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tOregonian says “bike culture isn’t partisan”

Posted by on March 2nd, 2007 at 9:54 am

The front page of today’s Metro section of the Oregonian has perhaps one of my favorite headlines ever; “In Oregon, bike culture isn’t partisan.”

The story, by the O’s Salem staffer Harry Esteve, is about how Republican Senator Jason Atkinson is behind a bill that would re-word existing bicycle equipment requirements to exclude fixed-gear bicycles from requiring a separate brake.

Atkinson’s involvement with this issue is nothing new to regular BikePortland readers. Back in August I reported that he was “in rebellion mode” after hearing about Ayla Holland’s infamous fixie ticket trial.

What’s ironic about the timing of Esteve’s story is that several commenters have been discussing partisanship and bike politics in response to my recent story highlighting opinions I read on the NW Republican blog.

But back to the article in the O.

Here’s the final paragraph:

“Whether his bike bills get traction is anyone’s guess at this point. The Legislature has plenty of bigger issues on its plate. In the meantime, Portland’s fixie community must put its hopes in probably the only man in the Legislature who knows how to shave his legs.”

Read the article here.

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Comments
  • Dabby March 2, 2007 at 10:02 am

    While I applaud the Oregonian for once again bringing this to light, it is a horrible injustice to continue using , in reference to fixed gear bicycles, the term “No Brakes”.
    It has been thoroughly verified that the fixed gear cog, properly applied “is a brake!”
    To state , in as many forms of print as it has been stated, that fixed gea bikes have no brake, is a travesty, and could not be farther from the truth.
    Even our own Jonathan Maus has a quote stating fixed gear bikes are about fashion…. With which I horribly disagree… (sorry Jonathan)
    It is the loose usage of words such as this that can kil a bill in legislation, and highly affect the biker on the street.

    You may recall that is is the loosley worded ordinance that started this Hoo Haw in the first place.

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  • Mark J. Ginsberg, Esq. March 2, 2007 at 10:16 am

    What SB 729 would do is simply update Oregon’s bicycle brake law, and clarify that a fixed gear bicycle has a brake.

    Our current law was adopted in 1975 from the then current Uniform Model Language.

    SB 729 takes the current Uniform Model Language and adds one line that says fixed gear bicycles do not need to have an additional brake.

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  • Brian E. March 2, 2007 at 10:31 am

    A cute and playful article about what most O-readers consider a silly subject. Jonathan, the writer quoted you as saying, “Whoo hoo”. Then he wrote that you really didn’t say that. What’s with that? Is the writer trying to be cute at your expense or are you really that familiar? It’s seemed wierd to me. Kind of like something you would read in a school newspaper, like we all know each other.

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  • Ethan March 2, 2007 at 10:34 am

    Dabby,

    I understand the benefit to the cause of your semantic slant, but having the ability to “brake” (verb) is not the same as having a dedicated mechanical device known as a “brake” (noun). I suppose a drogue chute could be fitted to a bike ( I can see the zoobombers rushing for their secret workshop), and indeed it would act “as a brake”, but it would still be . . . a parachute, not a brake.

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  • Molly trackbikeskilledmyknees Cameron March 2, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Ethan,

    It is true. It would still be a parachute.

    The function of a fixed drive train allows a bicycle to come to a controlled stop as quickly as a hand operated brake.

    A parachute would not.

    One could argue the a bicycle with a coaster brake hub does not have a seperate dedicated mechanical brake. You still use the drivetrain to decellerate.

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  • West Cougar March 2, 2007 at 11:36 am

    Huffy’s have coaster brakes.
    10 speeds have caliper brakes.
    Mountain bikes have disk brakes.
    Semi’s have engine brakes.
    Fixed Gears have drivetrain brakes.

    Most people, including at least one judge, upon being explained the situation can understand that.

    So far, only one judge, perhaps with an axe to grind, and a couple traffic cops, clearly with an axe to grind, fail to comprehend the situation.

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  • Carl March 2, 2007 at 11:37 am

    The irony in this is that the proposed modification would make fixed gears the only bikes that could legally have front brakes.

