Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cycling Propaganda the Norwegian Way

This video, which is from a Norwegian government agency and features the well known Norwegian cyclist Thor Hushovd, has been out for a while. In the U.S. such things when presented on television are known as "PSAs" - a "public service announcement," or advertisement that is provided for public benefit (generally at no cost).

In Norwegian only, no closed captioning in English - however little is said ~

"'Del veien' is Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) campaign to increase understanding between cyclists and drivers in the traffic." - according to the YouTube information for the video. Their agency web page doesn't provide more information (unless you speak Norwegian). The video shows different situations where the cyclist, Hushovd, almost has serious crashes with different motor vehicles, yet (miraculously) arrives home in one piece - the punch line is "for those who don't have nine lives" (in Norwegian) - it makes sense when you watch it.

I would imagine a fair amount of thought went into coming up with different seven different "interactions" between motor vehicles and the cyclist (in one case, while he is riding with a group). Although set in a village, each of close calls is an illustration of a typical high risk situation where cyclists and motorists can end up crashing in a more urban setting. There is a little of everything, which is remarkable in the 45 seconds allotted. Also, if one (whether cyclist or motorist) stops to think about each of these situations, it isn't so obvious who is at fault in most of them - so (apparently) the notion from the government agency is to "increase understanding between cyclists and drivers in the traffic" by showing the ambiguity in how they sometimes interact. I read this as quite different than the usual American approach, that to me can be summarized as, "if we (but particularly those cyclists) all obey the law, everything will be OK." Laws are fine up to point, but you can't legislate common sense, and you can't rely on traffic laws to provide guidance for every aspect of what works on the road for safety and what doesn't. Or so it seems to me.

As an example of this American thinking, the NYTimes had a recent "debate" with different viewpoints expressed - "should the laws and infrastructure be altered to recognize differences between bikes and cars, or should cyclists be treated the same as drivers?" was the question discussed. The differing responses to a considerable extent lined up on opposite sides by choosing to focus either on "laws" or on "infrastructure," ignoring the "and" in the question (that suggests both should be addressed). The perennial American stalwart of "vehicular cycling" John Forester presents his usual view, that "cyclists are fully capable of obeying the rules of the road; they fare best when they act, and are treated, as drivers of vehicles" while the expert from Copenhagen points out that there cyclists are "separate but more than equal" - but not in terms of the law, but in terms of infrastructure that means they get where they are going (up to certain urban-typical distances) faster on average than motorists.

A 3:50 minute mini-documentary on how the one-minute video was made

In the English speaking blogs mentioning the Norwegian video that I have seen there is just a pointer to the 60 second YouTube presentation but the Norwegian agency also have this short video on the making of the video, which is interesting even if one doesn't understand Norwegian - cramming as many different cycling-motor vehicle scenarios into one short video turns out to have been a pretty elaborate (and by the look, expensive) project. One assumes that Norway's oil wealth makes possible such productions from a government agency.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bike Share in Boston


I'm visiting Boston for work for a couple of days and have been using their bike share system. Here is the station in front of Boston Public Library.

I found out I would be traveling to Boston rather late so I ended up with a hotel about three miles from Boston Public Library where the meetings were held. There was a bike share station on Commonwealth Avenue about a third of a mile from the hotel and from there it was a straight shot most of the way on Commonwealth Avenue by bike to Boston Public Library. Commonwealth Avenue has a green painted bike lane most of the way. It was very nice, even on a heavy Bikeshare bike (or perhaps particularly on such a bike).

It takes a little getting used to, riding along on that busy a street with the busses in particular right along side. It seemed much better however than simple sharrows or sharing a traffic lane with motor vehicles. (I am not a follower of John Forester, in other words.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Flats Come in Threes??

I have written about this before - it seems often like flat tires "come in threes" - I don't have any for a long while, then boom - in short order, three.

Yesterday about a mile from home I realize the front tire was getting low on air but was not flat. After I stopped and checked it, I continued on, putting my weight as far back as I could, to put it on the rear tire (mostly). I was able to continue about 3/4 of the rest of the way without adding air (and I walked the last bit rather than getting a pump out).

First flat I've had in a while

I was a little worried that I had damaged the tire with this but it seems OK. Overall it probably isn't a smart strategy given that tires are kind of expensive. (Or good ones aren't cheap, anyway.) Now I'm wondering if I will encounter a rash of flat tires in the next few weeks. Hmm. I have seen a lot of glass on the bike trails lately, mostly from broken bottles. I have thought about bringing a little wisk broom, but then where is one supposed to sweep the stuff? If for example I swept glass off the 14th street bridge into the Potomac, is that even legal? Or am I supposed to carry the stuff with me, like a camper?

