarding these cameras?

Photogenic in Poteau

Ah, security guards. They occupy a special place in the pantheon of small-minded demi-gods, chubby county sheriff's deputies, and my waspish English teacher from high school. Get a helmet camera and use it, Pho, but don't expect that your effort will bring positive results in every case.

First, some background. In Oklahoma as in most states, there's no expectation of privacy in a public place. That means you can photograph people without their consent - provided you're not using the photos for advertising or using someone's likeness in a malicious way. You can take photos on private property, but if the property owner objects, you must leave or you can be arrested for trespassing. The photos, however, are your property and they cannot be taken from you.

Some police agencies will be proactive and try to identify problem motorists using a cyclist's video. Other agencies, however, regard cyclists as a nuisance and will dismiss even the most egregious video of an abusive or dangerous motorist. Still, with the popularity of a public forum like YouTube, these benighted police departments can be dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty first century.

Dr. Wally

Next month: Collected recipes for county sheriff's deputies from the wild cannibals of Oklahoma

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Blogger Steve A said...

So, just how much does it weigh when you take one those big ol' analog film cameras you fancy and start cranking away? Shades of Zapruder!

Seriously, it'd fix the one problem I've had - of actually recording a license number.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

Oregon Scientific makes a nice helmet cam, Steve. It looks like a flashlight. But I don't think it offers hi-def and the sound quality is lacking. There are others, of course, and some look like cameras. Some offer high definition images too.

Wouldn't it be fun to take an old 8mm movie camera and replace the sensor with a modern CCD? There's amble room inside for electronics and batteries, but I probably wouldn't want to wear one on my head.

3:55 PM  

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