Friday 22 August 2008

The Day I became Famous/Infamous...... ish

It was the 25th March 2008. It was a fairly typical day at work, at least it was until I got a phone call from my wife.

Mrs Magnatom: You're on lunch time news.

Me: What!?

Mrs Mag: Your on the STV lunchtime news! They are trying to find out who the ‘vigilante’ cyclist is, called Magnatom!

Me: Oh, poppycock! (Or words to that effect)

This was the first I knew of what would become a very interesting day….

I’d been posting my youtube videos for quite some time by March 2008. My videos seemed to be having an effect on those who viewed them. There were those who looked at my videos and thought my videoing of incidents was a good thing. Highlighting road safety issues, showing what happens on the roads when there is a cyclist about. There were also those that seemed to think I was the spawn of Satan. In fact I appeared to affecting people enough to gain my own cyber stalker.

Why people took such a dim view of me, I do not fully understand. I know that on one of the forums that I posted (bloodbus where I tried to reason, but I was often threatened and lied about), some would say I could come across as condescending when I tried to discuss road safety issues. Maybe I did come across like that, but it was never my intention. I just believe in the rights of cyclists on the road, whilst admitting that cyclists are sometimes their own worst enemies (i.e red light jumping, pavement cycling etc).

On bloodbus, a couple of characters took a particular dislike to me. Hamsters4breekie, The Paramedic (who allegedly died), HamiltonNutter and later Paramedsis (who claimed to be Paramedics sister) all took exception to me, mainly for the fact that I was a cyclist, and all cyclists were scum. On one particular day though things got very nasty. Paramedsis claimed to be a policewoman working in Glasgow. She had provided quite a lot of details about her work, so it might have been true. HamiltonNutter had also claimed to have met her whilst working, so that backed up her story.

Anyway to cut a long story short Paramedsis made claims online that she had previously caught me for drink driving and that was why I cycled to work (not true of course!). A lot of commotion occurred at that point and after some research it was found that not only was she, not a police woman, but she probably wasn’t a she. In fact Paramedic, HamiltonNutter, and Paramedsis were all the same person and appeared to be out to discredit me!

Hamsters4breekie (I later found out who he was in the real world and he was another who had multiple online persona) did something similar, claiming that I had got him the sack from First Buses (since proven to be a lie with the aid of First).

Shortly after all of the hullabaloo I started receiving death threats on my youtube videos and one was sent privately to me. Things started to get nasty. The threats had obviously caught the eye of a freelance reporter because I received an e-mail message from him asking to chat to me about my videos and the abuse I was receiving (he mentioned the Sun, so I didn’t contact him). He decided to run a story on Magnatom anyway and an article appeared in the Sun (unbeknownst to me) on the 25th March 2008 (see left).

Obviously STV caught sight of this and decided to run the story as well. So without my knowledge the Sun and STV were asking people to phone/text in, if they knew who the ‘vigilante’ cyclists was. :-o

I was faced with a dilemma. Should I talk to the press, and reveal my identity, especially considering the threats that had been made against me, or should I remain quiet. The problem with remaining quiet was that I would have no control over what the follow up stories would be, especially in the Sun, although the first had been reasonably positive.

After having a chat with the police where they suggest that, as I wasn’t Marin Luther King, it was unlikely that anyone would go out their way to harm me, and after consulting with my wife, I decided to contact STV and to do an interview with them. I hoped that in doing that I could get my point of view across and it would head off any negative press that the Sun might have been planning the next day.

Here is what resulted.

Following this, the sun posted an article the following day, where they took all of the text from what I said on the news interview, although the day after that in John 'smeato' Smeaton's column I got called an Al Qae Pedal cyclist (I laughed at that!). Overall though, the press was positive and my decision to do the interview with STV had worked out well. I even got on Radio Scotland a week later!

Thankfully, after that, things returned back to a more normal level of abuse and I started doing after dinner speeches at a reasonable fee. Ok I might not have any takers yet ;-). The death threats slowed to a trickle and most of the abuse I get now is of the get a life/job/car etc all of which I have, thanks! :-)

Who knows, maybe out of all of it a few people might have realised that cyclists should have as much respect on the roads as everyone else, just as cyclists should respect others. Maybe a few drivers will think twice when driving around cyclists Does that cyclist have a helmet camera? And who knows, maybe I have increased the turnover of a few companies that sell helmet cameras........