    You think I’m crazy and read it wrong, I know.

    Here’s the current law. Listen:
    ORS 815.280(2)(a) A bicycle must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

    “…make the braked wheels skid…” Requiring braked wheels (yes, it’s plural) to be capable of skidding means that the front wheel, if braked, must be able to skid. Unless you’re riding a chopper in the rain, you can’t skid a front wheel and you don’t want to.

    Under the current law, ALL BICYCLES WITH FRONT BRAKES ARE ILLEGAL. Under the proposed law, a fixed gear can legally have a front brake because it is exempt from the requirement stating that they must have an additional brake…but it’s still illegal for freewheeling bikes to have front brakes.

    Yes, this is stupid semantics. But this all boils down to semantics.

    I hope that Atkinson can fix this stupid little glitch, too. I’m all for acknowledging the fixed gear drive train as a braking mechanism, but it’d be a shame to go to all this effort just to provide for a relatively uncommon type of bicycle while continuing to technically outlaw almost all other bikes…just because they’re equipped with a front brake, the most effective brake of all.

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  • Carl March 2, 2007 at 11:44 am

    So I’m an idiot.
    The Oregonian article is inaccurate in that it suggests that Atkinson’s modification is just a modification to the current language. Not true.

    Here’s the totally new proposed language:
    A bicycle must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator of the bicycle to stop the bicycle within 15 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement, except that a fixed gear bicycle is not required to be equipped with a separate brake.

    Beautiful.

    All of that pointless semantic ranting for nothing. Sorry folks. My bad.

    In the mean time, take off those front brakes unless you want a ticket.

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  • Chakra Lu March 2, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    where would this parachute be released from? would one be flying and then jump out of a plane with a bike and so would then release a parachute? just curious…i had funny mental images invade my brain and so started wondering about such things…i’m done adding lame humor to this post…this issue has been exhausted so many times and asa much in your face reality as there is that YES the lockring and cog on fixed/track (drivetrain) is the brake, there are still people out there that disagree and should just in fact try it out for themselves and see how it does slow the forward motion (or backward motion if you are mason doing his 100 backward circles…)…anyway, then you can skid your read wheel (which holds the brake)…so, you do not need two brake equipped wheels…it said wheels, simply because some bikes have one brake equipped wheel (whatever manner that be) and some bikes have two…what about unicycles? one wheel…anyway, blah blah blah…

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  • trike March 2, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    umm if i take off my front breaks i cannot stop. im on a tad pole trike…… hmm. i have to wonder whos idea it is to make the mesure of a good break, skidding. a good break is supposed to stop you.

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  • Carl March 2, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Trike,
    Your leg is the thing with “breaks” (I’m glad to see you’re still on the road to recovery, even if it’s a slow one). Your trike is the thing with “brakes.”

    Breaks bad.
    Brakes good.

    I can pick on Trike. I’ve known him since before he couldn’t walk.

    I, too, am glad to see that Atkinson’s language has ditched the skid test.

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  • trike March 2, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    LOL I always get those things confused ;)

    thanks for the good wishes. it was good to see you.

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  • Mr. Know it All March 2, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Too bad Senator Atkinson isn’t doing something really useful like getting the traffic rules at signs and lights changed to be like Idaho’s laws.

    Are any elected representatives working on getting that done any time soon?

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  • Jonathan Maus March 2, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Dabby said:

    “Even our own Jonathan Maus has a quote stating fixed gear bikes are about fashion…. With which I horribly disagree…”

    Dabby, as with many any other issues, a short quote from me in the paper is hardly a fair summary of all my thoughts on the topic.

    I think some of the fixie craze is a fashion trend.

    I also understand and appreciate those that ride the bikes for more legit reasons…please don’t take what you read in a short newspaper article too seriously.

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  • SKiDmark March 2, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    A few things:

    Semi-trucks have air brakes and an engine brake. An engine brake is designed to slow the truck down by cutting the ignition spark, an using the compression of the engine to slow down the transmission. It is not intended to stop the truck.

