Special Coverage of the Fixed-gear Brake Saga

Portland courts and law enforcement officials are in a state of confusion about whether or not fixed-gear bicycles should be required to have a separate hand brake.

Judges have come down on both sides of the issue but some Portland police officers continue to issue citations.

A change in the law was sought by local bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg and southern Oregon Senator Jason Atkinson in 2007. Senate Bill 729 would have clarified the existing bicycle brake equipment requirement so that fixed-gear bicycles would not have needed an additional brake (as long as they meet the performance standard).

Unfortunately, the fixed-gear language was stripped from the bill by one pivotal lawmaker (Senator Ginny Burdick) at the 11th hour and the issue persists.

Learn more by reading the stories below…

KATU takes on fixie ticketing issue

Posted on December 19th, 2007 at 12:15 pm.

KATU, Portland’s ABC affiliate, ran a special “On Your Side” report last night on the fixed-gear bicycle brake issue.

The story was given the headline of “Are brakeless bikes safe to ride?”. Of course “brakeless” bikes are not safe. But are fixed-geared bikes technically brakeless? That depends on your definition of brake and it seems to me that the issue should focus on whether or not someone can safely stop their vehicle (a standard that is laid out in the law), not on what type of brake is used.

KATU unfortunately makes this into yet another story where people who ride bikes are portrayed as dangerous scofflaws who are just trying to “stick it to the man” (a phrase which was uttered by the KATU reporter in the story).


Burdick axes fixed-gear language from brake bill

Posted on June 19th, 2007 at 3:32 pm.

Senator Ginny Burdick accepted
an Alice Award in March.
(File photo)

In a conference committee in Salem today, Senator Ginny Burdick decided that Senate Bill 729 — which sought to update Oregon’s law regarding bicycle brake requirements — will move forward without a key phrase that would have allowed fixed-gear bicycles to not be required to have a separate brake.

The bill — which had already passed the House and the Senate — initially read,

“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.”


Fixed gear bill hits unexpected snag

Posted on June 14th, 2007 at 5:52 pm.

There’s been a surprising turn of events in the fixed-gear brake saga.

Last week I reported that the effort to clarify the bicycle brake requirement so that fixed-gear bicycles don’t need to have an additional brake was on its way to becoming Oregon law.

The bill (S.B. 729) has passed the Senate and the House and only had one step left before being signed into law by the Governor. In accordance to regular procedure, since the bill was amended in the House (to include some language about police bicycles) it was returned to the Senate for final approval of those amendments.


Fixed gear bill passes last test

Posted on June 6th, 2007 at 6:35 am.

Fighting for fixed gears in court
The case that started it all.
Mark Ginsberg defends Ayla
Holland in July ’06.
(File photo)

The Oregonian has the word from Salem on the fixed gear bill.

Senate Bill 729 — which seeks to clarify the existing bicycle brake requirement so that fixed-gear bicycles don’t need an additional brake (as long as they meet the performance standard) — should now have smooth sailing to the Governor’s desk after the Oregon House voted in favor of it last night by a vote of 41-15.

The bill already passed the Senate and now is just one small step (a Senate approval of some minor House changes) from becoming Oregon law.


Fixed-gear bill passes House committee

Posted on May 16th, 2007 at 12:18 pm.

Senate Bill 729, which seeks to clarify the existing bicycle brake requirement so that fixed-gear bicycles don’t need an additional brake (as long as they meet the performance standard), got its first hearing on the House side of the capitol in Salem this morning.


Fixie bill passes Senate by wide margin

Posted on April 3rd, 2007 at 9:07 pm.

BTA lobbyist Scott Bricker reports that Senate Bill 729, which seeks to amend the brake requirement for bicycles, passed through the Senate in Salem today by a landslide margin of 22-6.


Report from Salem: Fixed-gear bill moves forward

Posted on March 27th, 2007 at 3:52 pm.

fixie bill in Salem
Mark Ginsberg and Hazel Gross
arrive at the State Capitol to testify
in support of the fixie bill.

Senate Bill 729, which intends to clean up Oregon law regarding the brake requirement for bicycles and add an exception for fixed gear bicycles, took a step toward becoming law today.

The bill received a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the state capitol in Salem.

Joining me to testify in support of this bill were bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg, BTA lobbyist Scott Bricker, former bicycle messenger Hazel Gross, and Republican Senator Jason Atkinson.


Fixed gear bill gets public hearing

Posted on March 22nd, 2007 at 8:20 am.

This coming Tuesday, Salem lawmakers are holding a public hearing on Senate Bill 729. SB 729 is the “fixie bill” that is being proposed to clarify the legal language and shore up confusion around how the bicycle equipment requirement (ORS 815.280) should pertain to fixed-gear bicycles.

Since Ayla Holland’s seminal case last July there has been confusion in the courts and on the street about whether or not fixed-gear bicycles must have a separate hand brake.


Fixie ticket deja-vu in Germany

Posted on January 4th, 2007 at 9:24 am.

A reader recently sent me a a German news story about police and fixed-gear bicycles. Judging by the photos accompanying the story (below), he suspected (hoped) it was about how some German cops were riding fixed-gear bicycles on their bike patrols. This would be in direct contrast to Portland cops who issue citations to cyclists riding fixed-geared bicycles without a separate hand brake.

[Bonn Police Force officers
pose with suspect’s bike.]


Washington DC fixes their fixed gear law

Posted on November 22nd, 2006 at 9:26 am.

Dabby, (a veteran Portland messenger and regular commenter) just sent me an interesting bit of news.

The Washington Area Bicyclists Association, an advocacy group in DC, has worked with the Washington DC Department of Transportation to amend their law to explicitly allow fixed gear bicycles to be used without separate hand brakes.