Sunday 17 August 2008

Skin is Waterproof

It was pouring down just before I left to go home, and although it has eased a bit by the time I set off it was still raining pretty heavy.

Anyway I go into the Clyde Tunnel cycle path and when I get to the bottom it is flooded above waist height. I know this, because ahead of me is a cyclist wading through it with the water nearly up to his handlebars! I shouted some encouragement and he shouted back with some amusing comments. I decided against it (not good for the bike I would imagine and who knows what's in that water!) so I go back to check out the second tunnel.

On the way down a couple of local lads shout to me to warn me there is possible a small puddle at the bottom. We get chatting, decent enough blokes and I head on. Get to the bottom, same story, totally flooded. Head back up, let the lads know about it, who are on their way down (so why did they think it was a small puddle?!?).

'Oh maaan, wit we gonne daay nooo....' was their reply (or something similar!)

So I have to take the long route. Adds a few more miles. Oh well, I'm quite enjoying the cycle now. Very sociable! See another cyclist heading to the tunnel, let them know about the flooding. Carry on.

Further on I come across a flooded road. I decide to dismount and walk around the flood (ok I might cycle on the path a wee bit!), but as I do, I see a young girl (in her 20's) running through the middle of it, having great fun. I shout over

'Very liberating!'

So she starts chatting to me as well, telling me how much fun she is having!!

Great commute! Got in with a smile on my face. Had I been in a car, I would have missed all of this and probably been miserable looking out at the rain.

Of course, I have all of this on camera, and when I get a chance to edit it all I will post it!

I love cycle commuting!

Anyway here is the video

In the beginning...

So how did I become a BOB.

It all started with the birth of my first son 3 years ago.

My wife and I had always had one car between the two of us. That worked fine for us, and my wife would often drop me off at work on the way to her work. However, with the impending birth of our son I realised that my wife would be off on maternity leave for a considerable length of time and would probably benefit from the use of the car. So my options were; buy a second car (too expensive), take public transport (very, very inconvenient), or get a bike.

My commute was five miles each way, so after investigating online (on the old C+ forum) I decided that cycling was by far the best option and would allow me to get some exercise in as well. So a Ridgeback Cyclone was purchased, and following my paternity leave I bit the bullet and cycled. Scary at first, but after I settled in I realised how brilliant it was. Of course the beautiful weather at the time (28C) helped!

My cycling technique at the time was far from perfect. I will admit that I used the occasional footpath in those days, but I soon learned the err in my ways. However, as time passed I realised was that I was having incidents on a reasonably regular basis which I felt were dangerous, i.e, vehicles passing too close, cutting me up, pulling out in front of me etc. So after reading some discussion on C+ where a couple of users were talking about using helmet cameras, I decided when I had the money, I would take the plunge. Before I did though I decided to have a go with my mobile phone strapped to my bag strap (Nokia N70). So on the 29th June 2006 my youtube broadcasting days began with a video of me cycling through the Clyde Tunnel I used this phone on the odd occasion when it wasn’t raining!

It wasn’t until January 2007 that I bought my first proper helmet camera the ATC-2000. It could be described as many things, but small isn’t one of them. So I plonked it on the left side of my helmet and once my neck muscles recovered, and I learned to point it in the right direction, I started filming. It wasn’t long until it showed its worth.

The bus driver in this clip decided to start overtaking me, despite the lack of room. A quick glance over at him, a quick tap of the helmet camera, and amazingly he backed off!. Result!!

From that moment on I was fully assimilated into the BOB……

Wednesday 13 August 2008


For just over two years now I have been Borg. More accurately I have worn a helmet camera whilst cycling and so looked slightly like a Borg whilst being part of a cycling collective.

So I film my commutes to and from work, 5 days a week, approximately 45 weeks a year.

Why would anyone want to do that?

What’s the point?

Do you not have a life?

Did you fail at police college?

Do you want me to knock you off your bike with my car?

I’ve been asked all these things and a whole lot more. So I wanted to tell my story. Why I wear it, what I think the advantages, and disadvantages of wearing a helmet camera are. I might even write about the legal implications, the ethical implications and the emotional implications of being a Borg on a Bike (BOB). There might be a link to a video or two....

So I'm going to spill my guts (a few drivers would like that to happen!) and share my story. Maybe, just maybe someone will bother to read it and maybe I'll help, just a little, to make our roads safer for everyone. I might even encourage a few more to become assimilated to the BOB cause.