Cycling dashcams: improving accountability, road safety, and your ride

Dangerous driving has been on the increase in recent years. Campaign member Hannah tells her story of why she feels the need to use a camera to report dangerous drivers to the police

I’ve cycled around Norwich for over a decade. In this time, I’ve taken for granted that I’d occasionally need to brake suddenly or swerve out of the path of vehicles when I had right of way. Most often, it’s been those moments ranging from mild panic to terror, when being close passed by a car.

On one occasion, someone even drove into the back of my bike while I was stationary and waiting to turn left at a roundabout. Luckily, they had been driving slowly and stopped as soon as they hit my rear wheel. The driver said they hadn’t seen me. For context, it was broad daylight, sunny, I was signalling clearly, and I had flashing lights on.

Close pass on Bank Plain

Of course, there’s a difference between “not seeing” and “not looking”. Unfortunately, there are also a small minority of drivers who do see cyclists, and still choose to drive in an intimidating manner around them.

A few years ago, I became aware of YouTubers filming their rides and actively reporting drivers committing offences. I initially didn’t consider taking this up myself due to budget and time restrictions – I just wanted to jump on my bike and get from A to B! However, I then had a particularly scary experience that changed my mind.

I was cycling on a 30mph road itself rather than the cycle path to the left, because a) the surface was rough and uncomfortable on a road bike, b) I’d noticed potholes, and c) I’d have to give up priority to side roads several times along the stretch of road. I also knew that anyone could safely overtake quickly, given how quiet it was. Of course, cyclists shouldn’t have to make excuses when they have just as much right to be there as vehicles do. Even now, I still feel like I need to explain myself, which is likely a result of being made to feel so unwelcome on the road at times.

I became aware of a vehicle approaching fast behind me, and before I knew it, I’d been overtaken extremely closely. One of those particularly close passes where you brace yourself and feel a shock of genuine fear. After the overtake, I threw a hand up and swore in frustration. I then saw the driver pointing at the cycle path to the left. So that explained it; I’d received a “punishment pass” – when a vehicle drives intentionally close to a cyclist to intimidate them and create fear of impact or injury. I felt a wave of anger and frustration, because I knew there would be no consequence without evidence or witnesses.

The driver had put me at risk on purpose and would get away with it. I didn’t feel confident enough to get on my bike for the next few days.

Close pass on King Street

In hindsight, I can now thank that anonymous driver, as this incident finally inspired me to get a camera myself. I mounted a GoPro on the handlebars and started to film my rides, soon capturing close passes on my travels. The single biggest difference was that I didn’t feel as powerless or intimidated on the roads. Sure, I was still fearful at times. However, I knew that being able to report the driving offence meant that there would likely be a consequence.

I haven’t kept count of the number of drivers who have been prosecuted. However, most reports result in a “Notice of Intended Prosecution” being sent, as I only report instances that are clear examples of dangerous or careless driving.

If you have some spare time and the means, I’d recommend that you consider picking up a camera. There must be dozens of drivers around Norwich who now have a healthy respect of the appropriate passing distance due to my reporting, which is hopefully benefiting the local cycling community.

The more reports, the more drivers who realise that they can be held accountable for their actions.

How to report

  • Footage needs to be reported via the Norfolk Police Report a road traffic incident page.
  • Instructions are straightforward, and you’ll be prompted to submit all necessary information such as time, dates, and locations.
  • You’ll then receive a link to upload the video footage (including a minute before and after).
  • Once the footage is uploaded and been checked, you should receive an email to confirm whether any action (including a Notice of Intended Prosecution) has been taken.

Additional tips

  • You can check car details on the National Vehicle Database using the number plate – you’ll need these details for the report. This will also indicate if the car is taxed and has a valid MOT, which you can mention in the report.
  • Take a screenshot of the close pass and upload along with the video footage. It may help identify the vehicle, and often shows just how close they were. I’ve included some examples in this article where the driver received a Notice of Intended Prosecution (timestamps removed).

