For years, the American Bicycling Education Association has used words and pictures to show how bicyclists can avoid truck-bicycle crashes. Sometime in 2019, CyclingSavvy Instructor John Schubert suggested that we go further and create a mirror image version of a British video. (Over there, they drive on the left, y’know.) That video showed a large number of cyclists invisible to the driver in the blind area of a truck, — in the British video, the left side.
John shared the idea with ABEA co-founder Keri Caffrey, and she expanded on it. Our video could show on-road encounters. A bicyclist, a car, a pedestrian walking dogs could make appearances. The truck could go around the block for repeated takes. Multiple cameras could record the scene.
We published that video and introduced it with a Savvy Cyclist post.
And now…here’s a “making of” video describing the technical details of our shoot. Keep reading below the video for the story of our teamwork.
Planning for the Video Shoot
Almost all other CyclingSavvy traffic videos are unstaged. A bicyclist riding with a camera, sometimes two cameras, captures normal traffic situations while riding. This approach demonstrates that the situations are real — but produces a huge amount of useless, boring and irrelevant footage.
As is clear from the Making Of video, our truck-video shoot was planned and staged. The people, materiel and planning resources were substantial. Capturing video of the same encounters during normal riding would take a prohibitive amount of time. I went up on a ladder with my camera; John Schubert stood in the street, sheltered by his parked van, with his camera on a tripod. Keri rode in the truck cab shooting video. That doesn’t happen by chance.
But — we took pains that the staged encounters would be entirely normal. Actually, several vehicles do appear in the video unstaged, and they add to the story. We did have to discard a couple of runs when they interfered with it.
The task of planning for the video shoot fell mostly to John Schubert. CyclingSavvy Instructor Scott Slingerland recruited truck driver Bob Dolan, a champion in national competitions for driving precision. He arrived in a super prop for the shoot, a huge semitrailer truck. Lehigh University police chief Jason Schiffer would ride his e-bike in encounters with the truck. Scott also recruited a crew of extras, with their bicycles.
The shoot was set for September 4, 2019 when Keri would be on her way back to Florida from a vacation in Maine. She could pick me up outside Boston, and we would join the crew in Pennsylvania.
Mirroring a British Blind Area of a Truck Video
Everything went more or less according to plan on the day of the shoot. A morning session mirrored the British video with bicyclists in the blind area of a truck.
Shooting the Riding Sequence
For the riding sequence, John Schubert and I would record video from outside the truck, while Keri recorded from inside the truck cab. Bethlehem police on motorcycles held the street open. Communication was maintained with walkie-talkies, cell phones, and Scott Slingerland serving as bicycle messenger.
Chief Schiffer made several runs showing different tactics, safer and less safe — but never riding into the danger zone next to the truck. The Making Of video shows two of those runs.
As is usual with a crowdsourced event, there were surprises. Some led to difficulties, others to happy discoveries.
Thanks to champion truck driver Bob Dolan, not only did we have a very big truck to store bicycles, but also — if you hold a driver’s license, you may remember how tough parallel parking was at first. It took me about ten tries for my own license exam. Somehow I got my license anyway. Now imagine backing up a semitrailer truck, where steering to one side turns the lonnnggg trailer to the other side. Bob Dolan got the result in the photo below in a single try.
It was great how many volunteers showed up. That went as planned, but there were some unexpected turns. Cars came out of a side street, as already mentioned. But also, only rarely can it be said that a liquor store serves the interest of road safety. As we set up to record video, I noticed that a liquor store’s changeable LED sign offered a perfect cue to synchronize clips from the different cameras. This coincidence was so improbable and so helpful that I have to wonder what forces might have been shining down on us, other than the sun, breaking through in a partly cloudy sky. Rain would have spoiled our plan.
After an hour or so and several trips around the block by the truck, we figured that we had enough material, and repaired to a local restaurant for a late lunch.
…Editor’s Work, a “Making of” Video and a Director’s Cut
I took the video clips home to Massachusetts to assemble and collate. Color matching four cameras was a headache, but synchronizing the clips was a piece of cake, or maybe I should say beer and chips, thanks to the liquor store sign.
Video effectively lets a viewer be in more than one place at the same time. Once I had synchronized the clips, the sound of the turn-signal clicker in the truck cab matched the flashing of the turn signals outside. I think that is sort of cool.
I sent the collated and color-adjusted clips to Keri. She spent many hours distilling our work down to a three-minute release video. That is how video editing goes. But a good time was had by all.