    A fixed gear hub was originally intended to stop the bike. There are plenty of “safety bicycles” that were never intended to have any other sort of brake affixed to them. Google “scorcher”.

    Some of the “fixie” trend is fashion but even more of it is backlash from having technology shoved down our throats by the big S company. Nobody NEEDS 30 speeds on a bicycle.

    There is not much weight over the rear wheel of a tadpole trike when your weight shifts forward while braking. I think we all agree that the front brake is more effective than the rear brake.

    Even if a front brake is more effective it actually doesn’t satisfy the wording of law as it is written. I don’t think I can skid my front wheel on my track bike, if it had a front brake that is. If you have JUST a front brake , according to the law, your bike is illegal.

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  • trike March 2, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    One of the things i brought up to the good folks a whizweelz was the launching of the rider of the tadpole trike when the brakes are applied to hard.

    my post was to point out that my trike is not leagle under the current verbage because i only have front brakes.

    The very last thing i want is for my front tires to be skidding. i want to be stopping; skidding as the criteria for stopping is stupid.

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  • SKiDmark March 2, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    I think the “skidding” requirement is more about the brake being powerful enough to lock the rear wheel under the weight of the rider. A lot of bikes with badly maintained caliper brake can’t do this.

    In the interest of keeping the wheelbase short and reducing the length of the chain, many tadpole trikes put your weight too far forward. Your weight is essentially cantilevered over the front wheels.

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  • Dabby March 3, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    Jonathan,
    I do know that the Oregonian is famous for misquoting , and or making up quotes.
    In a recent article on a womans group in Living last week, they quoted my fabulous friend Eilenne ( a commenter here by the way, as saying sonething along the lines of” children are a disability”, in an article on support for single mother’s , and paid time off right after birth.

    My point was simply that once again, whther it was said by you or not, it is an injustice to real, qualified fixed gear riders…
    And is certainly not the way to approach a subject, especially one up for review by the state senate..
    And, MR. Know’s Some,
    I stand by the fact that a properly applied lock ring on a fixed gear hub “is a Brake”, and is even more truly, a mechanical brake..
    You might want to look at a exploded view of a track hub, in order to see the bearings and other “mechanical Parts”.
    Thanks, Dabby!

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  • SKiDmark March 3, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    Molly is of course “right on” about coasterbrakes. The cluch cone engages the drive AND the brake, depending on whether you are pedaling forward, or backpedaling to engage the brake.

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  • Eileen March 4, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    I can’t believe you outed me Dabby!=)

    I was reading down and about to say that no one should ever be held accountable for anything said about them or by them in the Oregonian.

    And you and I have discussed the fact that for A LOT of fixed gear riders, it is about fashion – they are copying you and the other messengers. So take it as a compliment and realize it is what it is. And are you SURE it’s not about fashion for you? You’re SURE??? What would your friends think if you showed up on a ten-speed? Not saying, just asking.=)

    But all this argument and bicycle snobbery about brakes/no brakes, partisanship, etc is half the reason that people like me feel self-conscious about riding a bike. What happened to the days when riding a bike was just something you did to get from point A to point B or something you did for fun and exercise? I want to go back to the days when it wasn’t a political statement or a fashion statement or any kind of statement. I don’t want to make a statement, and I am not a “cyclist” but some days I just want to ride my bike and take my kids to the park.

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  • N.I.K. March 4, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    But all this argument and bicycle snobbery about brakes/no brakes, partisanship, etc is half the reason that people like me feel self-conscious about riding a bike. What happened to the days when riding a bike was just something you did to get from point A to point B or something you did for fun and exercise?

    I don’t think there’s much to worry about, Eileen. Bike-as-a-fashion-accessory types must have given it up years ago, or should have. There’s so many damn bikes here that the real trendies probably took up…oh, I dunno…single-passenger dirigibles? What the hell counts as distinctive *now?* :)

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 5, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    “My point was simply that once again, wh[e]ther it was said by you or not, it is an injustice to real, qualified fixed gear riders…”

    I think “injustice” is a bit strong, not to mention a bit insensitive to those suffering actual injustice.

