Support BikePortland

Judge finds fault with fixies

Posted by on July 28th, 2006 at 8:28 am

Fighting for fixed gears in court

[Ayla Holland (L) and Mark Ginsberg (R)]

Yesterday at the Multnomah County Courthouse the law came down against fixed gear bicycles.

On June 1, 2006 Portland bike messenger Ayla Holland was given a ticket for allegedly violating Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 815.280(2)(a) which states,

    A bicycle must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement. strong enough to skid tire.

At issue was whether Holland’s fixed gear bicycle met this requirement. She and her lawyer Mark Ginsberg thought it did, but Officer Barnum of the Portland Police Bureau thought otherwise so they brought the matter in front of a traffic court Judge.

Fighting for fixed gears in court

[Ginsberg explains how
a fixed gear works.]

According to Officer Barnum, he stopped Holland at SW First and Jefferson and told her that she was in violation of the law and that she must put a front brake on her fixie to avoid a ticket. Holland disagreed. She and Ginsberg claim that Oregon statute does not clearly define what a brake is and that as long as a bicycle can perform a “skid on dry, level clean pavement” it does not need to have a separate, traditional braking device.

At the start of the trial it was clear that neither the Judge nor the Officer understood just what a fixed-gear bicycle was. To help them visualize, Ginsberg likened a fixie to a child’s Big Wheel. Once everyone was clear and the cop was finished with his opening testimony, Ginsberg began his cross-examination:

Ginsberg (to Officer Barnum):

“When you approached the rider did she stop?”

Officer Barnum:



“How’d she stop the bike?”

Officer Barnum:

“I don’t know.”


“The gear itself stopped the bike.”

Officer Barnum:

“But the gear is not a brake.”

From the outset, the judge seemed to agree with the cop and it was up to Ginsberg to change his mind. The trial began to hinge on the definition of brake. Ginsberg continued to ask questions of the cop.


“What is a brake?”

Officer Barnum:

“A lever, a caliper or a coaster brake hub.”


“Can you show the court where in the vehicle code a brake is defined as such?”

Officer Barnum:



“Did you at any time during the traffic stop ask my client if she could skid (thus meeting the performance requirement of the statute)?”

Officer Barnum:


At this point the judge seemed increasingly exasperated with Ginsberg’s direction and pointed out that “brake” was a commonly accepted term. To end this line of questioning, Ginsberg offered to demonstrate to the court that Holland could easily bring her fixed-gear bike to a skid on dry, level pavement. The judge declined his offer.

Now it was time for Officer Barnum to ask questions. He asked Holland,

“What would you do if your chain broke?”

Fighting for fixed gears in court


“I would use my feet.”

Officer Barnum:

“What if your leg muscles had a spasm?”


“I’m not sure…these are emergency situations.”

Ginsberg interjected with a question for Holland:

“Did any of these situations happen on the day you were stopped?”



Now it was time for Officer Barnum to submit his closing testimony. He continued to argue that nowhere in the statute does it say gears can be utilized as brakes (it doesn’t say they can’t either). He also said that “motorists and the public deserve to have these bikes be properly equipped,” and that a “skid is not as good or safe as a stop.” “The requirement,” he said, “has not been met.”

Now it was Ginsberg’s turn. He said,

“The state is overreaching in seeking to define a brake as a lever and a caliper. The question remains; is the fixed gear the brake? The statutes are clear that the answer is yes.”

To solidify his point, he took out a huge Webster’s dictionary and opened it to the word “brake.” The definition stated that a brake is a “device to arrest the motion of a vehicle.” It did not stipulate anything about a distinct lever or caliper. In his last few comments he proclaimed that the current statute is not well-written and that it is “frightening to require only a front brake.”

With both sides at rest, it was time for the Judge’s final opinion. His contention was that the main source of braking power on a fixed gear are the muscles of the rider, not the gear itself. To this end, he questioned how messengers—whom he’s seen riding “much too fast”—could stop safely.

In the Judge’s opinion, gearing itself and/or leg muscles are not a sufficient source of braking power. He said,

“The brake must be a device separate from the musclulature of the rider. Take me for instance. I don’t have leg muscles as strong as a messenger…how would I stop safely?”

He then turned directly to Ginsberg and said,

“If your client had a stick she could rub against her tire, you’d have a case. I don’t believe the defense has convinced me to broaden the definition of a brake. I find the defendant guilty.”

So now Holland has 30 days to either attach a hand brake to her bike and pay a $73 fine, or appeal the decision. In talking with her outside the courtroom it seemed like she did not think the Judge’s opinion was fair and I wouldn’t be surprised if she and Ginsberg decide to continue the fight.

This decision by the Judge raises some concerns and questions. Will the cops now feel emboldened to go out and ticket everyone on a fixed-gear? Are fixed-gears now essentially illegal? Are fixed-gears truly a public safety hazard?

Fixed gears have become a huge trend across the country and with hundreds if not thousands of them in Portland, I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this issue.

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Dave July 28, 2006 at 8:45 am

    Hate to say it, but I’m with the judge. You can indeed stop without a (conventional) brake on a fixed gear bike (I ride one too, with brakes), but anyone who claims they can stop as quickly without a brake as they could with one is ignoring the simple physics involved. To reverse the situation, there’s a reason you aren’t allowed a brake at the velodrome – you’d suddenly be able to stop far faster than the other riders, and could cause a nasty crash.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • zach July 28, 2006 at 8:49 am

    Lots of people (including me) have a brake on our fixed gears, and I think it’s a very good idea to run a front brake for use in emergencies at least – not to mention hills… A skidding rear tire (or tires) is one of the least efficient ways for a vehicle to stop…

    That said, riding brakeless FG is legal according to this statute, it should remain legal, and the judge and cop are both nincompoops.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ethan July 28, 2006 at 8:57 am

    The judge clearly ignored the intent of the law, which is that bicycles must have a safe means to slow and stop. When you pull a brake lever aren’t you using you muscles to stop the bike? This guy is a real brainiac.

    It is worth noting that modern hybrids and electric cars are being designed to use their generators as brakes . . . no levers or calipers there. The naroow lever/caliper paradigm betrays a lack of intelectual rigor too. Not surprised to see a cop having a hard time getting his head around it, but a judge? Sad. Appeal.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gary July 28, 2006 at 9:05 am

    FYI – OBRA now requires brakes on fixies in races outside the velodrome.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Michael July 28, 2006 at 9:09 am

    From what I know of conventional bicycle physics wisdom, the front wheel is far superior in its braking ability. This can be easily tested on any bike with good working brakes on both front and rear. The rear wheel will lock and skid with a fraction of the effort and braking effect. Further, when the rear wheel skids it looses all its tracking ability – in effect, it is not a wheel when it is skidding. The bike is nearly out of control if either wheel is skidding. It is, however, nearly impossible to lock up the front wheel. Unless one is braking hard in a turn, it is better to use the front brake. If one had to choose only one wheel for braking it would be the front wheel.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chuck July 28, 2006 at 9:13 am

    Perhaps I do not understand the reluctance to have a brake on a bike, even it used for only emergency circumstances. Can someone explain? There are bigger issues to fight when it comes to traffic laws and the relationship between motorists and cyclists.

    Take the $73 and buy a brake and beer and move on.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dave July 28, 2006 at 9:14 am

    But hybrids do not have ONLY their generators available to stop with. The question is not can you stop, or even stop safely, it’s can you make a safe and expeditious emergency stop. Without a front brake (mechanism doesn’t matter) on a two-wheeled vehicle, you simply cannot stop as quickly. Would you feel safe riding a geared bike with a broken front brake in downtown traffic?

    Cruiser bikes with coaster brakes are an interesting counter argument, but they are rarely ridden at speeds comparable to a fixed or road bike, and put much more rider weight over the rear wheel.

    Judges frequently rule on the intent of the law rather than the narrow wording. This was obviously the case here: he felt that a fixed rear wheel did not allow for sufficient braking alone to meet the intent of the statutory requirement.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Pete July 28, 2006 at 9:15 am

    I also have a front brake, but from the physics standpoint, I wouldn’t want to skid it. What if the cop’s legs had a spasm, while he was driving?

    regardless, the judge is wrong. If you can make the rear wheel skid, you have a brake. how else did it skid? the question is not how good the brake is.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt P. July 28, 2006 at 9:22 am

    Skidding is a red herring. The point of the skid is to establish that braking pressure (regardless of the source) can be applied that exceeds the amount needed to overcome the friction between the tire and the road. The most efficient and safest stop is one where the braking force barely equals the friction between tire and road, slowing the vehicle at the maximum rate. This principle applies equally to both cars and bicycles. If you can apply enough pressure to skid, then you can apply enough pressure to brake.

    That being said, hand-activated brakes will be more effective than coaster brakes or fixed-gear pedalling back-pressure, because the reaction time is less – nerve impulses travel quicker to the actuating muscles for the hands in your forearms than they do to the actuating muscles in your upper and lower legs. At high speeds the reaction distance can be as much as 3 times the braking distance. (note that this paragraph does not reflect on the law, only on safety)

    The biggest argument for mechanical brakes over human leg power is maximum force. If there is enough friction to support large braking forces, the maximum force that can be applied by a rider on an upright bike is the rider’s weight. (On a recumbant, it is the strength of the bicycle seat – most cyclists can leg press at least 1.5 times their own weight) The maximum braking force of a mechanical brake is limited by hand grip strength, but is typically much more than the weight of the rider.

    Anyway, the point is, if you can skid, you can apply enough force to safely stop, and you’ve met the legal and practical definition of “braking”. Obviously, Mr. Ginsberg is aware of this and the Multnomah County judge in question disagrees. It’s simple physics, but physics is not intuitive for many people, judges included.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jason July 28, 2006 at 9:27 am

    While my fixie has brakes I believe the officers reasoning to be faulty. Your hand uses muscles to pull a lever and the logic of a chain breaking can also be applied to the brake cable snapping, or the caliper snapping. The logic could also be used in a car, what would you do if your master cylinder failed….
    At least on a bike you could use your feet, doesn’t really work in a car.
    I would appeal

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • dav July 28, 2006 at 9:28 am

    I ride fixed with two caliper brakes. I’m not going to take sides here, but I think the skid is vastly underestimated in braking effectiveness…it seems that some folks consider braking to cease or something when skidding, but wow…dragging a locked-motion rear wheel, rubber frictioning against the pavement…it’s slowing the bike, right? It’s like “throwing an anchor out.”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tankagnolo Bob July 28, 2006 at 9:33 am

    Is it a weight issue, or an issue of “style points”? Let me guess, style points and nothing more. One can have that brake and save it for emergencies only.

    I love my one speed, but I do have a brake, all $11 worth at City Bike. The extra weight is not a burdon at all, and as for style points, the bike is still cool.

    Show me a quick stop on a no brake fixie on a steep fast downhill, and I will change my mind.

    Ride safe, ride fast, stop fast…Safety first on shared roads, do what you want at the track or free ride park.

    Tankagnolo Bob

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • philvarner July 28, 2006 at 9:34 am

    1) Shouldn’t the cops also stop everyone with a 50 year old wornout coaster brake or who have oily, dirty rims and brake pads that won’t stop the bike?

    2) Skidding isn’t as effective as a non-skidding rapid slow down, since the coefficient of kinetic friction is lower than than the coefficient of static friction.

    3) I don’t care if you’re Major Taylor — put a friction brake on your bike. Just about everyone eventually realizes that death by intersection isn’t as cool as it sounds. However, it probably shouldn’t be a legal requirement.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Argentius July 28, 2006 at 9:34 am

    This is ridiculous for a simple reason:

    One, coaster brake, on the rear wheel of a bicycle, is legal.

    A brakeless fixie cannot stop as fast as a bike with a brake on the front. But it can stop as fast as a coaster brake can.

    If the law wants to say, “Bicycles must have a brake on the front wheel,” that’s one thing. But that’s not where we’re at.

    FWIW, I have front AND rear caliper brakes on my fixie…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tankagnolo Bob July 28, 2006 at 9:36 am

    Show me a hybrid car with no foot brake, silly analagy !!! One can downshift with a conventional four speed car too, but damn, there is that foot brake again !!! Give me a brake!!

