This could have been me:
A bicyclist riding along Old Homestead Highway was hit by a vehicle Friday evening.
At about 6:43 p.m. Swanzey Police and Fire Department responded to a reported hit-and-run accident on Route 32.
The vehicle was described as a white SUV, possibly a Chevy Blazer, with a black roof rack. It’s missing its passenger-side mirror as a result of the accident, according to Cpl. Robert Eccleston of the Swanzey police.
The cyclist suffered serious injuries and was transported to Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene.
A couple of years ago it was me. I got sideswiped on a bike ride in another part of the county. In that case too, the impact also broke off the passenger-side mirror. Luckily I only suffered a bruised leg. According to a follow-up report, this cyclist suffered “skull fractures on the left side of his head, where his helmet hit the pavement, a broken shoulder and severe road rash.”
When it happened to me, I was furious for weeks. Every time I saw a sedan similar to the one that knocked me off my bike I looked for the telltale missing passenger-side mirror. And I formed a clear idea of a product that might have prevented the hit-and-run, or failing that, nabbed the perpetrator. It’s a pair of bicycle-mounted cameras, front and rear, that trigger on approaching traffic and take sequences of shots that can identify approaching vehicles.
Here’s why I imagine this could work. I don’t know about yesterday’s hit-and-run, but in my case it didn’t feel like an accident. We were the only two vehicles on the road. There was plenty of room for the car to give me wide berth. But some motorists like to hassle cyclists verbally, and once in a while that escalates to a cat-and-mouse game. That’s a game people these people play because they think they can get away with it. There’s no expectation that the sideswiped cyclist will be able to prove that it happened, or capture the identity of the car. In my case, when I jumped to my feet after tumbling along the roadside, only to see the car speeding over the top of the next hill, I remember thinking: “You bastard, if I only had your license plate number you would regret this.”
Defensive surveillance isn’t just a capability that cyclists need, of course. It makes sense for motorists to identify and record oncoming traffic too. But car-on-car violence is a game played on a level field. Car-on-bike violence is so unequal that I’ll jump at any advantage I can get.
Does the product I imagine already exist? Maybe, but I don’t think so. There are obviously scads of cheap helmet- or bike-mountable cameras. What I’m looking for, though, is one that’s optimized for defensive surveillance. I think that means a gadget that senses oncoming traffic, and then shoots sequences of high-resolution stills. Ideally it’d come with two pairs of mounts. One pair would be fitted to my bike’s handlebar and seat. The other pair would be fitted to my car’s dashboard and rear deck. For extra credit, the car would keep the cameras charged so they’re always ready to defend the bike.
PS: Meanwhile, my low-tech solution is a helmet-mounted rear view mirror. I have always used one, and can now scarcely imagine what it used to be like to have to crane my head around — and wobble my bike — in order to see what’s behind me. With a helmet mirror, situational awareness only requires rapid eye flicks that become an automatic habit. Obviously the habit wasn’t fully automatic, but after the incident a couple of years ago I’m even more vigilant. I watch every car that approaches from the rear, and am always mentally preparing a dive into the ditch.