Being outside of a car these days can be pretty terrifying, especially when drivers don’t respect other road users. A new trend catching on online hopes to finally put drivers in the bicycle seat to show them just how scary it is to be a cyclist today.
CycleGaz is a cyclist in the UK who now uploads videos of his daily London commute to his YouTube channel. The videos have one key addition: A dashboard overlay that makes his bicycle commute feel more like it’s happening from the safety of a car.
The goal is to help people better comprehend the dangerous driving that bike riders confront everyday. First, he uploads the regular biking footage, then later he uploads the same footage with the dashboard overlay on top.
CycleGaz, who asked to remain pseudonymous, spoke to Forbes about why he’s showing his daily bike ride from a driver’s perspective:
“Many people are blind to the issues that cyclists face,” CycleGaz told me, “so I’m shifting the perception.”
CycleGaz uploads his original footage first and follows it up with the bikecam video converted into a dashcam one. A car interior overlay, including a hand on a steering wheel, obscures his front bike wheel, gear, and brake cables.
“When I post the cycling footage [of bad driving], many people can’t see the issue,” said CycleGaz.
However, when the same example of bad driving is converted into dashcam footage, lightbulbs go off in heads, believes CycleGaz, who commutes to central London from the outskirts, riding 36 miles daily. (He works in IT and wishes to remain anonymous.)
“I do it where I believe the perception of how people will read the situation will be changed if it’s from a motor vehicle perspective,” he said.
“Some people still don’t get it that if it was a motorist that [these incidents] happened to, they would have a different perception of the scenario.”
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Police, city planners, and everyday drivers all fall into the trap of assuming that public roads are made for cars only, but that’s not the case at all. So instead of drivers riding a mile in CycleGaz’s pedals, he’s found a creative way to make his life in traffic matter to drivers the only way he knows how — by making himself look like a driver.
CycleGaz’s dashboard trick is part of a growing trend in cycling communities in Europe as well as the U.S. All over, bicycle riders are desperate to connect car drivers with the very real dangers that cyclists face every day. In 2020, the Outside magazine tracked every cyclist death in the U.S. involving a car and found almost 700 people had been killed in one year alone. And with America’s vehicle fleet getting bigger and heavier than ever, cyclists have all the more reason to fear for their lives.
Bicyclists are the target of all sorts of weird violence on the road from drivers. Several high-profile incidents of big beefy truck drivers rolling coal or giving riders a scare have led to disasters, like the 16-year-old who hit six cyclists while trying to smoke them off the road. Or the rise of “doorings” by car passengers and drivers in the once-cyclist-friendly San Francisco Bay area. It doesn’t help that cops often blame cyclists for their own injury (or death), as if they had no right to be on the public roads, like this teen killed by a driver high on four different substances.