    Tankagnolo Bob

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Anonymous July 28, 2006 at 9:38 am

    “Will the cops now feel emboldened to go out and ticket everyone on a fixed-gear?”

    well, i just got a $97 ticket yesterday for not having any brakes, so i guess so. the cop mentioned that they are cracking down on this now and that it was first brought to his attention at critical mass.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brett July 28, 2006 at 9:39 am

    I have a fixie in my stable. I practice with it. Braking with it is not as effective as with hand brakes. Think it is? Skid the tire immediately with the cranks in the 6 and 12 o’clock positions. Also, think about other people and not just yourself. If you were the only person on the road, or with other fixies that would be fine… but outside of the ‘drome, that’s not the case. I understand the desire to ride without traditional brakes on the road but in the end it isn’t as safe.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Steven L. Sheffield July 28, 2006 at 9:49 am

    “This decision by the Judge raises some concerns and questions. Will the cops now feel emboldened to go out and ticket everyone on a fixed-gear? Are fixed-gears now essentially illegal? Are fixed-gears truly a public safety hazard?

    Fixed gears have become a huge trend across the country and with hundreds if not thousands of them in Portland, I don’t think we’ve heard the end of this issue.”

    Re-read your own report … the judge found the rider guilty for riding a fixed-gear without a brake; he didn’t rule fixed-gears “illegal” … just because you put a brake on the thing doesn’t mean you actually have to use it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dongolo July 28, 2006 at 9:55 am

    Why on earth would you not put at least a front brake on your fixed gear street rider? That is just absurd. There is no good reason for it at all.

    Worried about weight? Take a crap before you ride. Jeez….

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brian July 28, 2006 at 9:59 am

    Absolutely Ludicris.

    Sad that cops and judges can’t spend some time on more signficant safety issues. We all know there are bigger fish to fry.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Evan Manvel, BTA July 28, 2006 at 10:01 am

    Seems like people are answering two questions:
    first, does it make sense to have a hand brake?
    second, does the law require it?

    I think that Mark’s right about the law. If he was using Webster’s Third New International, which I think is the standard dictionary for lawyers, and no where else in the vehicle code is brake defined, the court is simply wrong.

    The judge’s reasoning is bogus. Brake separate from musculature? For hand brakes, that’s a part of the bike; for fixies, that’s the gear, part of the bike.

    There’s another interesting question: why did the officer ticket the messenger? Dangerous riding? In fact, the messenger was able to stop, which was the purported reason for the ticket: inability to stop.

    We’ll see what we can do to get the police to stop giving out these tickets, and to focus on true traffic safety problems.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Puma July 28, 2006 at 10:06 am

    The bigger question is why are we allowing a handful of non-experts push definitions of law without doing their homework to educate themselves into making sound decisions based in scientific evidence?

    What I see is that your opinions do not matter. Now take your ruling and your brake and go home.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tomas July 28, 2006 at 10:07 am

    Does anyone else think this might open up precendence for the standardization of what is “street legal” for bicycles? I know there are already laws about reflectors and lights, but do we need to start regulating transmission and braking systems?

    “Yes Officer, my bicycle is cleared by the BTA.”

    I personally don’t feel like I have enough braking control on a fixie and would feel reluctant to ride around town without at least one handbrake. This is MY choice. However, I don’t think people who ride the fixies go “much too fast” or don’t have the control.

    What the hell is this “much too fast” shit? Bicycles still can’t contend with the speeds of any motorized vehicle and can rarely exceed the speed limit of any regular traffic. So even at top speeds, aren’t we still safer than cars and motorcycles and scooters?

    Fight this ticket! Fight!

    I’m a little irritable today…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • revphil July 28, 2006 at 10:15 am

    I was in court yesterday and witnessed another biker who has been ticked for “biking while fixed”.

    I dont want to tell people how to live or how to ride. I dont care if someone is riding a freewheel and rely only on their ‘sole brakes’ to stop. If track bikes aren’t causing us to be less safe why should anyone care? (note: cars are the number one killer of people under the age of 38)

    This is more about whether we choose to force others to live by our standards. total bullshit. People are dying, and cars are the reason. The cop is pathetic.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dan Porter July 28, 2006 at 10:20 am

    I commute (and race) a fixie with a front brake. I sometimes just use legs to stop and sometimes I use the front brake and sometimes (most times) I use both.

    I think this is a bogus ruling because Ayla was able to stop (without ‘brakes’), however I think that there actually is a safety issue out there.

    Not everyone is as skilled as the brakeless messengers riding around. A few days ago I watched a girl semi skid through the intersection coming off the broadway bridge going into town. She would have been creamed by a car making a legal green lighted right hand turn if she hadn’t skidded, turned, and almost put her bike down (furthermore, she almost crashed into me). A foot or two more into the roadway and she would have been creamed.

    So I guess what I am saying, is that the police are justified in ticketing bikes for not being able to stop (regardless of the type of bike). If the rider can stop using his or her legs, more power to them. Frankly, though I fear for those that are emulating the messengers and can’t stop very well, but are riding brakeless (for the cool factor).

    I feel bad for the messengers, as they are the ones that are going to feel the heat (and they are the ones most likely to be able to stop)

    BTW: Another ‘scary’ trend I is the ‘fake fixie’. ie a Single Speed road bike- with a freewheel and only a front brake. This is a recipe for disaster.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Sara July 28, 2006 at 10:20 am

    I’m curious: can a fixie without hand brakes stop as quickly as an automobile going the same speed?

    Does anyone know if there has been any data collected on this?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Pete July 28, 2006 at 10:20 am

    Stop flaming the persons’ personal preference for braking methods. The fact is you can brake on a fixed gear bike. the rider stopped when asked to. efficiency or lunacy, is not in question.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jason July 28, 2006 at 10:26 am

    Sorry, I’m with the judge an the officer on this one. I ride a fixie on the streets and yes, it has real brakes. Why in the world would you not outfit your bike with a brake?

    Brakeless bikes are for the track, not the street.

    If you want a track-legal fixie, get a _second_ fixie and don’t bother putting a brake on that one.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Pete July 28, 2006 at 10:40 am

    skateboards don’t have brakes and they can legally operate in the downtown streets.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tomas July 28, 2006 at 10:51 am

    The Segway doesn’t have “brakes”, does it?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tomas July 28, 2006 at 11:03 am

    What about a unicycle? Does this mean I can no longer go around town on my Uni? That’s technically a fixie too, isn’t it?


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John Boyd July 28, 2006 at 11:21 am

    As far as legal definitions, this seems pretty easy to defend:

    A. A brake is “a restraint used to slow or stop a vehicle”.

    B. The State already condsiders engines as brakes as demostrated by road signs “No Engine Braking Allowed”. Legs are the bicycle’s engine. The engine can be used as a brake.

    Simple no?

    Mr. Ginsberg?

    John Boyd

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jonathan Maus July 28, 2006 at 11:25 am

    The Oregonian has picked up this story. It’s already on their blog and should be in the paper tomorrow.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • andy July 28, 2006 at 11:35 am

    As far as I know, skateboards aren’t considered vehicles under Oregon state law; bicycles are. That’s the legal difference. As for unicycles…?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 28, 2006 at 11:40 am

    First off, any experienced fixed gear rider, like a messenger can stop a brakeless fix at least as well as a BMX bike with a rear handbrake will stop. I have read the law, and if the requirement is that you must be able to lock up the wheel, than skidding on a fixed meets that requirement. I hear you “But there is no brake.” Yes there is, it is the fixed hub. You resist the forward motion with your legs and the bike stops. That sounds like a braking action to me.

    The other thing about this law is that a freewheel singlespeed with just a front brake does not satisfy the law, even though applying the braking force on the front wheel will stop a bike quicker than anything, it will not make the wheel skid, cuz your weight transfers toward the front of the bike when you brake.

    The law needs to be re-written by someone who understands how bikes work and what a rider’s capabilities are.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • andy July 28, 2006 at 11:44 am

    It’s a faulty argument to make the case that engine braking in a truck is equivalent to leg braking on a fixie: every single one of those trucks has mechanical brakes and is required by law to have operational mechanical brakes. Sure, the engine can be used as a brake, but it is not their sole method of braking.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee July 28, 2006 at 11:52 am

    Its been said several times, but maybe we need to go over it again. There are TWO questions:
    1. Is riding a brakeless fixie safe?
    2. Is riding a brakeless fixie legal?

    I guess we can argue about whether or not it’s safe, or whether it SHOULD be legal, but hose are beside the point of this court case.

    To me this case is about whether cops can ticket you for riding something they don’t think is safe, even if it is completely legal. If you think about it, riding in a car is safer than riding on a bike–so what would keep a cop from ticketing ALL bike riders now, just because he thinks its not safe?

    It’s not about safety, it’s about whether cops can make up the rules as they go along. This sets an awful precedent and all cyclists and all citizens should be alarmed.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 28, 2006 at 11:53 am

    Some other points:

    The first “safety bicycles” were fixed gear without caliper brakes. The coaster brake camealong later. So, if you go far enough back in history, the “traditional” way of stopping a bike is by resisting the forward motion of the pedals.

    If the chain broke or derailed on a coaster brake bike, you would also be left with no brakes. I had my chain come off my fixed on Broadway, going downhill. I stopped by rubbing my foot against the side if my tire.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt P. July 28, 2006 at 11:55 am

    The point is that “brake” isn’t defined by the law. It’s fine & dandy that the judge says that “brake” is a common term, but a parking brake meets the common term definition of “brake” and yet doesn’t meet the restrictions of the law.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • gabrielamadeus July 28, 2006 at 11:55 am

    While I think a front brake is a good idea, by no means should it be required if the rider can come to a quick controlled stop. Whether it’s a stick, feet, or 8″ disc brakes.

    As far as the skateboard having no brakes point? I got a ticket the other day for doing powerslides going down a hill. A powerslide is by far the quickest and safest way to stop on a skateboard if done properly. The officer called them crashes. I got a ticket for “improper position in the roadway.” He also lied to me, and said several time, “skateboards are not allowed on any street in portland, maybe you should read up on your law.”

    I see some parallels here…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt P. July 28, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    “The brake must be a device separate from the musclulature of the rider. Take me for instance. I don’t have leg muscles as strong as a messenger…how would I stop safely?”

    Um…. don’t pedal as fast in the first place? This is a good example of a poor judgement by the justice in question. If you are unable to cause the wheel to skid at any speed, don’t ride a fixie. If you can cause it to skid, but not if you’re going 20 mph, then SLOW DOWN. Riding / driving too fast for conditions is a whole ‘nother issue, and involves a completely different statute.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 28, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    We can “what if?” all day. For instance, what if the cable snapped on your freewheel-equipped bike? “What if you went to squeeze the lever and had a sudden attack of carpel tunnel syndrome.

    Also you can “skip stop” a fixed bike too. A skip stop is when you lift the rear wheel and set it down while resisting the forward motion of the pedals. Do this 3 times and you are at a complete stop.

    Sorry for the multiple posts but this subject hits on about 18 of my pet peeves about peoples perceptions of what is safe on a bicycle.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ralph July 28, 2006 at 12:04 pm

    Interesting discussion. How could the officer possibly know that it isn’t a coaster brake? What if the chain on my 1970’s Schwin Cruiser breaks? Same problem.

    But as a fixed gear rider for several years, I have absolutely no doubt that a fixie with a front brake can stop faster than without. And if the rider is tired, it can make stopping even more difficult. Sheldon Brown, whom I consider the preeminent authority on the matter, agrees:

    And another thing…it is bad form to lock your elbows!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • chris July 28, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    I don’t like the precedent that this decision sets. The judge seems to have made a call based on what he believes is safe – while not even understanding the terminology/mechanics. Not based on the reading of the law.

    Was the ‘anti-bike cop coalition’ sitting around in the donut shop at their monthly meeting when one of them came across the legal definition and had a eureka moment?

    I hope this is appealed…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Anonymous July 28, 2006 at 12:09 pm

    If this is the case can somebody please ticket the meth-heads that come screaming into an intersection with no brakes and their feet dragging trying unsuccessfully to slow themselves down?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joe July 28, 2006 at 12:16 pm

    maybe the cops should carry around brakes like they did with lights and give them away for free

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Patrick July 28, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    1. When I was 10 I took all the brakes off my BMX bike and used to stop by mashing my shoe against the rear tyre. My mum used to get so mad, I went through shoes pretty quickly.

    2. I want to know how much dinero Ayla is paying Ginsberg. So far a $73. fine and a brake seem like they would be cheaper than fighting the legal battle. Mark must be doing this pro bono.