    And what makes you a “real” fixed gear rider? What makes you “qualified”? And what the hell are you “qualified” for?

    This smacks of the pretension so ubiquitous in Portland.

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  • N.I.K. March 5, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    This smacks of the pretension so ubiquitous in Portland.

    “Cred”-centric pissing contests are pretentious? Geez, I wonder where that puts some of my favorite authors on the AO scale. ;)

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  • SKiDmark March 5, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    Attornatus_Oregonensis said:
    And what makes you a “real” fixed gear rider? What makes you “qualified”? And what the hell are you “qualified” for

    The ability to stop your bike without the assistance of a caliper brake even in emergency situations would make you a “real” fixed gear rider.

    Obviously if you can ride that well, you are “qualified” to ride without a caliper brake.

    Remember a brake on the front doesn’t satify the law, either.

    You could also go back through the thousand responses to all the articles about this fixed gear issue and get all your answers about ten times over.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 6, 2007 at 7:19 am

    I guess we should establish a “fixie committee” to decide who is qualified to ride one and who is not. All the fixie riders must appear before the committee, and Dabby can sit in judgment. Those who are not “real” will immediately disappear in a puff of smoke and their bike will be either given to someone annointed by the right honourable fixie committee or (gasp!) have gears added.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 6, 2007 at 7:50 am

    “Remember a brake on the front doesn’t satify the law, either.”

    I know this is a literal reading of the law, but I seriously doubt this is true. There is a well known legal maxim that says, essentially, that the Legislature could not have intended absurd results. A judge hearing a case on a front-wheel braked bike cited for having no brake or improper brake would likely declare that the law produces an absurd result if read literally and that the “skidding” language is simply intended to exemplify the stopping power that the brake should have. Thus, a front-wheel brake is a legal brake under the law.

    In short, I don’t think you have anything to worry about here.

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  • Cecil March 6, 2007 at 8:35 am

    A.O. said “I know this is a literal reading of the law, but I seriously doubt this is true. There is a well known legal maxim that says, essentially, that the Legislature could not have intended absurd results. A judge hearing a case on a front-wheel braked bike cited for having no brake or improper brake would likely declare that the law produces an absurd result if read literally and that the “skidding” language is simply intended to exemplify the stopping power that the brake should have. Thus, a front-wheel brake is a legal brake under the law.”

    I wouldn’t be so quick to say that, A.O. – under the Oregon paradigm for statutory construction set by the Oregon Supreme Court in PGE v. Bureau of Labor and Industries, 317 Or 606 (1993), a judge would more likely be forced to conclude that the language of the statute is unambiguous and it means what it means, absurd result or not. It would then be up to the legislature to rewrite the law to avoid an absurd result. Is the paradigm established by PGE v. BOLI absurd? You bet it is, and I know a number of trial court and appellate judges that would be the first to say so – unfortunately, it is not likely that the Supreme Court is going to disavow that paradigm anytime soon.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 6, 2007 at 9:40 am

    No way. PGE v. BOLI is a fairly standard analytical framework for determining legislative intent and explicitly requires a reviewing court to consider rules of statutory construction. At 611. I stand by my original assertion.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 6, 2007 at 10:05 am

    I didn’t mean to sound so dismissive there. I understand why you say what you do: There is a first step that seems to require following the literal meaning of “unambiguous” language. And that places some constraint on the discretion of the reviewing court. I simply believe that — based on having read many cases dealing with statutory interpretation — such analytical frameworks are frequently finessed to arrive at the appropriate (judicially preferred?) conclusion regardless of the particular constraints. The US Supremes do this all the time, which is why, incidentally, Scalia’s assertions about “activism” are so intellectually dishonest. So I think if you get a good trial lawyer to point out this problem, you could easily see the PGE v. BOLI framework used to arrive at the conclusion that the skidding language is merely expository.