Time sensitivity

  • Report the initial instance as soon as possible. There is a 7-day window for you to report, have the police send you an upload link, and upload the footage.
  • If it takes longer, the most the police can do is send a warning letter. In my experience, this time limit applies even if the delay is on the side of the police.
Close pass at dusk

Things to remember

Of course, most people cycle carefully and legally. However, if you submit dashcam footage of an incident where you’re cycling carelessly or contravene the Highway Code, then the police may prosecute you too!

Always keep the footage on your memory card for at least six months after the incident. This is because the police have six months to prosecute driving offences. If the case goes to court, you’ll need it. I’ve never had to go to court as the evidence speaks for itself, but it’s always a possibility. For the same reason, don’t share footage on social media for at least six months after reporting.

You’ll need a time and date stamp on the footage itself if you want to be able to report dangerous or careless driving to the police. [Ed: Since publishing this article, Norfolk Police have confirmed that their policy has now changed. In the absence of a date and time stamp, as long as a witness confirms in their statement that the date and time is accurate, a Notice of Prosecution will still be issued where required.]

A front-mounted camera captures most incidents sufficiently. I have a GoPro Hero 9 with the same brand of bicycle mount. I recently bought a rear-mounted Garmin Varia camera, but only to add an extra viewpoint. If you have a GoPro Hero 8 or above, you should be able to use GoPro Labs to create a QR code, which adds a dash cam-style overlay to the footage. Do check the information on the link for compatibility and instructions.

You can buy plenty of cycle cameras that are built for this purpose only and will have the overlay as standard, as well as doubling up as bike lights. Brands like Garmin and Cycliq are well known, but you can get cheaper versions if you shop around. If you’re a hobby cyclist or have a long commute, you’d be better off with a product designed to be a cycling dashcam only. GoPros have fantastic quality footage but they’re designed to be general action cameras, and those batteries run out quicker.

Close pass coming the other way

Try not to use super view or wide-angle settings, as it can make the car seem a lot further away than it is, particularly for close passes.

Where possible, capture the wheel of your bike or corner of a handlebar to provide a visual anchor point, which makes it clear how close vehicles are. I mount my GoPro towards the centre of my handlebars and slightly tilted to the right, so I capture most of the front view but also the top of the right handlebar. This captures most close passes well.

Use looping footage or constant recording if the memory card has enough room for your journey – if something does happen or you’re knocked off your bike, you want to make sure it’s captured. Most recent GoPros have a “hindsight” feature that captures a portion of time before and after clicking a button. This may seem super handy, but not in the worst-case scenarios, as it’s dependent on you remembering (or being able) to press a button.

Make sure your camera footage is stabilised, at least 1080p, and preferably above 30 frames per second. This makes it easier to capture number plates.

Most importantly, don’t forget to remove your cameras when you’re parked! You’d think it’s obvious, but I’ve almost left a GoPro as a gift for opportunistic thieves on more than one occasion!

I also found that getting a PassPixi helped reduce close passes. It’s a magnetic sign you can attach to your cycling gear, clothes, or rucksack, and warns drivers that you have a camera. It’s a great deterrent, as well as raising awareness that cyclists have dashcams too. Norfolk Police hear from me a lot less since buying one of these.

It’s a huge shame that anyone feels the need to film their rides, but unfortunately some people will only drive respectfully and safely around cyclists if there are consequences for not doing so. My biggest hope is that, by reporting these instances, I might influence positive changes in driving behaviour that will keep the next cyclist safe.

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4 thoughts on “Cycling dashcams: improving accountability, road safety, and your ride

  1. This is excellent, Hannah.
    There is just one slight correction and that is that you don’t need a date stamp anymore.

    1. Thank you!

      That’s interesting, I was told by a police officer that the rules were changing and that now and date and time stamp was necessary for prosecution – I think this was a year or so ago. They only sent a warning letter because of this, on an occasion where it would usually be a NIP.

      What’s your source, please?

      I do hope it’s changed, as it would make reporting a lot more accessible.

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