    3. Come on we all know what the heck the law means. The judge may be an nincompoop but he wouldn’t be forced to use nincompoop thinking if we (cyclists) weren’t trying to make such a ridiculous argument.

    4. I used to ride without a helmet when I was a kid- gasp!!!!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tomas July 28, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    I guess I’ll have to send my newly restored Penny-Farthing bicycle to the dumpster.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee July 28, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    Exactly Chris–this is only a notable case because the cop and judge use their own idea of what is safe on a bike, rather than any reasonable reading of the law itself.

    It doesn’t matter what the law should be–take that up with your congressman. It does matter what the law is. Brakeless fixies are legal, which is qute a different question from whether they should be legal.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brett July 28, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    Good point Adam. But there is the rub, and the reason we have more lawyers than social workers, you see the letter, not the spirit of the law.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee July 28, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    Well, there’s a lot of room to disagree on the spirit of the law. Some people think fixies are safe, some don’t.

    I just don’t want a cop ticketing me for his idea of the spirit of the law.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jeff July 28, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    This is not a matter of opinion. A bike equipped with brakes can stop faster and safer (no skidding) than a bike with no brakes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chris July 28, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    It seems that any way you look at this case was a bad decision.

    Interpreting the law literally no caliper fixed gear bikes are legal.

    Interpreting the law more liberally fixed gears stop as quick as or quicker than old coaster brake equipped bikes or caliper/steel wheel bikes in the rain. Unless the police want to use this decision as precedence to pull over any bicyclist on a crappy department store bike, it should be appealed.

    That said, I have a front brake on my fixie. It’s a nice option when you are tired.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee July 28, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    And a bike limited to very very low gears (say, 39/21) can stop faster than bikes with several gears. There is a whole range of possible designs yielding a range of stopping distances, and the usual two-brake freewheel is by no means the fastest-stopping design.

    There are obviously design considerations besides stopping distance at work here. The law puts a clear minimum on braking ability, and brakeless fixies meet that limit. All else is a matter of taste.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joe July 28, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    well, we’ll see if cops hand out tickets tonight won’t we. CM usually has some fixed there and an assload of cops soooo….only time (a few hours) will tell

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • No Pets July 28, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    a couple things I’m not sure were mentioned:

    someone riding a fixed gear cannot accelerate beyond what their ratio will allow, they can’t coast to reach higher speads. Ride too fast? maybe, but not as likely.

    also, what if someone who rides with a coaster brake has their chain pop off? It’s an identical scenario.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Pete July 28, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    im sure who ever wrote the law had no idea that there were bikes out there that didn’t “coast”.

    and thanks Joe, I forgot that today was CM day.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • DH July 28, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    A bike equipped with brakes can stop faster and safer (no skidding) than a bike with no brakes.

    True, depending on the brake and the rider, but it doesn’t matter since the law doesn’t concern itself with “faster” or “safer,” instead it sets a defined standard.

    How could the judge conscientiously decline a demonstration of how the bike could stop legally?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Derek July 28, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    Stupid. “what if you had a cramp, what if your chain broke?”

    really? what if your brake cable slipped/broke, what if you ride a walmart bike and your brakes (even in good working order) cant stop you

    “In the Judge’s opinion, gearing itself and/or leg muscles are not a sufficient source of braking power.”

    Well in this case I am glad we don’t rely on hand muscles to use hand brakes!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Pooh July 28, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    The intent of the law is to keep you and other people alive. It is idiotic to ride a fixed gear bike without at least a front brake on public roads. I’m out every day commuting 40 miles on a fixie, the front brake has saved me more times than I can count.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John Boyd July 28, 2006 at 2:15 pm

    Here is the statute as it pertains in it’s entirety, quote:

    (a) A bicycle must be equipped with a brake
    that enables the operator to make the braked
    wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • PdxMark July 28, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    Here’s what the statute says:

    A bicycle must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

    This has always been a topic that was open to interpretation, like many things in law. Brakeless fixie riders, and folks in this thread, interpret the “brake” here as being the fixed hub. That’s a plausible interpretation.

    The problem, though, is that the statute says that a bike must have (1) a BRAKE that (2) can cause a SKID. According to the (sometimes contradictory) rule of statutory interpretation, another very plausible interpretation is that the statute requires not just the ability to skid, but also a brake mechanism.

    I ride a fixie, so I know the operation of fixies. I doubt that an appellate court is likely to reverse this ruling. The reason is that a reversal would force the the appellate court to interpret the statute to mean that a brake is NOT required by the statute, just the ability to skid the bike. Not only does this jdgment seem to fly in the face of the plain language of the statute, but there is little social benefit to stretching the interpretation.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mark George July 28, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    When you brake a rear wheel, your interia propels you forward, lifting your rear wheel. The wheel loses traction and thus grazes the road surface in a skid with a stopping force approaching zero. People can skid their fixies for several hundred feet because their weight is over the front wheel and the rear wheel has virtually no contact with the road.

    The worst part of the law is that the brake simply must be able to skid a wheel. A front brake can stop you more than twice as quickly as a rear brake…(.67g versus.30g) but it can not skid a wheel!! You will be thrown over your bars before you skid the front wheel; at which point you have reached the terminal braking ability for that bike’s geometry (or at least exceeded its practicle braking force).

    The law is an inversion of what is actually safest. And putting a front brake on will not help her conform to the law any more than she already does.

    Other states require that the bikcycle be able to stop at a given speed within a given distance.

    Jobst Brandt says:

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • tonyt July 28, 2006 at 2:43 pm

    Hey Pooh and all you other folks who are using the “I think you’re an idiot” arguement.

    That is THE SAME arguement that the anti-bike folks use to justify telling us to get off the road. Just read “Dean’s” comments on the whole 95.5 madness.

    I ride a fixie and I use a front brake. I recommend a front brake. But the issue at hand is not personal preference. It is whether personal preference and ignorance should trump the rule of law, which is what I would say the judge and cop are guilty of. The law is simple if somewhat vague. It mandates a “skid” which a fixie can provide.

    Ironically the cop stated that a front brake needed to be present. Good luck trying to get a front wheel to skid on clean level pavement. 99% of the time you won’t be able to do it and therefore you would NOT meet the standard set forth by the law.

    Another example of laws being applied to bikes by people who do NOT ride. Messengers riding to fast?? What the heck does that have to do with anything??

    Most of the good arguments have been made. Whether a chain brakes could be asked about the cable. Leg spasm? Are you kidding? blah, blah, blah.

    I can’t wait til all the heretofore “unbraked” fixies put on a rear brake and a lever on their seatpost. “Hey cop, I’ve got my brake.”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Fixed gear foolishness at July 28, 2006 at 2:44 pm

    […] More on the court case here, and some lively debate in the comments section. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • genec July 28, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    So according to the judge, any vehicle that uses regrenerative brakes would also be illegal.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Randy July 28, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    The law was obviously written in the 50s or 60s when coaster brakes were the brake of choice on most bikes sold in American.

    What really irks me is how the cops seem to be spending all their time and effort busting fixie riders, critical massers, zoobombers and bike commuters on bicycle boulevards, as if any of these activities is an outstanding threat to public safety, instead of focusing their efforts on motor vehicle operators, who are the real safety threat on our roads.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • chris July 28, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    maybe i’m missing the point…but if this is a safety issue i feel that there are other things that a focus should be put on (i’m personally more concerned with p.o.s. cars on the road, horrible drivers, debris on road ways, etc., than folks on fixies w/o a *brake*)

    i was given the same ticket last february after critical mass (fixie, no brakes). we had just crossed the hawthorne bridge. i was tired, indian food had spilled in my bag. the ride turned right, i continued straight towards home. so at this point i wasn’t even a participant in the ride any longer. there were three or four motorcycle cops sitting in a parking lot just west of 7th on hawthorne. the light at the intersection i just mentioned was red. i stopped. as i’m sitting there at the light i just stopped at, two cops on motorcycles pull up behind me with their lights on. they said to pull over, which was really funny since we were all sitting completely still. i asked where. they said to walk over to the sidewalk. we bickered about brakes and safety and skidding and broken chains and all that crap. the cop went back and forth and for a few minutes i thought he’d be cool and understand how ridiculous the situation was (i was at a red light that i safely stopped at…right in front of him!). alas, he gave me a ticket. i told him thanks for tackling the real issues that plague our city streets (satisfying!)

    i went to court, he didn’t show, ticket was dropped.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Cyclelicious July 28, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    Portland judge: Brakeless fixie is bad…

    A Multnomah County judge has ruled that the ability to skid with a brakeless fixed gear bicycle does not meet the Oregon statutory requirement for a bicycle….

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tankagnolo Bob July 28, 2006 at 3:41 pm



    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • brad July 28, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    You can ride faster with a brake than without because you don’t have to maintain such large buffers. Why not ride closer to your limits?

    That given, I can see why one would want the extra thrill of not having brakes. I’m one of those dorks with front and rear and fixed and have at times used all three brakes in panic situations.

    But I do believe that riding without calipers, that is only with the legs and chain, counts as brakes under the law. Seattle Police recently said as much in the local newspaper. Sorry, your Portlanders.

    Oh yes, cars stop faster than bicycles from the same speeds. Cars don’t have to balance while stopping after all, and can skid or ABS all four wheels. Strangely, semi trucks stop much more quickly when they are fully loaded.

    But back to the case, the judge didn’t allow evidence of actually seeing cyclist brake. I wonder if that evidence can be added on appeal.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Cecil July 28, 2006 at 3:49 pm

    I have had some experience dealing with statutory construction, and my gut tells me that any appeal by Holland would fail (I certainly wouldn’t take it on). I don’t have the time right now to review the legislative history to figure out exactly when the current language re: brakes was enacted (the statute containing that provision was enacted in 1983, but has been amended a number of times since then), but it doesn’t really matter because the appellate courts only look to legislative history when the language is ambiguous and my guess is that in this case the court would not find any ambiguity. For some fun bedtime reading, may I suggest the case of PGE v. Bureau of Labor and Industries, 317 Or 606 (1993), which sets out the approved methodology for statutory construction in Oregon. In a nutshell, PGE v. BOLI holds that when construing a statute, the appellate courts look first to the text of the statute in context. If the statute does not define a term, the court looks for its plain and ordinary meaning, usually using Webster’s 3rd International, but not always. The court will not look to the legislative history unless it finds that the statute is ambiguous. Interestingly, this has led to cases where the legislative history has indicated one thing but the court has found that the statute’s text unambiguously said something else. In one such case the court even said something like “that may be what the legislature intended to do, but that’s not what it did.”

    Anyway, the rule of construction that is important here is that the court must give effect to all provisions of the statute. In this case, as has been pointed out, the statute requires not just that the rider be able to skid the braked wheels on dry, level, clean pavement but that the rider do so by means of “a brake.” Because the statute does not define “brake,” the court would turn to the dictionary and most likely adopt the definition noted in earlier posts.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • benschon July 28, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    “If your client had a stick she could rub against her tire, you’d have a case.”

    What? Maybe she should have argued that since she could have stuck her messenger bag, or her arm, or a squirrel into her spokes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Carl July 28, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    Perhaps “the stick” will become the new rage in hipster bike schwag…

    eg. “Damn. Is that the new Merckx hand-turned ash brake stick? I should get one of those. I just broke my maple Cinelli and four spokes. I was looking into these Japanese bamboo brake sticks online, but I can’t find an importer…”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Peter July 28, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    I didnt have time to read all the comments, so I dont know if this has been covered, but if the law will say that you need a front brake, does that mean that bikes with just coaster brakes are against the law?


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Patrick July 28, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    I was just thinking about something…..

    This is pretty ridiculous. Is it the judge’s job to interpret the law or to uphold the laws? (I don’t know the answer)

    How COULD the judge refuse the demostration? Anyway, if the appeal takes money to pay the attonery, I’ll poney up the first $20.00.

    There I said it…… anyone else?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • loggiabike July 28, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    Statutes are interpreted according to their plain meaning. The lawyer’s argument was a losing one, demonstartion or no. The judge’s job in that court was both fact finder & interpreter of the law. The plain wording of the statute was sufficient to render his verdict, not withstanding the absence of a definition within the staute itself. Oregon Vehicle Code does indeed define the word “brake”, and had the judge chosen to write an opinion he would have used it. But this is traffic court…

    That said, I don’t like the idea of getting a icket for riding my track bike on the street.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt Picio July 28, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    Brad said: “Strangely, semi trucks stop much more quickly when they are fully loaded.”