Patent 574015
An 1896 patent for a possible anti-flat tire system - one example of many . . .

For almost as long as there have been bicycles with pneumatic tires there have been people trying to "solve" the problem of flat tires by "fixing" or improving the design of bicycle tires (and wheels). So far, though, the standard pneumatic bicycle tire with inner tube prevails ~

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Another Kickstarter for Cyclists - the "Most Compact in the World"

From "The basic idea with FUBi was [i.e., is] this: a foldable bicycle that was very easy to store inside due to optimum compactness and at the same time would retain all the functionality and styling of standard full-sized bicycles!" and "FUBi is not intrinsically an ordinary foldable bicycle. It is a full-sized bicycle with a fold-able feature! There is a difference there."

This video, in my view, doesn't adequately address all the complexities of what they are proposing

The FUBi Kickstarter project page is the longest one I have ever seen (although I limit myself to looking at Kickstarter projects related to bicycling, so that may be a skewed sample). It is certainly the most ambitious project, in terms of the many novel aspects of the new bicycle they propose to build (and sell, eventually). Their Kickstarter seeks 90,000 British Pounds. (I don't understand why, at least where I live, it is given as in Pounds and not say Euros.) Most of the support so far is from a small number of people wanting to be at the head of the line to receive one when they are first available as a product. With 4,452 Pounds raised and 25 days to go, it doesn't look all that promising (based on what I understand about the usual trajectory for successfully funded Kickstarter projects) but maybe it will work out.

Folding Bike Patent 1896 (p2)
Folding bike patent, 1896 - the interest in folding bikes is of long standing

The FUBi people (or guy?) have a problem, I think - there is no "elevator ride" (that is, brief) way to explain all the aspects of the FUBi bicyclke - this is certainly not just a bike that folds up, but rather a collection of different innovative bicycle technologies, rolled up into a folding bicycle. Here are just some of the unusual (if not novel) aspects to the FUBi design:

* Truss frame design (which is the solution to providing stiffness for this folding bike, but can be a feature of any bike).
* The front and rear wheels have what are described as "an inverted hub as the center of hub is rotating, whereas on a regular hub the axis is fixed and non rotating" - the wheels are identical and only 50 mm wide (compared to 100 mm for a standard road bike front wheel).
* The drive cog set and rear derailleur are outside the chain and seat stays, which is associated with the used of identical narrow front and back wheels.
* The rear (and only) derailleur uses the spring opposite from a traditional modern derailleur - it pulls the chain up onto the larger rings rather than down to the smaller rings (while the rider applies pressure through levers to pull the derailleur in the opposite direction). This is described as a "totally new fast shift derailleur."
* Tension is applied to the chain by a separate system than the derailleur.
* Headset design has the front fork rotating outside of (in front of) the tube where the bearing are.
* The brakes and other aspects of the design are easily adjustable or simply allow use of several different diameter wheel sizes, thus the bike can be said to be usable in configurations ranging from mountain bike to road bike.
* FUBi claims that their bottom bracket, that uses ball bearings mounted directly into the frame and not a cassette is a plus or simplification but I'm not sure most people would see it that way and it isn't particularly unusual (at least not historically).
* And two different ways to fold it up - one fast, another so that it is reduced to the size of tennis equipment bag (and a small one at that - except for the wheels, of course).

I am not an expert of bicycle design and patents, but my impression is that the only piece of this (other than the overall folding design) that is truly new is the "fast shift" derailleur. (And maybe the wheel hub design?) But certainly the amalgamation of all these unusual design features in one folding bicycle is different.

One of 19 (at present) videos on YouTube from "FUBiworld" - how the frame assembles

Kickstarter now requires a "risks and challenges" section to each project proposal be completed - in other words, risks and challenges to the completion of the project if the funding is acquired. The FUBi people talk about some engineering issues, mostly to do with the use of titanium, possible problems with the supply chain for some parts, and building out their team - sure. But a more interesting risk or set of risks for someone putting money into this expecting to get a bike out of it (which is everyone who is putting more than trivial amounts of funding into it) is whether it is a good bike or not. By "good" I mean more than just "does it ride well and all the parts work," but also whether it is easily maintained over the long haul, because a good bike should last a long time. You know, as in at least ten years. To me, to take as obvious both that this bike would ride well and that it will be possible to maintain it in say 2025, seems doubtful - there is risk in particular with the design of the rear derailleur that if FUBi otherwise isn't a success that you end up with a bike that requires a part that isn't available.