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  • Cecil March 6, 2007 at 10:34 am

    AO, I agree with you that under a normal approach to statutory construction, and in any other jurisdiction, the “absurd results” test would end up getting applied as part of the process of statutory construction. I further agree that a good trial lawyer would point out the problem. My concern, however, based on my experience as a clerk at the Oregon Court of Appeals, and as an appellate attorney who has had “PGE v. BOLI” thrown in my face by the Court of Appeals on a regular basis (geez, you’d think they’d have some mercy on a former employee), is that even if the trial judge agreed, the Oregon appellate courts would not. This is, after all, a state where the Supreme Court has said, and the Court of Appeals has agreed, that it does not matter what the legislature INTENDED to do when it passed a statute, it’s what the language of the statute says, even if the legislative history contradicts the court’s interpretation – check out Judge Landau’s opinion in “Deluxe Cabinet Works v. Messmer,” 140 Or App 548 (1996)(Messmer II) for an interesting (and entertaining) discussion of that point.

    Interestingly, after the Messmer case was decided, the Oregon legislature enacted a statute that specifically provided that the court’s could look to legislative history as part of the “first” level of statutory analysis. When I pointed this out to a Court of Appeals panel last year, and suggested that is was a refutation of at least part of PGE v. BOLI, Judge Linder’s response was something like “not until the Supreme Court tells us it is.”

    Okay, enough with boring the non-geeks in the audience with shop talk :-)

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 6, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Wow, interesting! And weird. Enough to make you want to get yourself a seat on the bench, aint it?

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  • Cecil March 6, 2007 at 11:17 am

    Too many skeletons in the closet. I’d say too many tattoos, but Judge Wollheim has more than I do.

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  • trike March 6, 2007 at 1:35 pm

    So you two break it down for us non paper chasers. whats is this about and why is it focased on; not only a small percentage of riders but seems to penalize a very spacific class of workers?

    this is sorta like charging a toll to the runners of troy.

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  • Cecil March 6, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Trike:
    Because I have not researched the legislative history, the following is pure speculation (albeit informed specualtion based on my knowledge of the legislative process). Anyway, my guess is that at the time the statute was enacted, the idea was to ensure that all bicycles had what the legislature considered effective brakes. Keep in mind that the majority of the Oregon legislators are non-cyclists, non-lawyers from outside the Portland metro region. Accordingly, its application to fixies (or even the existence of fixies)was probably never even contemplated. It probably never occurred to them that there are ways to safely stop a bike’s forward motion without some sort of additional mechanism.

    Fast forward to someone at the PPB who figures out that the statute can be used to crack down on a specific class of cyclists that maybe has developed a bad rep with the PPB. Suddenly, the lopsided enforcement of the statute points out the potential fundamental flaw (depending on how you feel about whether fixies should have hand-brakes) that was unknown at the time of enactment.

    Now back to chasing paper.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 6, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    My speculation:

    The legislature screwed up. Probably no one anticipated that a perfectly functional brake (or braking device) could fail the “skid test.” It’s less clear to me that the law was *not* written with fixies in mind, but who knows.

    Its poor wording may allow a judge to interpret the law so that people are not penalized for having a braking device on the front wheel. It’s an open legal question.

    AO’s take-home message:

    1. The law is far from perfect, but it’s all we’ve got.

    2. Police discretion in law enforcement can be used to bad ends.

    3. If someone gets cited for having a front brake only, we may get a definitive answer to this question. Any volunteers?

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  • trike March 6, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    So this is vendetta by some joker who wanted to make someones life hard. and we get to pay collateral damage.

    Any clues who brought this little gem up?

    spending the time when this all came up on pill hill made it sort of unreal.

    so what i want to know is who’s desk this came from and who do i yell at. ( i am not the most subtul guy around) After 10 months of being on crutches im a little irratable so figure i ought to go have a really loud conversation with someone.

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  • Dabby March 6, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Trike,
    It appears that this ” vendettta” as you called it ( a good word for it in my mind), was enacted by the Barnum and Balzer Circus ( a pair of mainly downtown based motorcycle policemen).
    But, this surely must have been handed down from above, and from, I personally believe, Rosie Sizer herself.
    I have pointed out here in the past the type of changing in relation to cycling citations, when Ms. Sizer is in a position of power in the City of Portland….
    Once again this is my personal opinion on the matter, but I am sure a little research by the right person would expose this as the truth…

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  • Elly March 6, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    Someone did go to court to defend his no-brakes ticket a week or so ago, and brought pictures showing that he’d attached a front brake. No dice — the judge informed him that he would need a rear brake as well.