    Actually, almost every vehicle stops better fully loaded, due to increased friction with the ground. It’s the same reason why front brakes work so much better than rear brakes – when the bike’s CG shifts over the front wheel, there is more weight over the wheel and therefore, more friction, allowing a quicker stop without skidding. In the case of the front wheel, the wheel is so far forward of the normal Center of Gravity that it’s effectively impossible to skid – greater forces shift the weight further forward and increase ground pressure and friction under the forces involved exceed the weight of the bike and rider – at that point, you get catapulted over the handlebars.

    The same thing happens with cars, trucks, trains, busses, etc, though the forces don’t exceed the weight of the vehicle in most cases, so the vehicles tend not to flip.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jeff July 28, 2006 at 9:45 pm

    I ride fixed, but always with a brake. In my opinion, it is very foolish to not have a brake and ride in traffic. I don’t care if you can “Skid” or whatever (yes, I can). It is inherently less safe to ride without a brake, regardless of wether you lose style points.

    This is just a case of a growing group (cyclists) finally being asked to have a safety standard. Hopefully this kind of thing can eventually lead to the acceptance of cycling as a viable transportation alternative by the population at large.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Nick July 28, 2006 at 9:53 pm

    Here’s wehre I take issues with the judge and the cop’s reasoning. They qualify a brake as

    “A lever, a caliper or a coaster brake hub.”

    All well and good. However, when the defendant made the case that she was able to make the rear wheel skid using soley her fixed rear hub, the officer replied with a “what if” emergency scenario involving a broken chain, in a (presumably successful) attempt to discredit the stopping abilities of a fixed gear rider in an emergency situation.

    Now the double standard that the officer is operating under should be obvious. What happens if the chain brakes on a bike equiped soley with a coaster brake rear hub? You’re equally as S.O.L. on such a bike as you would be on a fixie. Does this mean that officer has the discretion to target coaster brake riders as well? Will he target them? Or is he just being discriminatory to fixed gear riders, presumably due to some preconcieved notion of their “counter-culture” status?

    That’s the biggest part that bugs me I think. I’m still not going to put my brake on for the same reason that I never ran a front liscense plate on my car. If I get popped for a ticket, I’ll throw a brake on, take a picture of it and take it into court where the photo will show that I am now in compliance with the law.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 28, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    In a pinch you can also stop a fixed by (very carefully) rubbing a gloved hand on the top of the front tire. Was she wearing gloves?

    If anyone wants to know how to convert a coaster brake to fixed gear to fool the cops let me know.

    I think if you had a hub with a fat middle like a Phil Wood you could take out the left side spacer and put a coaster brake anchor arm in there and clamp it to the frame. “No sir, Officer, it’s not a fixed.See,it’s a coaster brake!”

    Once again I will state that if you know what you are doing, select a fairly low gear, and pay attention to the road, a brakeless fixed is plenty safe. If I want to ride at my limit I flip my wheel over and use the 15 tooth sprocket at the Alpenrose Velodrome. If I want to hit some hills I ride my fixed road bike which has center-pull brake at both ends. I can’t put brakes on my track bike, it does not have brake mounting holes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt Picio July 28, 2006 at 10:12 pm

    Ok – some notes on what’s been commented so far:

    Under the ruling, unicycles are illegal for street use. Unicycles are considered bicycles under the definition given in ORS 801.150. Segways *are* legal – they are exempt from braking requirements under ORS 815.135(3)(d).

    ORS 815.125 stipulates that brakes must be adequate to control the vehicle and must be in good working order. It describes the type of brake required for MOTORIZED vehicles, but not for unmotorized ones.

    I am not a lawyer, but the judge is probably correct for the following reason:

    ORS 815.820(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.

    The key word is: equipped. It’s going to be really difficult to argue that a human being is bicycle EQUIPMENT. One could argue that equipped means affixed or attached. There’s some room for debate there, but I’m starting to think that the definition of “brake” isn’t going to be as important as the definition of “equipped”.

    Websters says “equip” means “to furnish or provide with whatever is needed for use”, so maybe that’s not actually an issue.

    Hmm… Food for thought, anyway

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 28, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    Sorry, the hub is the drive when you pedal forward and the brake when you resist (the forward motion of the pedals). Just like a coasterbrake brake or even a lever operated brake you have to act on it for it to work.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Steve July 29, 2006 at 1:16 am

    Why would a cop bother to stop someone because they stop their bike using leg power and a chain instead of hand power and a cable, or instead of leg power and a hub? Why did it happen to the woman in this story?

    It is frustrating to think that our tax dollars are being spent to harass cyclists when there are such dangerous things happening with cars. I drive a car as well as ride a bike. Driving a car in the metro area (actually anywhere in the USA) is dangerous and scary. Almost every time I get in my small car I end up with a monster truck, SUV, or some type of vehicle riding my ass endangering my life and the lives of any passengers I might have. I am not a slow driver. This is a form of road rage. This is illegal behavior, it is very dangerous, and it happens constantly at all speeds, but I’ll bet few tickets are given out for it. Are the cops afraid of road-ragers? Apparently.

    I’m in a local burb, and out here we are plagued by cars with illegal exhausts. Small, meaningless subhumans (runts) modify them so they whine loudly. I call them “runt-mobiles.” It is clearly illegal, yet they seem to run the streets with no fear of the cops. Are the cops afraid of the runts driving runt-mobiles? Apparently.

    I guess it is safer to stop a person on a bicycle than to actually do real police work.

    We need to take away their cop cars. I mean ALL COP CARS. Put them in small unmarked cars. Honda Civics, Geo Metros, Toyota Tercels, etc. Use standard license plates so they are not marked as cop cars. Put lights in the grill or use magnetic mount lights on a cord that the cop can attach in a second to the roof. Put EVERY cop in those small unmarked cars on the strets and freeways and have them to write road-rage and illegal-equipment tickets by the THOUSANDS EVERY SINGLE DAY. In a few months there would be a difference. But as long as the cops are being pussies, harassing cyclists, and hiding in marked cop cars (so the criminals know to straighten up cause there’s a cop car nearby) nothing will change.

    After a few months and after literally hundreds of thousands of tickets were written here in the metro area, the roads would be safer for motorists. This place would have a reputation that you drive courteously or you’re getting a ticket! Would the streets be unsafe because the cops had not been harassing cyclists for those months? Not one bit.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • chris July 29, 2006 at 1:49 am

    regarding post #44 by the other chris: i think the cops hang at starbucks these days.

    also one thing i’m not sure that has been addressed is risk compensation (for all y’all who think it’s crazy/foolish/stupid/shouldn’t be done, riding fixies minus brakes). i think having brakes encourages you to ride faster, that front brake gives you false security and confidence.

    i usually ride one of my two brake-less fixies (down interstate, both geared 45×15 and i have no problems stopping at the light at greeley if it’s red). i cruise at a pretty good clip on my way to work, but on days when i ride my touring/road bike to work i absolutely fly. i haul ass. i know i’ve got the brakes to jam on if need be. i have fun but i bet overall i’m *safer* on my fixies (cuz not having those brakes really makes me think about every car i’m trailing and every light i’m approaching). that’s just me maybe…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • koru July 29, 2006 at 1:49 am

    Sounds like the cops in Portland don’t have enough real work to do these days, on the upside I guess that means you all have a really nice city!

    I’m glad so many people here care enough about the safety of their fellow riders to encourage or pressure us all to rock a brake or two.
    But why not extend the scope of safety from beyond the road and into the home. I for one wear a helmet every morning in the shower, you just never know if you’re gonna slip. Even experienced bathers should consider reducing the risk.

    And while we are at it, how about a manditory seatbelt law for every city bus with a strictly enforced no standees rule. Enforced, that law could be even more lucrative for the city than just fares alone. But mostly, it’s about safety.
    yep, good ole public $aftey! cha-ching.

    I’m also concerned about those cirque du soleil acrobats, maybe they shouldn’t go spinning around so high up on those bolts of fabric or balance themselves on tiny poles in the air.
    I myself would never do that.

    Whether it’s got brakes or no brakes, 1 wheeled 2 wheeled or 3 wheeled i don’t care. i just really love bikes, I love them almost as much as I love freedom. I kinda think the two go together quite well.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jonathan Maus July 29, 2006 at 5:43 am

    Here’s the Oregonian’s story on this case.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • beth h July 29, 2006 at 7:54 am

    I agree with the judge, and with the statute (though perhaps the language could be made clearer and much more specific).
    A brake is a brake. Bikes need brakes to better guarantee the rider will be able to stop safely. I’ve told my customers this for years and I haven’t changed my mind yet.

    The shop where I work will not sell a fixed gear bike without affixing a brake to it. Slug Velo won’t allow brakeless bikes of any kind on the rides. Now I;m told that OBRA is requiring fixies at the velodrome to be outfitted with at least one working brake.

    There’s a reason for all that, and it’s not discriminatory, it’s for the sake of everyone’s safety. Period.

    Ride safely, folks. –Beth

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ann Ony Muss July 29, 2006 at 9:37 am

    how canyou try to be, in good conscience, negating what anyone said by simply trying to call them stupid–in one of the more facetious statements here. That’s just plain ignorant.

    Force messengers to use brakes on fizies, sorry if it destroys your image, but it’s safer for everyone. I see many people on fixies stopping very dangerously without brakes everyday zig zaggin all over the road, you call that safe? Keep track bikes on the damned track!

    And yes you can equate the safety of riding a bike through a stop sign as being just as dangerous as if a car or motorcycle did the same; however, the end results would bode far worse for the cyclist.

    for shits sake people the police aren’t trying to terrorize anyone, they’re just trying to protect the welfare of everyone. give them a break. or would that ruin yoru image too?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joe July 29, 2006 at 9:45 am

    we do ride safe

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • 99th Monkey July 29, 2006 at 10:11 am

    I too ride fixie, both at Alpenrose on the track and on the street. However, for the last 4 years I’ve been riding my street fixie, geared 53X15 for flat or 53X19 for hills I have also had a front brake to supplement the control and braking that my rear wheel backpressure gives me, as, even with my big legs on the 53X19 on the flat I can’t come to a stop fast enough to avoid the likely idiot car turning in front of me! I don’t like to see anyone forced to do something they don’t want to, albeit it be for “style point reasons” or for any other reason, but my interpretation of the law, regarding the word in the ORS “equipped” seems pretty clear. Also, I’m not the only fixie-rider that rides tall gearing and and can go 25MPH+ on the street and all it would take is a bad fixie bike accident without at least one “court-recognized brake” to allow the PPB to come down even harder with their own double-standard interpretations of the laws . Remember about 2 years ago when the Motorcycle Cop in charge of the CM detail threatened most of a Critical Mass on 23rd at sunset with ticketing/arrest if they did not have a battery-powered rear red light, as “a reflector is not safe enough? Those that got tickets, of course, got dismissals in court as the related ORS states “reflector or light”….

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jennifer July 29, 2006 at 11:00 am

    my best friend and I were just talking about this. the judge said that “I don’t have the leg musciles as strong as a messenger….how would I stop safely” well I think that expercience is key. for example someone that’s a new driver that doesn’t have experiance isn’t going to go out and drive a stick shift that doesn’t know how to drive it right? they’re going to keep to an automatic. Messengers ride fixies cause of the experiance and muscle they have. why would he try and ride something that he just said he would be incapable of doing when there’s other options out there for him. the fixies are the “manuals of the bikes” while unfixed ones are the automatics.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joe July 29, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    just because there is a brake on our fixies doesn’t mean we need to use it……we are still riding our fixed gear. i don’t want some jackass judge who has no idea what he is talking about telling me what i can and can’t do. if the judge would accept evidence of the ability to skid to a stop…..whatever, i’m gonna go ride.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • RobertHurst July 29, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    Bikes don’t stop people. People stop people.