Panasonic bike at Shirlington
A Panasonic Villager - a bike that demonstrates the problems with one-off bicycle innovations that don't catch on

This somewhat sad bike (note the missing left pedal) that I photographed (more for the odd frame design) was considered an innovative bike when made decades ago in that it had its freehub in the bottom bracket and not in the rear wheel - as a result, since no one else adopted this design, these bikes are not easily maintained (other than taking parts off of another example of the same bike). At the same time, the design of the bike is such that reworking the bike to use a standard design is also not possible - much like it would be impossible (I think) to redo your FUBi with a standard rear derailleur.

On the other hand, Kickstarter seems to be much about providing people who have some money they don't know what to do with the opportunity to have something really unusual, if only for a while (that it is unusual). So what the hell. Sure, FUBi.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Positive Cycling Propaganda from Arlington Country (Virginia)

Typically the word "propaganda" is not given a positive spin - Wikipedia says, "While the term propaganda has acquired a strongly negative connotation by association with its most manipulative and jingoistic examples . . . propaganda in its original sense was neutral, and could refer to uses that were generally benign or innocuous . . . " and that "Propaganda is a form of communication aimed towards influencing the attitude of the community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. Propaganda statements may be partly false and partly true. Propaganda is usually repeated and dispersed over a wide variety of media in order to create the chosen result in audience attitudes."

It seems pretty clear that Arlington County wants this new video it has produced to influence community attitudes towards cycling. Yes. The video is described here.
As Arlington's bicycle program, BikeArlington's mission is to get more Arlingtonians biking more often, whether they're commuting, shopping, or just having fun. We do this through encouragement as well as education, and what better way to educate our community on bicycling in Arlington than with a documentary on everything that we do to achieve that goal?

Overall the video is well done, although it is a little heavy on County employees (so called "County staff") as talking heads. In particular it would have been nice to have some graphics showing some of this growth in cycling they are talking about and perhaps a map. Also, as someone who lives in south Arlington I note that the outdoor shots are almost entirely from north Arlington (which is where the County admin types work and perhaps focus more of their attention?). One shot of south Arlington, along Four Mile Run (that is on my regular work commute by bike) at 4:58 through 5:05 and again 5:43 through 5:48 shows part of the trail that I know is in Alexandria, not Arlington, because of a recent question I sent to the Arlington bike coordinator about the zig-zag trail that is being installed there (and that is shown in the video). Oops.

Addendum 10/16 -- the mention of Crystal City and the video of streets scenes there, including aerial shots of Boeing's local HQ and the like is in south Arlington but I would suggest is quite different from the rest of it - also, it seems that Crystal City is mentioned since the big corporations gave $250,000 to start Capital Bikeshare there. (Which I didn't know. Interesting.) Anyway, the more I think it over, the more I am (slightly) annoyed that they couldn't do a little better to show more of the cycling infrastructure further than a few miles from their offices in north Arlington.

Addendum #2 10/16 -- at 8:30 the talking head person says that "the goal is [for Arlington] to become the best biking city on the east coast; the Country board set the goal for staff [i.e., the Country employees] . . . " - as a goal, I find this disappointing. Really, we are conceding leadership to Portland or Seattle or ??? What the heck. Why.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Pleasure-Cycling" - a How-to Book From 1895

In 1895 the publisher deposited a copy of this book in compliance with copyright law at the Library of Congress - and it has been digitized and made available online.

LC control no. 04011762
LCCN permalink
Type of material Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
Personal name Clyde, Henry.
Main title Pleasure-cycling, by Henry Clyde.
Published/Created Boston, Little, Brown & co., 1895.
Description 186 p. illus. 18 cm.
Subjects Cycling.
Additional formats Also available in digital form on the Internet Archive Web site.
LC classification GV1041 .C64

Pleasure-Cycling title page
Title page - the free spirit (mostly) approach to cycling

This book is a fairly low-key introduction to cycling:
Ti this little book, the writer, looking back to his own days of inexperience in cycling, has endeavored to furnish some useful information and advice to those who intend joining the army of wheelmen, or who, in their first season on the road, are beginning to appreciate the healthy pleasure which cycling brings. The book being especially intended to aid the amateur rider of the safety bicycle in the intelligent use of his wheel, the writer has kept that purpose closely in view, and has not included matters aside from it; such, for example, as the history of the development of the bicycle, and training for track and road racing.
The LC copy still has its original cover, although a bar code sticker has (sadly) been applied to it.


