MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
It's a given that cyclists and drivers often have their differences. The road can be dangerous. More than 40,000 cyclists are struck by cars, and more than 700 are killed each year. That's led city planners to create bike lanes and launch public education campaigns as more people take up the sport. And now some cyclists are embracing a new tool - tiny cameras to record their rides. From Austin, Texas, Brenda Salinas reports.
BRENDA SALINAS, BYLINE: Hill Abel owns one of the biggest bike stores here in Austin, Bicycle Sport Shop. In the last year, he's helped a lot of customers pick out just the right camera to wear while they ride. And after yesterday's ride, he's thinking of joining them.
HILL ABEL: A guy cut me off, you know, for no reason. He's got both lanes to pass freely, but he comes honking around me and then tried to cut me off. If I would have had a camera to film that, I think that then I would report it to APD.
SALINAS: That's the Austin Police Department. There are more than two dozen cameras on the market for cyclists. They start out at $50 for a bike-mounted black box the size of a credit card, and they can range to $300 if you're looking at a deluxe action-style camera to mount on your helmet. The cameras can help police figure out what really happened in a crash. But one cyclist's distracted driver can be a motorist's careless cyclist. And to be clear, most cyclists and drivers are responsible and share the road. But three-time world champion cyclist Rebecca Rusch has had enough bad experiences with motorists to get her off the road.
REBECCA RUSCH: Sadly, I have had close calls with aggressive drivers and definitely had people buzzing me or saying aggressive words or even throwing a beer can out the window at me. And it's part of the reason that I ride mountain bikes and ride on gravel roads.
SALINAS: And that seems to happen to almost every cyclist. Dallas attorney Bill Shirer represents cyclists in court after accidents with cars. And he says every time he screens a jury, he meets drivers who think bikes just don't belong on the road.
BILL SHIRER: There would somebody who stands up and says, yeah, cyclists, they slow us down. They get in the way. And then sometimes cyclists will just totally disregard traffic laws. You know, they shouldn't be even allowed on the road.
SALINAS: Shirer says videos shot from the cyclist's point of view do help his cases. And he wonders if, in a few years, the cameras themselves might play a role in preventing accidents, much like red light cameras. Even though there are now upwards of 200,000 videos on YouTube showing encounters between drivers and cyclists, Rebecca Rusch cautioned cyclists against posting anymore. She says just give them to the police.
RUSCH: I doubt that somebody who's thrown a beer can out the window is going to see a camera go, oh, maybe I shouldn't do that. But what it can do is that it can alert law enforcement, you know, you can document a license plate number.
SALINAS: It's not known whether distracted drivers might be more careful if they know they're being recorded. But even if the cameras don't serve as a direct deterrent, the evidence they capture just might. For NPR News, I'm Brenda Salinas in Austin.
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