    Change the law. All riders must demonstrate at least a .6-g stop, regardless of unholy contraption. You will find most of the brakeless messengers passing the test and a large number of the general population banned from their bicycles, well equipped with handbrakes though they may be.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby July 29, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    I have many,many things to say about this issue.
    I will be adressing them this weekend, on our site,
    The main comment I have to say here, today, is this:
    The comments here seem to reflect the thoughts of the police, the judge, and others in control.
    I believe Bill Murray said it best in “Caddyshack”.
    “We mock what we do not understand”
    For these same reasons, for example, we are barely allowed to play bike polo in city parks.
    We are not allowed to sit on a piece of city sidewalk for any length of time.
    We are not allowed many things in our world, simply for the fact that they are misunderstood, and those in charge refuse to take a “proper” look at things that are considered an “unknown entity”.
    This is another fine example of ignorance corrupting the ways and means by which we survive.
    I would also like to touch on another comment or two, made by the Slug Velo poster, Beth H.
    First off, the highly erroneous statement that the OBRA will be requiring front brakes on the velodrome is ludicrous, at best.
    The use of a front brake on the track is not only sacriligous, but a huge violation. You would not be allowed to set foot on the track, in a sanctioned track event, with a mechanical brake on your bike. This fact is easily backed up by the fact that, in a heated, or even unheated track race, you are shoulder to shoulder at times with others. Your handlebars may even be inside of the arms of the person riding next to you. Having a “mechanical” brake, with cable and lever attached, is only something else to hook another on, to cause a huge wreck, which will cause bodily damage, even death.
    I challenge you to try to go race at the velodrome with a mechanical front brake on your bike. In fact I will take you there, pay your entry fee, and film you as you are turned away.
    Also, I have seen postings and flyers for the Slug Velo events, where as it seeems, everyone is invited, the ride pace is slow, if not even backwards at times.
    It would seem to me that a group that encourages slow, meandering rides, with no pace whatsoever, would embrace the fact that someone is riding a fixed gear, at a manageable for everyone and their sister rate, where quick stopping is not an issue, and will not be.
    Instead , you state here that these fixed gears without a dangerous “mechanical” front brake, are not allowed on your rides…. This is as confusing to me as the courts ruling in Ayla’s case.
    You may wonder why I stated just now that mechanical front brakes on fixed gears are dangerous.
    Well, There is a nice gymnastic move, that, when done, is so simple, yet so smooth, that it is beautiful and effortless.
    It is called a cartwheel.
    This is also the same move, yet with much less graceful, and much less beauty, that occurs when a emergency braking situation is applied, on a bicycle, that has only one front “mechanical” brake…….Can you say broken collarbone? I knew you could…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • koru July 29, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks Dabby for providing another experienced perspective on this thread.
    It is not suprising to me that the majority of posts about the saftey of riding caliper brakeless are coming from people who feel the need to start their posts with ‘I ride with brakes and…etc.

    What seems dangerous at first is not always so.

    I recently was given a high end road bike by a client of mine. I have been riding track bikes on the road for over 10 years now exclusively.
    In the past I rode a road bike.
    The other day I went for a ride on this freewheeled dura ace caliper equipped racing machine and it scared me shitless. I was horrifyed at the speeds I could reach on the highway, the feeling of being propelled along the road without the ability to slow the bike with my legs left me feeling vulnerable and the ultra quick response from the brakes felt very dangerous to me. Of course I know I could get used to all the different variables and be perfectly safe on that bike, I used to do just fine and obviously other people can control them, but I really prefer riding my track bike, and have developed many techniques for stoping and slowing that really work. I have broken a chain, skipped a chain at high speed, been cut off numerous times, had to make sudden stops and had many close calls. Each time I was able to respond as immediatley as I ever could back when I used to ride a regular road bike. After riding that road bike I can understand why people with caliper brakes are wary of riding caliper brakeless track bikes. If I imagined riding a track bike were anything like my experience on that road bike I would want at least two brake on my track bike, but it’s not the same. For me and others like me, riding a track bike in the city is perfectly safe. To disagree with me is to disregard my experience as irrelevent, and that’s just rude.

    When I look at recumbant bikes I shake my head,
    to me that looks VERY dangerous, ironic huh? but since I know from years of experience that riding a track bike on the road can be safe (though apparently this is contrary to popular opinion), I remind myself that recumbant riders have the experience that allows them to be comfortable and safe riding their chosen bike. It works for them and I respect their choice.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 29, 2006 at 4:13 pm

    Ann Ony Muss : I will ride my track bike on the street if I want to. I have the skill to ride it safely. Just because you don’t think you could do it doesn’t mean that I can’t. Also the “zig-zagging” you speak of is called slaloming, it slows you down just like it would on skis. Another fixed gear specific skill, like trackstanding and skipping, that you don’t have and don’t understand.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • NeRf July 29, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    Dear “Ann Ony Muss”,
    Your ignorance is astonishing. I think we should FORCE you to start thinking and not try to rationalize about things you obviously have no idea about.
    If you’ve ever ridden a fixed-gear (not a “Fizie”) you would understand that we are in more control of our bicycles than you are in your car. You feel the rythim of the bike, thinking at least 2 intersection in front of your while still concentrating on the cars around you.
    Messengers of all people are more experienced cyclist than most commuters, do you know why? because we ride our bikes, fixed or not, from 8-5 5 days a week. WE KNOW WHAT WE:RE DOING.
    Your comments on the police are so fucking ignorant also. Never ridden in critical mass before and watched a friend tackeled just for not having a light?
    i don’t know what office your cooped up in all say but you should go experience the world and quit judging from your fucking tower.
    and for S#!t sake get enough courage to at least write an alias if your going to Troll around on a message board. nerf isn’t my real name but people know me.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BLDZR July 29, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Dabby makes a point. Brakes do not necessarily make a bike safer, in fact there are occasions where it might actually be less safe.

    The major point, to my eyes, about this law being big news is that it affords the police another selectively enforceable law, which will be used to harass cyclists, especially those who draw the police officer’s ire. This law does nothing more to make the cycling population safe than does a law requiring cyclists to wear helmets. Sure, it’s a good idea, but that doesn’t mean it should be required. I don’t have brakes on my bike. That may make me look stupid in your eyes, but it doesn’t necessarily make me unsafe. And there is no law against being stupid, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone. At least, there shouldn’t be…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill July 29, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    Ummm…. technically, aren’t ALL bikes sold in Oregon in violation of this law?

    The law requires ‘braked WHEELS’ to skid…. that includes the front.

    Put the cop on a freewheel equipped bike and let him demonstrate his technique for skidding the front wheel on clean, dry, level pavement.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • larry morris western messenger July 29, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    this is typical for the police.
    too busy nitpicking cyclists and especilly messengers than to do real law enforcement( what about dall those times that people blaze through red lightrs, since the topic is about properly stopping ) i can see that the layman could be confounded about the whole fixed gear issue. however, the cop said she stopped. on her own. the wole issue is that.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 29, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    I am not going to pretend messenger are angels any more than I will pretend Zoobombers don’t break the law. If cops want to pull people over, pull them over when they actually make a moving violation. Anything less than that is flat out harassment.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby July 29, 2006 at 5:33 pm

    I agree fully with Bldzr, as he selected one of my other great fears involving this case as the basis for his comment.
    Selective law enforcement has plauged messengers, and cycling in general in this town since I can remember, and certainly before.
    I recall a meeting, in the auditorium of the Portland Building, in th 1990’s.
    In attendance were the police, the mayor, the owners and operators of almost all the messenger companies in town, and damn near all the messengers themselves.
    The topic was mainly, if I remember correctly, riding on the sidewalk.
    We were told that we would be allowed to ride on the sidewalk, it was not a problem. We needed to do so in order to affectively do the job they rely on us to do.
    But, if we rode on the sidewalk, they would just decide whether to give us a ticket, their discretion. No parameters were involved, just officer discretion.
    I recall making some noise right after that happened, standing up, and laying it out for them in my own terms.
    I also recall the bicycling community, MY bicycling community as I thought, sushing me, attempting (unsucessfully)to get me to clam up, and take it, knowing full well that it was wrong, both legally, and morally. I beleive I had to leave the event early…as you could imagine they were not happy with me….for being right.
    Is this what is going on now?
    Is the cycling community and the legal system letting us, the core, down again?
    I think so.
    As the eloquent Bldzr has pointed out, this is only the start.
    Once the law against stupid is passed, we are all screwed. Even you.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • pdxcommuter July 29, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    Mayor potter’s web page gives his email address, I wrote him a letter:

    Dear Mayor Potter,

    I see on the blog,, and in the Oregonian,, that Portland Police now have enough time on their hands to go after the fixed gear bicycle menace.

    This is good news, indeed. It must mean that all the other problems, that might be more pressing, have been solved, including:

    * drunk drivers on the roads. Remember about 2 years ago that a drunk driver, Lindsey Llaneza, killed 2 bicyclists? He had been driving without a license for nearly 17 years, from what I remember reading at the time. I’m sure that he was not the drunk behind the wheel without a license at the time. I’m glad to see that all the others like him have been removed from our community’s streets.

    * the Sellwood bridge has been replaced, with a new bridge that has an adequate weight limit and that has adequate bike lane facilities.

    * the mess that was the intersection of Beaverton-Hillsdale, Oleson, and Scholls Ferry Roads has been rationalized. this intersection, strictly speaking, is a few blocks west of the Portland City limits. But on bad days westbound traffic did start backing up before it left the City.

    * missing links in the bike lane network have been filled in, especially on the bridges on Barbur Blvd.

    * blackberry vines have been trimmed back along the City’s bike lanes.

    * broken glass, and other debris, on those bike lanes has been swept up.

    Seriously, though, there are more important things for the Portland Police to be doing. I have not heard of one accident caused by the legs of a rider of a fixed gear bike failing to be able to stop the bike. This is a non-problem.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • beth h July 30, 2006 at 7:39 am

    In response to Dabby (post # 95):
    Slug Velo requires bikes with brakes for the same reasons that we require all participants to wear helmets, and to sign waivers that agree to individual responsibility on the part of each rider. We want people to be as safe as possible. We recognize that our ride draws mostly less-experienced cyclists who want to ride in an atmosphere that encourages safe, responsible, *predictable* riding.

    The nasty part of the truth is that we also want to avoid lawsuits. There are lawyers, and lawsuits, and a society filled with righteously-angered parties ready to file a suit at the drop of a hat.

    I stand by my eariler opinion that brakeless bikes are a bad idea in traffic, and anyone who wants to think that this makes me a scaredy-rider, old fart or (insert your insult here) is free to do so.

    It won’t make me ride a bike without brakes, nor will it change the Slug Velo policy against riders on brakeless bikes.
    Pedal on — Beth

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joe July 30, 2006 at 8:43 am

    then non of us are going to ride slug velo. it’s thst simple. back to the topic at hand, beth, this isn’t about brakes, it’s about ignorance. the people that are in charge are ignorant of what they talk about, the laws they make, and what laws they CHOOSE TO ENFORCE! even if you think all bikes need breaks, do you think OUR system has the right to selectively enforce these laws that are not clearly defined or are as old as time. you know, you may think “it’s got nothing to do with me so i don’t give a shit”. when they start coming after you for something that you don’t think is right, come cryin to us and see what happens. i can see it now, “slug velo riders ticketed for going to slow”. our bike community might be just huge as all hell but it so fucking divided it’s disgusting. whatever, my rant is done. and i’m going to go RIDE MY BIKE!! with breaks, without breaks(of my own need, not some states ‘laws’), i don’t give a shit, i’m gonna ride it no matter what

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joe July 30, 2006 at 8:45 am

    nothing against you or you ride beth

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jami July 30, 2006 at 10:29 am

    stopping your bike is SO uncool. only car-toppers have brakes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 30, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Group rides are a different story. If you are in a group ride, and the majority of the bikes are freewheel, they tend to slow down to a stop a lot later than a fixed would when approaching an intersection. When you ride fixed especially brakeless, you start to slow down sooner than you would if you were on a bike with conventional brakes.

    Most of you people who are mouthing off about how unsafe it is to ride fixed have never swumg your leg over one, or are too inexperienced on one to make any sort of judgements about how safe or unsafe they may be without brakes. If any of you do start to ride fixed, I suggest you put some brakes on while you are learning, like all of us brakeless fixed riders did while we were learning, and then proceed to learn how to control a fixed gear without using the brake.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • justen July 30, 2006 at 11:21 am

    i rode no brakes for years until a couple months ago when i also got a ticket. so i put a front brake on, showed the judge the receipt, and he dropped the ticket. no problems for me and i can always take the brake off if i want. it’s funny though… with the brake i find that i can ride much more aggressively through traffic.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • BLDZR July 30, 2006 at 11:33 am

    I don’t think anybody is arguing whether or not having brakes is a god idea or not. Of course it is. But it’s not the kind of thing that should be legislated. Beth, you have your own ride and are responsible for it, therefore you are perfectly within reason to set guidelines for how people may participate in it. Unfortunately, the legal landscape is not that simple. The law should keep “the public” safe from harm inflicted upon it by individuals, but protective law like this one walks the slippery slope that descends into a police state.