Pleasure-Cycling, parts of a bicycle
A somewhat minimalistic explanation of what the parts of a bike are

Note what is missing - no brakes (or even a single brake)! This was a fixed gear bike, so mostly you would stop it by slowing down your pedaling. You could also apply a foot to the front wheel.

I. The Poetry of Motion .... 11
II. Choosing a Bicycle 31
III. How to Ride 63
lY. Taking Care of a Bicycle . . . 103
V. Dress and Equipment 123
VI. Cycling and Health 141
VII. On the Road 165

Pleasure-Cycling illustration
Sample illustration
Cycling gratifies the love of adventure which is latent in everybody. You may make a little journey into the world on your wheel, and, although you travel but a hundred miles from your home, you will be surprised to find how much of interest and amusement you meet along new roads, and among fresh faces and unfamiliar landscapes.

At less than 200 pages, this is a nice introduction to how cycling would have been introduced to a new rider in the 1890s.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Portland Oregon and Politfacts Not So Much

Here I generally find cyclists assume that the folks in Portland (Ore) and Seattle are advanced in their thinking about cycling - but when examined more closely, it doesn't always seem so.

For example, here the Oregon version of Politfact looks at how many bicycles can fit in a single parking place (for a car).

The Oregon Politfact analyst doesn't care for the citation that Congressman Blumenauer's office used - somehow that seems like a less important question than whether the statement is factually accurate or not.
So 12 is the highest number of bicycle anyone will see in an area the size of a parking space. Two-tiered bike racks are available online but are primarily designed for commercial storage and retail bike storage and display. Several commercial racks hold as many as 20 bikes in 20 feet, but they need to be mounted to a wall or ceiling and aren’t really designed for outdoor use.
Actually there is no particular reason why this discussion should be limited to outdoors - the question is how many bicycles can fit into the same space that would be taken up by a car, not whether it is indoors or outdoors.

Public parking in the Netherlands that provide high density with two levels of bikes parked in space where there would be one level of cars

There is nothing that technologically complex about this, but it does reflect a recognition that in the Netherlands there are so many bicycles to be parked that it makes sense to have such parking available. Whether that makes sense in the US or not is separate from whether it is possible.

An example from Brazil - a managed facility using simpler technology that is nevertheless fairly high density (although perhaps not 20 per space)

I was surprised to see a blog post from the Seattle Bike Blog extolling the virtues of a new segment of bike lanes near where I used to live (before 1990) - really, this is a big advance?

This isn't very impressive, Seattle

At 10 seconds in, the cyclist in the picture looks over his shoulder with great attentiveness since he must change lanes - the bike lane on this portion of roadway is ending and to continue with the bike lane (that from here is about three blocks away) he has to switch lanes to the left while traveling uphill with zippy car traffic coming up from behind. Then he travels a long block on 75th that is described in the video as "not bike-friendly" which is accurate (I have been back riding there since 1990~), finally turning onto Roosevelt to enter the new segment of bike lane. Which the video notes has been labeled by NIMBY residents as an effort to destroy that neighborhood - with all of ten blocks of bike lane!

OK, I'm being overly negative - but it is somewhat deflating that Seattle that is supposed to be advanced in this area still has struggles over improvements that are not terribly impressive. But that's a partial picture - I am particularly impressed (at a distance) by the implementation of dedicated bicycle "greenways" such as one in Ballard (a neighborhood in northwest Seattle).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?

So here is an item from the Library of Congress with more quite a lot of metadata, but somehow I had not noticed it while searching for "bicycles" but found it while searching for "cycling" - the title is "cycling" so it came right up. (I confess, as photographs go, it isn't much . . . ) If I understand the "summary" correctly, this item is likely a posed photograph in order to create the cover of some sheet music.

Alas despite all this metadata, one searchable term is misspelled - "tandem" bicycle is rendered as "tanden bicycle" - when (or it feels like, if) I get back to working I will suggest it is corrected. (Somewhat to my surprise, we have a photograph of Danny Kaye riding a tandem bicycle from 1958 available publicly. Anyway, a search on of "tandem bicycle" does bring up results, just not this one.) The digitized item showing a couple riding in front of Grant's tomb was made from a copy negative - that is, it is a copy of a copy - which explains some, but I suspect not all, of why it isn't a digital image showing much detail.)

