Bike Michiana

resources, news, observations and ideas about bicycling in the Michiana area

Black Box for Bikes

Posted by Adam Bee on April 24, 2009

One of the things that sometimes keeps me up at night is the possibility that on any given day I could be run down in cold blood by a homicidal maniac, and nobody would be left alive to testify on my behalf.  Folks would shrug and mumble, “Shoulda been on the sidewalk,” or, “Why wasn’t he driving his car?”

Then it occurred to me:  Airplane pilots have an eerily similar problem, and they’ve solved in by carrying a “black box” to record any possible crash.  Why not have the same thing for bikes?

The technology is already available.  I’ve got a Garmin Forerunner 305 which already records my GPS track with scary accuracy, in real time.  Newer versions of the same product are also available.  Helmet- or bike-mounted digital video cameras are available to capture license plate numbers.  They’ve got wide-angle lenses and shock-resistant casings.  Accelerometers are abundant and cheap, to record the force of any collision.

It’s even possible to get ultrasonic distance sensors to measure the distances to overtaking vehicles, as Ian Walker did in his famous research.

The whole setup might cost $2000-3000, but as a side benefit it would be an immaculate record of the experience of day-to-day cycling, whether for research data collection or for personal nostalgia.  And who knows, maybe someday it could be a virtual health or life insurance policy, worth hundreds of thousands in a potential lawsuit.

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One Response to “Black Box for Bikes”

  1. I used to think about this. During the 1990s I used to wonder if I had made myself obnoxious enough to the Clinton thugs that I would someday get offed while riding on a lonely back road. I used to think about the protective value of some kind of recording device. Still do, in fact. I’ve had some strange encounters while riding at night on county roads, sometimes wishing I had my cell phone in a handier place than it is. Sometimes I’ll fake a camera or phone to give bicycle-hating pickups something to think about. Once not so long ago I was off my bike taking a photo when something thrown from a passing car hit me on the head. I instinctively tried to fake a camera as it sped away, then realized I had a real camera in my hands, which is why I was off my bike. But the car was too far away to get the license plate number by the time I snapped the photo. URL here.

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