    The question is whether you view the law as being a protective father, keeping you from bringing harm to yourself, or as a jail warden, looking to control you and keep you in line.

    I think that if you have had a run-in with Portland Police on your bicycle, you know which one is the case.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • beth h July 30, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Thanks to those of you who posted here, and to the three angry cyclists who found my email address through the slug velo site and sent me angry rants there. You’re free to be angry with me if you want, although you should really be writing letters to the judge in this case if you want to effect any change.

    1. I HAVE been on a fixed gear bike (equipped with brakes) several times. Not my own, and not for any distance of more than about four miles. But I wouldn’t make any statement about a bike I’ve never tried; that would be silly. My observations about fixies are based on 12 years in bicycle retail and four years as a bicycle safety instructor, along with 35 years of bicycling ranging from racing to commuting and touring. I am not new to bicycling by any means.

    2. Slug Velo is not ashamed of attracting a and novice and/or older — even occasionally geriatric — cyclist who is either unable to keep up without all those additional gears, or who cannot simply and “gracefully” fall off a bike into a cartwheel position in an emergency as Dabby eloquently describes above.

    By all means have your fixies (and for your own sake be careful out there) and be free to make your own choices as long as you can accept the risks and consequences.

    Youngsters: please remember that someday that older, slower cyclist is going to be you. I hope the next generation of young, strong and daring cyclists will treat you with the respect the current crop of older and/or novice cyclists so richly deserves.
    Peace — B

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joe July 30, 2006 at 11:46 am

    well beth, i told my girlfriend about your ride and she seems excited to do a slow paced non heavy traffic ride.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Scout July 30, 2006 at 12:58 pm

    I wish I had the time to read all of the responses before mine, but in lieu of that, I’m glad this case has brought up a great discussion/debate. I love seeing 100+ responses to one of Jonathan’s articles and, regardless the opinions, it makes me feel like a tiny cog in a larger cycling community. Thanks!

    I have never been on a fixie, but seeing them fly by me, or ogling one locked to a post, I have dreamed of the day I own one. A beautiful fixed gear is the simple equivalent of bicycle porn, and I don’t want my kinks tampered with. However, if only for the sake of a clearly misunderstood law, I say: appeal.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 31, 2006 at 8:36 am

    I like the assumption that everyone on a brakeless fixed is young. I’m 40 next month!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Obey the law July 31, 2006 at 8:50 am

    I am tired of bicyclists in this city having a holier than thou attitude. Not only are they smug jerks, they often break the law. I see numerous bikes every day on the way to work blow red lights. Above the law? I am on a motorcycle, yet I cannot split lanes (even though if I passed a car, I would be out of his way, not like a bike that is always in the way) What would happen to me if I decided I wanted to blow lights? Oh, and the law says that I wear a helmet. It’s the liberal bicycle types that always want to pass some sort of law, protecting people even if they don’t want the protection. The helmet law is such a law. So, if there’s a law requiring breaks, you should embrace that law. I wear my helmet, and would always wear it even if it were legal not to do so. Put a break on your bike, what’s the big deal?

    Some people argue that many have the ability on a fixie to break properly. Well, I am a very skilled driveer, and I have the ability to go 100 miles per hour safely. So, I know the speed limit is only 65, but for me it should be 100.

    Stay in your bike lanes. Don’t blow lights. Don’t be confrontational; remember how much a car outweighs you. And put a brake on your bike! What, will it ruin your image? Quit whining. It’s these attitudes you all have that are beginning to backfire. You are not a majority, and you are starting to piss a lot of people off.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joel July 31, 2006 at 9:00 am


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • smug jerk July 31, 2006 at 9:02 am

    “Quit whining.”

    “I am tired of bicyclists in this city having a holier than thou attitude. Not only are they smug jerks, they often break the law.”

    Sounds like whining to me.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mckenzie July 31, 2006 at 9:41 am

    Its nice to finally hear some voices of experience in these comments. At this junction, we should be listening to and respecting the opinions of the seasoned messengers who are posting on here, rather than turning away and disregarding them. Too many of the opinions stated on here are based on a loose understanding and ignorant interpretation. More often than not they seem to be peppered with other biases regarding messengers or fixed gears in general that have little to do with the issue at hand. I too, ride my bike all day for work. I respect the sage advice that many of these guys have to offer. Most of us will never log the amount of saddle time that these guys have. Do not be so quick to dismiss their opinions. Even if they are not the most eloquent speakers or couth people, they are the ones who we should be talking to and listening to at this point.

    By dividing against ourselves we are only hurting ourselves as a whole. When cyclists start to attack and berate each other, we become weak and open ourselves up for other restrictions on our safety and freedom. Ride how you will, no matter if you are on an upright commuter wearing an orange safety vest or a brakeless fixie wearing dirty jeans, and allow others the same right, even if you don’t agree.

    Mark and Ayla: appeal

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • gabrielamadeus July 31, 2006 at 10:35 am

    I know, we’ll settle this once and for all! Lets take this off the interweb on to some “clean dry pavement” and have, not a skid, but a brake contest.

    The losers will either have to add the heaviest jankiest brake to their beloved fixie or remove their gears and brakes forever from their comfy commuter.

    1, 2, 3, STOP!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby July 31, 2006 at 11:36 am

    Obey The Law,
    Once again, as Mckenzie so well pointed out, your misunderstanding, or lack of knowdledge of the laws over cycling has made you look like a fool, within the context of your post.
    I will be the one to tell you, that splitting lanes in this town, while not a good idea for the inexperienced, has been rendered legal by the new law that allows the passing on the right of a slower moving vehicle, by a bicycle. Even in the far left lane, on a one way, it is legal to over take and pass on the right.
    Even in the far right lane, with a car having it’s right turn signal on, it is legal to overtake and pass on the right.
    The irony of this is that this is generally done at reasonable speed, 15 – 25 miles an hour, the same reasonable speeds that are the requirements for splitting lanes on a motorcycle in states where it is legal.
    This is also under the speed limit. Which brings about the fact that the traffic you are passing onthe right is doing under, far under the maximum allowed speed limit, therefore rendering ineffective travel down the street by bicycle.
    The same will soon be said for yield laws, in regards to your blowing stop signs reference.
    This ordinance, as I have been told, is being reworked and reworded, in order to make it legal to effectively yield, then roll through, a clean and clear stop signed intersection.
    The reason that these changes are being madeis because it is the right and proper thing to do.
    A 600 pound motorcyle, with a probably 250 pound rider on it, yielding and then blowing through a intersection is a rolling pile of death waiting to happen.
    Also , in regards to helmet laws, I beleive there is a required helmet law here for under 16 years of age, the time when you should not be making such decisions on your own.
    This is the helmet law we should,and correct me if I am wrong, do have in place.
    But, I digress, because truly, the point you have missed entirely in all this, “Obey The Law” is this:
    Fixed gear bikes have a brake. A better brake than could be made by man. Wait, it is a brake made by man, and yes, it is mechanical, it is also muscular, and it is very effective.
    You, and many others here have decided that if you can’t see it, it must not be.
    Ignorance is bliss.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 31, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    Obey the law: I would think as a motorcyclist you would have some understanding about people trying to tell you what is safe and unsafe even though they don’t ride. The main reason I stopped riding motorcycles when I moved to oregon 4 year ago is because you can’t lane split, and you can in California, where I came from. Also, we both have to deal with people taking left turn in front of us, and pulling out of sidestreets in front of us. We both get to hear the classic “I didn’t see you” as we lie there in the road bleeding and with broken bones and resist the urge to get up and punch them out.

    Then again you called out the “L” word, Liberal, and painted us all with the same broad brush. When I rode ( for 13 years, no car either ) I was very anti-helmet law, I felt it should be a choice, and as a sentient human being I chose to wear a helmet, even though I would be more of a tuff guy without one. There are lot of people on bicycles in town who also ride motorcycles or used to or who are building one right now.

    We don’t have to stay in the bike lane. As a matter of fact, we are supposed to get in the left lane to take a left. Maybe you should review ORS.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 31, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Actually the Lane-split law in California is you can exceed the speed of the vehicle you are passing by no more than 15 mph. So if traffic is going 50 on the freeway you can lane-split at 65 mph.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • brock July 31, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    “A better brake than could be made by man. Wait, it is a brake made by man, and yes, it is mechanical, it is also muscular, and it is very effective.”

    Whatever. I’ve ridden fixed, on the road and on the track – without brakes. And I’ve ridden on the road with brakes. If you don’t recognize that a caliper brake, on the _front_ wheel will stop you far better than anything on just the rear (caliper, legs, whatever), then you have a really poor grasp of rudimentary physics.

    How come it’s all the fixie folks that I see running lights and making dangerous maneuvers because they can’t slow down in time?

    I really don’t care if you ride brakes or not. But at least be sensible about the situation.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee July 31, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    And so it ends, as all long threads must, with a collective SHRUG.

    Any minds changed/enlighted? No? Didn’t think so.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Magnum July 31, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Where can I buy a stick to rub against my tire? Does Campy make one of those?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Magnum July 31, 2006 at 2:46 pm

    If the cops are going to crack down on no brakes, which clearly they are, I’ve been recomending that everyone mount a brake on the rear wheel and then mount the brake lever to the back of your seat post. Do you have a brake–Yes. Can you skid–Yes. Is it ridiculous–Yes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 31, 2006 at 3:43 pm

    Hey Brock, never said it won’t stop you better.

    I don’t know why you haven’t read the multiple times several of us have stated that you have to adjust your riding style to ride brakeless on the street. That means stopping sooner and paying more attention to your surroundings. Isn’t it safer to pay more attention to your surroundings?

    The people you see not being able to stop are inexperienced and have no business ridng brakeless, as they don’t have the skill to do it yet.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Anonymous July 31, 2006 at 4:25 pm

    i’m with skid

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • JLu July 31, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Dammit Dabby! “We mock what we do not understand!” is a quote from Chevy Chase in Spies Like Us! Remind me to strike you next time I see you.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Qwendolyn July 31, 2006 at 8:32 pm

    Curious to know whether any messengers took the Oregonian’s use of the word “hipster” as a slur.

    Hipsters are the kids in the skin tight sweaters on the banana-seat cruisers.

    –Messengers, on the other hand, are the tough moth. f#ckers in ratty t’s and brakeless fixed gears.

    That’s it, last straw! I’m cancelling my Oregonian subscription.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark July 31, 2006 at 9:37 pm

    As a Schwinn collector and customizer I take offense to your claim that banana seat bikes are the realm of the hipster. Actually the realm of the hipster is glomming on to someone else’s cool shit, first it was any Schwinn with a banana seat added and now it’s the brakeless fixed gear. They never build it just buy it from someone else. Hopefully Darwinism will provide the true path and rid us all of their plague.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Count Trackula August 1, 2006 at 6:44 am

    Can’t we just ride our bicycles in peace? Why are cops such dicks sometimes? Has everybody forgotten that before cars fixed gear bicycles were the norm? Did we forget to learn how to slow ourselves down without a “brake” in the last hundred years? It always amazes me that stupid shit like this makes it to court. What a waste. GH!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John August 1, 2006 at 6:57 am

    For pete’s sake… it is REALLY too much to ask that people who ride bicycles have some sort of mechanism that is used only to provide stopping power? Is it really too much to ask that bicyclists install a handbrake on their bicycles?

    I mean, let’s get in the real world here: if he needed to stop suddenly, do you think a hand brake or his legs are going to stop him quicker?

    And let’s just get some common-sense here: you shouldn’t be riding a bike on public roads without a brake mechanism on your bike. WHY does a judge or a court have to tell ANY bicyclist this?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • peter August 1, 2006 at 7:19 am

    What if they started handing out tickets for every bicycle that could not be made to skid by it’s owner? Maybe some of the judge or cop’s
    family meet this criteria since many bicycles are so far out of adjustment to make the brakes not grab too well.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] It will be interesting to see how this affects the current fixed-gear trend. I can only imagine how many fixies are in Portland. After this ruling one has to fear that police may feel empowered in their abilities to ticket fixed-gear riders. Link. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Patrick August 1, 2006 at 7:30 am

    You’ve got to be kidding me. A talented automobile driver can probably stop a car with the parking brake and some deft steering. That doesn’t mean that they should be allowed to drive around without hydraulic brakes just because they’re such a skilled driver.