Grants Tomb
Riding in front of Grant's tomb

Title Cycling
Creator(s) Scott & Van Altena, copyright claimant
Date Created/Published c1907.
Medium 1 photographic print.
Summary Lantern slide proof print, probably for a song. Photograph shows a smiling young couple on the road riding a tanden bicycle near Grant's Tomb in New York City; the young woman at the front looks partially back towards the man.
Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-21830 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number SSF - Bicycles and Tricycles [item] [P&P]
Repository Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
* No. 10.
* Copyright by Scott & Van Altena, New York, N. Y.
* Title from item.
-Bicycles & tricycles--New York (State)--New York--1900-1910.
-Cyclists--New York (State)--New York--1900-1910.
-Cycling--New York (State)--New York--1900-1910.
-Tombs & sepulchral monuments--New York (State)--New York--1900-1910.
-General Grant National Memorial (New York, N.Y.)
-Lantern slides--Reproductions--1900-1910.
-Photographic prints--1900-1910.
Collections Miscellaneous Items in High Demand
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oral Histories and Early Cycling

I'm still trying to understand some of the new search interface on the Library of Congress site.

I found that that the full text of interviews in the Folklore Project, Life Histories, 1936-39 of the U.S. Work Projects Administration, Federal Writers' Project is searchable - this includes interviews about "transportation," which is interpreted rather loosely.

I found one interview, for example, with one "Art Botsford" of Connecticut - the interview was performed in 1939 but the subject is mostly cycling, apparently in the 1890s.
I had a lot of fun on that old bicycle. Guess I told you about some of the trips I took didn't I? When I got through with that bike I sat down and figured up my mileage, and I found out that I'd been clear around the world, if I'd gone in a straight line.

“Yessir, I'd been over twenty-five thousand miles. Went over three hundred and sixty-five miles one week. Never did a century run, though I could've, easy as not. Some fellers used to see how many of them they could run up. A great trip was up to Springfield and back. That's fifty miles each way. You were supposed to make it same day, of course.

“I got out the shop one day at four o'clock. At twenty-six minutes after, I was down in Dexter's drug store in Waterbury, drinkin' a sody. How's that for scorchin'?


“Back in ' ninety-three I was down in Washington, D.C., time they had the convention of the League of American Wheelmen. They was three-four fellers stayin' in the same hotel with me from Springfield, had those Eagle wheels.

“One mornin' they got an old tomato can and got out in the street in front of the hotel and batted that thing around with their wheels just like they were playin' polo. Boy, I tell you they was good at it. They'd practiced it to home, you see. They had a crowd of people around watchin' ‘em before they got through.

“Some people here in town had them Eagles; others had the ones with the big wheel in front. I remember one lad, I'm not goin' to tell you his name. He used to get so drunk he couldn't stand on his feet, but put him on a wheel and he'd ride as straight as you please.

“Of course if he hit a bump he was apt to go tail over spindle buggy and when he fell off, he couldn't get up. Somebody had to help him on the wheel again, then he was all right.

“I see some of them take some nasty falls. Roads was pretty bad in them days, and it paid to use brakes comin' down a hill. Bidwell's hill was one of the worst. It was sandy as hell at the bottom, and when you hit that sand you was apt to go right over the handle bars.

“I come down there with a feller from Naugatuck one time, a new rider, I told him he better use his brake, but he said no, he didn't want to. He hit the sand and off he went tail over spindle buggy. Him and the wheel landed over in the bushes. Front wheel just crumpled up like paper. I pulled him out and he was groanin' and cussin'. Had a busted arm, I got him down to the nearest house and they went for the doctor.

“Great times, great times, on the bicycles. Then the automobiles come along . . . . .

Friday, October 4, 2013

And Now We're . . . . . Back. On the Internet. Hmm.

At first my employer, the Library of Congress turned much of the website off (other than and that are legislative information for and about Congress).