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  • Dabby March 6, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    I wish I would get a no brakes ticket.
    I am fully prepared to defend myself successfully in court.
    I actually have a wager with someone, that I will ride away from an encounter with one of these two motorcycle policemen without a “no brakes” ticket in hand…

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  • Anonymous March 7, 2007 at 1:18 am

    So we all seem to agree that the law is imperfect and I, for one, find the legal speculation fascinating.

    …but what of Atkinson’s proposal? Do you approve? Who’s written him about it?

    sen.jasonatkinson@state.or.us

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  • Carl March 7, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Anonymous = me.
    Not sure why that happened…

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 7, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Here’s my take:

    The new language solves the obvious front-wheel brake problem.

    But it fails to solve one other, in my opinion, *glaring* problem. To wit, How does the officer determine whether a brake “enables the operator of the bicycle to stop the bicycle within 15 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement?”

    Does he require the operator to perform a demonstration? Does he mark off 15 feet on the pavement with his tape measure? Does he use a radar gun to determine that the operator is going exactly 10 mph at the ‘start’ line? If the place where the cyclist is stopped does not have “dry, level, clean” pavement, do they go somewhere else? Do they wait until the rain stops?

    Or does s/he just say, “This brake doesn’t meet the statutory requirement,” and issue a ticket?

    In short, the standard the officer must use is very subjective and ill-defined. And that’s what caused this whole issue in the first place! As I said, law enforcement discretion can produce a great deal of injustice. And this kind of subjective standard leaves the door open for selective enforcement.

    There is also another *huge* problem. Fixies can be freewheel or not, right? My understanding is that they are either built so that the pedals are forced to turn as the rear wheel turns or so that the pedals turn independently of the rear wheel.

    What if you have a fixie that is a freewheel? Suddenly, you have a whole class of bikes with no brakes. Or, at the very least, with very different braking requirements than all other types of bikes. Please understand that this is not a commentary on fixies, but upon the wording of this law.

    It seems to me that Mr. Atkinson’s staff didn’t think this one through very well. Perhaps none of them are cyclists.

    I’m not sure how to fix this, but with a little time and research into other states’ laws, I’m sure I could provide a better solution than this.

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  • Carl March 7, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    A_O, before someone with less tact jumps down your throat:

    A “fixie,” by definition, cannot coast. The gear is fixed, which is why they’re called fixed gears/fixies.

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  • Bjorn March 7, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Current oregon law for motor vehicles uses a coming to a stop from a set speed test for if car brakes are legal or not. Here is the text:

    815.125
    (7) Brakes on vehicles of the following described weight must be able to stop the vehicle moving at the described speed within the described distance without leaving a 12-foot wide lane:

    (a) Vehicles with a registration weight of less than 8,000 pounds must be able to brake from a speed of 20 miles per hour to a stop within 25 feet.

    (b) Vehicles with a registration weight of 8,000 pounds or more and combinations of vehicles must be able to brake from a speed from 20 miles per hour to a stop within 35 feet. [1983 c.338 §472; 1985 c.16 §247]

    Moving to the same type of standard seems reasonable to me.

    Bjorn

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 7, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Thanks, Carl. Makes sense. And I guess there is no problem with single-speeds. If only Internet people were all as nice as you.

    And Bjorn, I agree that this would be a reasonable standard — if cops weren’t going around ticketing certain people for brake violations. My only concern is that it leaves fixie riders vulnerable to selective enforcement. I don’t mean to make too much of this analogy, because I think they are orders of magnitude of injustice apart, but this is still a problem much in the same way that minor traffic infractions committed by almost every driver can be used to selectively stop African-American drivers. The more subjective the legal standard, the most susceptible to abuses of police discretion we are.

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