    I love how so many people in the cycling community want ‘same rules, same rights, same road’ when it serves them, but god forbid the government should step in and make sure they’re not going to kill anyone. Especially if it comes at the expense of your wanna-be messenger aesthetic. Because damn, I wouldn’t want to look like one of those geeks who understand physics.

    Bikes can–and do, every so often–kill pedestrians. You’re an irresponsible dumbass if you think it’s OK to ride around at 25mph with nothing but your bicycle chain and legs to slow you down Plus, it’s really hell on the knees.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dave August 1, 2006 at 7:32 am

    I hate to say, but I agree with the Judge on this one. Fixies just aren’t as agile as bikes with conventional brakes and the cops (bobbies where I come from) are there to protect everyones interests. I am seeing more and more fixies on the roads in London, where the huge weight of traffic and ineptness of other road users demands solid speed control and agility and it’s the guys on fixies that end up rear ending other riders at the lights and on sudden stops, doors opening etc. I gues everyones got a duty of care to everyone else when everyones safety is under the spotlight.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • William August 1, 2006 at 7:34 am

    You know, I support this judgement for no other reason than I can’t stand fixed-wheel bikes. Gears, fly wheels, breaks… why the hell wouldn’t you want these things? What, are you on your way to train at the velodrome?

    This is no more than some hipster fad. Stop being so faggy.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee August 1, 2006 at 7:46 am

    Alright, give ONE example of a pedestrian killed by a fixed-gear rider. I’ll wait here.

    Compare that to the hordes massacred by braked bikes.

    There’s a trade-off to be made here–all bikes could be safer if you encased them in hundreds of pounds of steel. In fact, they’d be a lot safer if they were just banned from roads altogether. Does that mean we should do that? Do we really want to start down that slippery slope of regulating bike design?

    Next up: tallbikes!

    Obviously how you feel about the issue depends how much you value the option of alternative modes of cycling. I myself would never ride brakeless, but if others want to, well, it’s their asses.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt August 1, 2006 at 7:46 am

    holy smokes, this made boingboing!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee August 1, 2006 at 7:56 am

    Here’s what I predict if the cycling community turns on its own and gives up the option of riding brakeless fixed-gears.

    -Tallbikes banned
    -Bullhorn handlebars banned (impales pedestrians!)
    -Coaster brakes banned
    -Recumbents banned (too low for SUV drivers to bother looking for!)
    -50+ tooth chainrings and >14 tooth cogs banned (too fast!)
    -Panniers and trailers banned (more mass increases stopping distance!)
    -Rim brakes banned (inferior to disc brakes!)

    etc. It’s only a matter of time before all cyclists are required to be licensed, registered, and swaddled in bubble wrap. If they’re not regulated out of existence to begin with.

    This is a solution without a problem, and the beginning of a line of attack on alternative modes of transportation. Soon, you’ll be hearing “Is it REALLY too much to ask that cyclists drive cars? Let’s get real-world here.”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] read more here […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • navin August 1, 2006 at 8:06 am

    Will this stop in Portland?
    I probably wouldn’t remove my front brake if I lived there because of the hills everywhere but here in flat as a pancake Chicago I’ve got no need for my front brake (which I’ve used twice in 2 years of daily heavy traffic riding both times when I first started riding) and am considering removing it. I really hope this doesn’t spread across the country. If I find myself in the situation where I can’t stop before hitting something here then it’s already too late for using *any* kind of brakes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Saw this on BoingBoing A bicycle must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement. strong enough to skid tire. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Basso August 1, 2006 at 8:26 am

    “Fixie”!? That term should be illegal. It’s a track bike not a my little pony accessory. What is it with the neoteny running rampant in today’s society? It certainly reflects the level of death denial that would make some one feel it is practical to ride a track bike in heavy traffic without a hand brake.

    The basic physics of a track bike require using a front brake to stop as quickly as demanded in traffic. Relying solely on the braking effect of locking up your legs in an emergency situation can easily result in the cyclist being thrown over the handlebars when the momentum of the wheel overcomes the cyclist’s legs and if the cog is not equipped with a lock ring, as most wheels I have seen aren’t since they are mostly modified road hubs which do not accommodate a lock ring, the cog will simply unscrew under the force and the bike will coast freely into the target.

    A track bike without brakes is not able to stop quick enough as demanded by city traffic unless the rider is willing to amble down the road at a pace closer to walking speed.

    On the track, a sudden stop is never necessary as there are no trucks pulling out in front of you and when there is a crash in front of you it is better to ride over it than fall on top of someone. In fact, many pack event riders forgo the lock ring to avoid having their wheel lock up in tight situation. Using no brakes on the track and brakes on the street is sensible which is why it is mandated by law. Unfortunately law cannot mandate common sense.

    I grew up in Chicago riding with geriatric six day stars like Torchy Peden and Al Stiller and they advocated using a front brake when riding a track bike on the road. I would posit those guys knew more about riding a bike than the entire current American population of racers, messengers and hobbyist put together so I will take their advice as gospel.

    Of course Torchy never stopped for anything, just put up his hands like he was directing traffic and everyone stopped for him. He, unlike any of us, was a god among men and in his eighties so he could do whatever he wanted.

    I live in this world of heavy traffic and stop for all stop signs and lights and never pass stopped traffic on the right because I try to respect modern traffic laws and etiquette. I also advocate wearing a helmet anytime you are on a bike.

    I think you’re a moron if you want to ride a track bike in the city without a front brake. Not only is it dangerous, but it’s going to force you to ride much slower to be ready to stop. The law really can’t protect you from killing yourself in a stupid way, but at least think of the person you are going to crash into, is it fair to have your suicide permanently imprinted into their nightmares?

    I feel apprehensive about the entire cycle community being represented by an inexperienced dilettante like Ms. Holland. If she were a more experienced cyclist she could have also argued the multiple ways one could stop a fixed gear bicycle besides using leg power: 1- Looking far enough ahead to navigate around obstacles, 2 – relying on gravity by using uphill grades to slow the bicycle, 3 – friction, running up against the curb or using a longer line by weaving (not recommended in traffic), 4 – sitting up to use wind drag, 5 – grabbing hold of another vehicle or cyclist that is braking and taking advantage of their deceleration and 6 – using a gloved hand to grab the front wheel and brake it, much in the manner the judge recommended using a stick but much safer I would add. Even the whole big-wheel argument was flawed: Big wheels are equipped with a brake that locks up the back wheel. If she were more experienced, she would have her bike equipped with a front brake and this whole trial wouldn’t have happened.

    Instead, the sort of precedence put forward in court goes a long way toward outlawing coaster brakes and possibly even fixed gears with a front brake if that is later deemed dangerous due to the poor arguments offered in this trial as to how to proficiently stop a track bike. It’s just bad press for cyclists in general.

    This trial has a similar bad feeling of when Raleigh failed to protect itself in the eighties from a lawsuit where a cyclist was injured for not tighten their front wheel’s quick release properly. It set a legal precedent that caused many smaller companies to go out of business due to frivolous lawsuits (probably Raleigh’s tactic). The ruling also put in place the crummy front dropouts, designed by lawyers, which make it harder to install a front wheel and add no safety benefit what so ever.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] » Blog Archive » Judge finds fault with fixies […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Clay August 1, 2006 at 8:49 am

    Well, here are my two issues with this whole thing (sorry if it is redundant):

    1.) If the chain broke… what if your brake broke on a non-fixed bike… USE YOUR FEET…..

    2.) The way the law reads, a front brake is actually more illegal than a fixed gear. Who can get a front brake to skid?? So, would that imply adding a front brake to a fixed gear bike doesn’t fix the problem?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Andy B August 1, 2006 at 8:50 am

    Phew, I’m glad I made it to the bottom and read Bill’s post. Spot on Bill. In a world where Holland’s actions wouldn’t affect anyone else I would say go for it, ride your “fixie” (that’s a horrible term) with no brakes, see how long you last.

    Unfortunately for you though, your actions do affect everyone else, both on the road and in court. You might live in the land of the free, but you share highways with other people. Anyone who’s been hit or even brushed by a fixiemoron doing 20 mph whilst skidding out of control to a stop would tell you to get a brake. You want your adrenalin rush? Do it on the track. And remember, you aren’t the chosen ambassador for cyclists the world over.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bernard August 1, 2006 at 9:05 am

    It’s more like a ticket for following a trend. People not only copied messengers they dress exactly like them. Get a front break and sacrifice your cool hipster points.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Eli August 1, 2006 at 9:11 am

    Adam: FYI, DC already requires you to register your bike (or risk having it confiscated without warning),a,1245,q,559849.asp

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • D Gilpin August 1, 2006 at 9:26 am

    They should file the appeal, threaten the county with high legal expenses over something stupid like this — then negotiate to get the fines waived and agree to put front and back hand breaks on the bike. I bet the county would take the deal.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] watch out Per. you are going to be next. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Peter August 1, 2006 at 9:29 am

    Why would you call it a fixed gear, when the correct term is a fixed wheel.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt August 1, 2006 at 9:31 am

    I used to ride a fixed gear when I was a bike courier and I nearly killed myself. And I’m a good rider. And I’ve seen lots of good riders nearly kill themselves just cause it’s cool to ride a fixed gear.
    My favorite setup is the fixed gear, no brakes and clipless pedals (preferrably with a wobbly loose chain).
    I think this ban is amusing. If anything it just gives you more rebel points on a fixed, cause you’re also “breaking the law” now!
    How cool.
    I’ve ridden BMX bikes (racing and freestyle), done a lot of mountain biking, been a courier, and ridden solo from the east coast to the west coast and you know what? I think most “bike people” are dickheads. Whether they’re commuting warrior wearing the “ONE LESS CAR” shirts or pierced dreadlocked and tattoed punk-we-do bike couriers.
    I feel stupid for ever being a bike courier or riding a fixed gear.
    The one place where I think fixed gears are better on a city street are in extremely slippery situations like snow. Caliper brakes don’t work well when they’re wet but the back pedalling of a fixed works fine. However disc brakes handle slippery situations very well and really, only total morons (like I used to be) ride bicycles in the snow.
    Still, interesting post. I could probably ramble on for days about this.
    Can’t believe it made BoingBoing, I would have thought this would be too niche-y for them even.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] i don’t usually take to reposting boing boing posts because its not like they need any more people linking to them but they have a link to an interesting story about a court in portland outlawing fixed gear bikes. Boing20Boing3A20Fixed-gear20bikes20illegal20in20Portland | link to article […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Sally Carson August 1, 2006 at 9:50 am

    This is crazy because the super old school, original bikes on the road were ALL fixed gear. Freewheels, gearing, and friction-based brakes came later, right? We’re just returning to our roots, can I get an AMEN?!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • David August 1, 2006 at 10:08 am

    The judge does seem to be misunderstanding what is at issue and misinterpreting the law. A brake is a brake, and if that braking mechanism passes the law’s requirements then it’s legal and the rider shouldn’t be fined for it. I can’t believe that the attorney basically proved that and the judge ignored the letter of the law.

    That said, I also wonder why the rider is so opposed to putting a brake on the bike. The few additional ounces cannot be a significant detriment to riding enjoyment and bike practicality. While I can understand that they want to fight the ticket, She should put a brake on her bike, and so should all fixie riders. Please. I don’t want to see someone driven over in an intersection.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Basso August 1, 2006 at 10:17 am

    Old school, schmold school… back then there were no alternatives. If you gave the same argument for allowing a toddler to ride without a seatbelt in your car you’d not only get a ticket but a visit from family services.

    Do you really want to live in a world of vastly higher traffic mortalities and no permanent press?

    Just because something was done in a manner in days gone by does not make it appropriate today. And in case you didn’t read my post above, Torchy Peden, the god of old school cycling, a man who was more famous than his contemporary Babe Ruth and who had the first pop song written about him (Daisy) advocates the use of a front brake.

    Keep thinking like that, Sally, and you’ll get more than an “AMEN”, you’ll get a whole Eulogy.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • joe August 1, 2006 at 10:19 am

    it’s not about a brake, it’s about the state “knowing” what’s best for us based on their own opinion, not by what the laws says and what an attorney has clearly pointed out

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • matsuricow August 1, 2006 at 10:24 am

    I’ll try to keep it brief as this is pretty exasperating…

    Congrats to the poster “William” on his comment to “stop being so faggy.” Way to keep it an intellectual and thought provoking debate. The revealing of your ignorance and immaturity on this issue do more to strengthen our cause then we — the entire track bike riding community — could possibly hope to do on our own. Keep it up, just please do so in some other forum.