Anyway, by October 3 it was already decided that wasn't necessary (or something) so now you can go and search for bicycles among the online collections of LC to your heart's content while the staff are on furlough.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Kickstarter Your Solution to Cycling's Dangers

I wasn't intending to do consecutive posts on Kickstarter bicycle-related projects, but I bumped into a news item that brought another example of a bicycling related Kickstarter to my attention:

"Rideye is a black box for bicyclists-There are ways to get from point A to B other than driving a car. There’s the bus, walking, or bicycling . . . The most dangerous method of the aforementioned list though, is riding your bike."

Rideye solves this by providing evidence of motorist bad behavior for your future court case- you know, after you are injured. The story goes on (since it a "coolest gadgets" site) to talk about the many technical attributes of the device (that I'm not much interested in - and I'm not going to address the "most dangerous" statement, which is based on ???).

This oversubscribed Kickstarter makes a compelling argument for a product to insure your safety - well, actually not so much

The device's main claim to being a "black box" rather than simply a GoPro Hero clone is that it has a crash sensor that stops the recording (in the event of a crash ~) - this may seem superfluous except that since the device records in a 2.5 hour loop, if it didn't shut off when there is a crash, it could easily record over your evidence. (I personally find this the weakest aspect of the whole idea - if I'm going to video what happens on the chance of an accident, I for sure want video of what happens after the accident, like audio of the driver when he/she jumps out of their car and shouts, "oh my God, I didn't see you! It's all my fault." Oh well. You don't get that with this because it will have shut down.)

I get the idea that if a motorist does something illegal and you record it on video you have some better chance in court, but I don't get how that helps with safety in the usual sense. While aviation blackboxes are in part about assigning blame they are mostly about trying to prevent future crashes by understanding past ones. How a blackbox that helps assign blame helps making a particular cyclist who buys one more safe is not at all clear. The Kickstarter states, "Last year my friend was seriously injured in a hit-and-run doing the thing he loved most, and I promised him he would never have to ride with that fear again." If by having a camera to record your crashes you somehow feel better protected against the physical injuries you might suffer, there is some logic working there that I don't get. At all.

Not to say that video isn't useful for legal cases involving cyclists who are involved in accidents that are not their fault - it can be. There is a very long (and depressing) blog post on GreaterGreaterWashington that described in detail how a cyclist used Metro DC police video to show he was not at fault (and despite police assumptions that he, the cyclist, was at fault). So if you want to have video of you riding for that reason, for evidence, that's great - but it does nothing for safety. The Kickstarter's statement, "Let's make cycling safer for everyone" is simply baloney.

In the first few seconds sample Rideye camera records copious evidence that will cause no end of legal troubles if he later crashes

Where I live and ride (Virginia and also ride in D.C.) we have contributory negligence - in fact, we have pure contributory negligence, which means that if my negligence as a cyclist contributed to the accident even 1 percent, I may be unable to get $ from someone whose 99 percent of negligence caused me harm. So if I was going to use this device, it would be important to record my own legally pristine cycling behavior at all times, or else what's the point? In the above "sample video" at 22 seconds, the cyclist rides between a parked car and a car in a traffic lane - so if the car door opens or something else happens, what is the defense? "The space was wider than my handlebars, so going into it at 12 to 15 mph made excellent sense."

From Russia, without the slightest love, a bike crash video from a bike cam - it's ok, he survives apparently with no serious injury

As a completely different way to think about this, I would point out that for cars, Russia leads the way with dashboard cameras used in this sort of blackbox let's-record-possible-evidence-in-case-we-crash kind of way. (And to my surprise, I found the above example of a bike cam video from Russia, too.) Doesn't this validate the Rideye Kickstarter? Well, sure, if you want to agree that for cyclists America = Russia. And based on the GreaterGreaterWashington blog post, maybe that is true. But keep in mind what the situation is in today's Russia - if you don't have video evidence, the first problem you have is with police bribery (not the courts) - in other words, you want to have video evidence so that you don't get in a bidding war with other drivers over how the accident is described by the Russian traffic cops. "But officer, my video shows . . . " And of course none of this Russian dash board cam stuff has improved the safety as far as how Russian drivers operate their vehicles even one iota - search "russia dash cam crash compilation" in Google if you don't believe me. (Also, you can look at the relevant portion of the entry in Wikipedia about Russian transportation - hey, didn't I get a master's degree about transportation in that country? No, since it was 30 years ago it was about Soviet transportation, so a different country. But . . . same Russians.)

Is it really that bad here? And is this really useful for cyclists?

Personally my impression from comments on the videos is that mostly people look at this and compare it pricewise to GoPro Hero products - they want video of their cycling, not possible evidence.