    As a former DC based messenger, I rode a few different bikes over the 4 or so years that I worked. Spent a good solid 2+ of those years on a track bike w/ no brakes. Had many a nasty and (in retrospect) comical accidents in my day. Got hit by a few cars and — in my fave incident — plowed into some sorry and unsuspecting businessman throwing a briefcase full of papers out into traffic along 17th st (ahhhh- memories…) Feel bad for that guy to this day and apologized profusely and helped him to clean up the resulting mess.

    Anyway- I’d also like to point out that of all the nasty spills and accidents that I’ve endured over 15 years of recreational riding and racing — both on road and off — a grand total of 0 have come on the track bike. Which I guess is nothing more than yet another testament to the different mindset and experience necessarily required to (reasonably) safely mount such a steed.

    Good buddy of mine from back in DC did send me an amusing email after taking his first spill into a car that abruptly pulled out ahead of him. He noted how the bike made a dinstictly satisfying “thud!” as it fell to the ground, rather than the more common and nerve-racking crash associated with all the various derailers, levers, cages and accesories he was accustomed to hearing rattle all over the place.

    Sorry to be so long here, though there was ever so much more I was tempted to write.

    One final question- anyone know where the appeal process stands? She’s absolutely GOTTA appeal after all (and did the judge not reveal a blatant and unmistakeable bias in the case by unrelatedly noting the messengers he’s seen riding “way too fast”!!???)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] You can read the whole story and parts of the transcript of the trial here. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • fish-e August 1, 2006 at 10:48 am

    Hey Sally – Amen.

    Food for thought – in most North American cities (UK and Aus. too) you can get cited for:

    – feet not able to touch ground when stradling the bike (anti-tallbike)
    – no front or rear reflector/light
    – no bell or horn
    – no helmet (varies with age and from state to state)

    This case seems pretty straight forward – if you want to be anti-rules, anti-establishment, do-what-you-want-when-you want, then you best be prepared to face the police state when it decides to suckerpunch your sorry ass. Cops are inclined to give tickets to fixed-gear kids and other benign perps because they are less likely to get shot or knifed than if they were to say, fight some real crackhead crime. Wake up. You live in a big city, with big city rules and rulers. What exactly is going to change should an appeal be accepted? Semantics aside (the judge is being a dork about the wording of the law), why is it so difficult to accept that adding parts to a bike which can help ensure the rider’s safety might actually be a good idea, and perhaps even writen into the local laws? You can choose to not participate or obey, but then you are also choosing to accept the consequences should you get caught or cause an accident. Ride on.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jack Buckette August 1, 2006 at 10:49 am

    Alright, I’m not a major cyclist here, but the safety factor is not the issue. The real issue here is whether the judge has the right to arbitrarily discard the Stated Law at his discretion. The Law does not state a bicycle must have a separate braking mechanism. Rather, it clearly states a bicycle must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement. Strong enough to skid tire.
    It is not the responsibility (or the right) of the judge to redefine the Law as stating a separate mechanism is required or to determine whether a fixed gear bicycle fails to meet the stated requirements of the Law when he refuses to examine the evidence. The Court acknowledged that the cyclist did indeed stop. The Court declined to accept demonstrable evidence of fact.
    The cyclist should appeal. And fine the oh, so brilliant judge who upheld the…overzealous officers’ ticket.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] They’ve done it. They’ve outlawed fixed-gear bikes in Portland. This only makes getting one that much more appealing. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • AdriftAtSea August 1, 2006 at 10:52 am

    The issue of whether this is legal versus whether this is safe is a separate issue entirely, and shouldn’t have been brought into the court. This judge is obviously an idiot… The law clearly states that if the bicycle can be stopped sufficiently to cause a skid, then it is LEGAL.

    Caliper brakes rely on muscle power, just as much as the fixed gear rear wheel brake does. If you get a cramp in your hand, you wouldn’t be able to stop effectively either. Your leg muscles are far stronger than those in your fingers, and the chain is probably far stronger than the thin galvanized steel cable that is used in most bicycle brake calipers.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • To Matt August 1, 2006 at 10:57 am

    From Matt: “I think most “bike people” are dickheads.”

    Matt, that’s funny because I think most “car people” are dickheads. It usually turns out, my hunch is correct.

    Appeal. Until they change the wording of the law so that it either:
    1. requires a braking mechanism seperate from the drive system.
    2. allows for the use of the drive system (fixies) as a braking system.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Link […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bruce LeSourd August 1, 2006 at 11:50 am

    As a long-time bicycle commuter and mountain biker who uses freewheel bikes w/ brakes (the more powerful the better), and has no experience with fixed gear bikes (since the big wheel that is):

    – Brakes are most useful in emergency situations, e.g. when someone drives/leaps out suddenly in front of you. In this kind of situation, a fixed-gear rider’s supposedly increased level of caution and awareness approaching obvious stopping points won’t help much if they have a longer stopping distance: the bicycle with hand brakes will be much more likely to avoid a collision in a panic situation.

    – Bicycles with good quality, well-maintained, conventional brakes (caliper of disc) are much, much safer than brakeless fixies or skid brakes, as many people have pointed out. Especially if you also have your fixed-gear as a primary or non-emergency brake!

    – The assertion that brakes are unsafe because improper application of them can cause you to endo is ludicrous – far more ludicrous than the police failing to recognize that the chain-gear-leg combo on fixies is a brake. All brakes must be applied with proper force for the situation (grade, road surface condition, etc.). Any mountain biker will tell you that safe braking on steep and/or uneven surfaces, e.g., requires you to lean way back over your rear tire to maximize braking action w/o endoing. If you fear hand brakes because you are inexperienced or incompetent at using them, you are just like the police wrt brakeless fixies. You should install a hand brake and learn how to use it properly in emergency situations – you will be much safer, and you don’t have to use it when it isn’t necessary.

    – That said, which is more dangerous: endoing, running into the side of a car at speed, or being t-boned by a car going 30 mph? Clearly, the endo (i.e. a controlled crash) is preferable to some other alternatives in emergency situations.

    – Arguments addressing safety issues for racing in veldromes have zero relevance on the streets. Formula 1 drivers don’t take their cars out on the streets – why are you trying to take your highly specialized race bike there?

    – Skidding is unsafe because it is impossible to steer while skidding. In the age of ABS, everyone should know this. The stopping-distance issue is a red herring wrt skidding.

    – Any thoughtful bike commuter will tell you that it’s much safer to move at traffic speed than to go slow in traffic. Both the police and the fixed-gear riders apparently have it wrong here. Bicycle communting would be much safer overall if bicyclists were able to keep up with traffic (i.e. go very fast, for a bike) and at the same time always obeyed relevant traffic laws.

    – Bicylists routinely violate traffic laws in dangerous ways (e.g. going the wrong way). Many of these violators are inexperienced, but bicycle messengers especially are egregious scofflaws, esp. wrt running red lights. I think a rolling stop at stop signs is fine for bikes, but come on! There’s a difference between slightly bending the law to make biking a little bit more efficient and blatantly violating it in a way that is very dangerous. If I saw a motorist act like bike messengers do, I’d be on the horn to the police pronto!

    – Which brings me to my main point: everything about the U.S. landscape is completely car oriented. It’s a real challenge to ride a bike (or be a pedestrian for that matter) in a city like Seattle, e.g. It’s dangerous because cars are giant killing machines operated by poorly trained people who take the ridiculous carnage on the roads for granted. It’s not surprising, then, that police hate bicyclists (unless they bike themselves, obviously). Bicyclists are alien invaders. Objectively, they are barely a blip as far as road safety is concerned, but they stand out because they totally break the dominant paradigm. The real reason to fight this court decision is to fight against the car monoculture and the people who want to perpetuate and intensify it, not because this faddish obsession with brakeless riding is something that should be encouraged or protected. Segway has special laws written for it because it was backed by people with big money. It shouldn’t take big money to get new forms of transit out on the street. Cops shouldn’t be able to ticket a bicyclist on the theory that their equipment might be unsafe. That doesn’t make bicycling w/o a handbrake any less boneheaded, though.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mr. Shadow August 1, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    No time to read all of the comments, but the judge ruled that a brakeless fixed-gear bike is illegal. The fact that the bike only had one gear that wouldn’t coast was not the issue.

    I own and ride seven fixed-geared bikes in North Carolina. All of them have at least a front brake.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dr. Mark Ross August 1, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    geez 169 posts and counting . . . all this energy is better spent on other things that would be really benefitual.

    bottom line: can fixies stop without brakes safely? perhaps, with experienced riders. but until the rider is experienced enough, that fixie need brakes. so put a brake on.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jim F. August 1, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    I bet PK is pretty thankful he didn’t make a comment about front brakes on fixtes. Now THAT would have stirred up some serious controversy.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee August 1, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    Such a long post deserves a response.

    “The assertion that brakes are unsafe because improper application of them can cause you to endo is ludicrous”

    I think you misunderstood the issue. The idea is that because you can’t skid a front wheel, adding a front brake adds nothing to a fixed-gear’s legality.

    “Skidding is unsafe because it is impossible to steer while skidding.”

    If you’re only skidding the back wheel, then you don’t lose much steering power.

    “Any thoughtful bike commuter will tell you that it’s much safer to move at traffic speed than to go slow in traffic.”

    For cyclists, but not for pedestrians. All the legal safety issues revolve around protecting those who must interact with cyclists on the road, and the most vulnerable class of road users is pedestrians. (That reasoning would suggest a possible compromise: Mandating a maximum gear ratio for brakeless fixies?)

    bicycle messengers especially are egregious scofflaws

    Because their job depends on being able to easily violate traffic regulations. Most messengers believe they’ll make more money in the long run by paying the ineveitable tickets for running red lights (yes, they get tickets too). They don’t break laws just because they can, but rather because, for them, time is money. There is no “difference between slightly bending the law to make biking a little bit more efficient and blatantly violating it in a way that is very dangerous”, only a gradation, and messengers are forced to ride at in the most efficent, most illegal end of that gradation.

    Thanks for posting. I agree with a lot of the other things you wrote.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John August 1, 2006 at 12:25 pm

    This story reminds me of a funny incident in university in Santa Cruz. A student would ride a unicycle all over campus and one day he was issued a ticket for not having an equipped hand brake on his bike, as the campus code stated he should. So he mounted a brake on his unicycle and would ride around holding the brake in one hand for the next year as a funny sort of protest.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Zwack August 1, 2006 at 12:33 pm

    Reading through a lot of these posts I came to several conclusions.

    Some people aren’t reading the arguments, just responding to their own prejudices.

    The Judge ruled that the statute requires a brake and as he didn’t see a braking mechanism he considered that the bike has no brake. His point about carrying a stick bears that out

    The cop was being an idiot.

    Hand brakes do not use the raw hand pressure applied by the rider to stop the bike. They use a lever, and some calipers to amplify that pressure. Would any of the people who made comments about hand pressure like to try stopping their bike by grasping their front rim with their gloved hand? I am willing to bet that you won’t find that particularly easy.

    Whether a fixed gear is a brake or not is not clear to me. People have suggested engine braking and regenerative braking as analogies, but in both of those cases the vehicle has some other form of braking. I agree that in an emergency the rider can just twist the forks 90 degrees, pile the front wheel into the ground and fall off the bike. I wouldn’t call that a brake.

    Car brakes come in several different forms (a block held against the wheel, drum brakes, disk brakes…) but they don’t just rely on the gearbox and engine for braking. In response to the question about the master cylinder failing, modern (since the mid sixties) cars have dual master cylinders in case the brake lines fail, and a parking/emergency brake using a cable as well. I have been in a car with a failing master cylinder and what usually happens is that brake pressure starts to go. Pumping the brakes resolves this temporarily and allows the driver to safely stop.

    I still can’t answer whether a fixed gear counts as a brake, but I think that the judgement is sane enough. Ignore the officer’s arguments about leg spasms. The Judge thinks that the statute requires a separate mechanism for braking. There wasn’t one, thus his ruling. A demonstration might show that the bike could meet the second part of the statute but not that there was a brake mechanism there.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • agreatnotion August 1, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    To say that “fixed gear bicycles” are illegal in your post is misleading. Fixed gear bicycles that are not equipped with a brake are in question, not fixies themselves. A fixed gear equipped with a front brake, whether it is used or not, is perfectly legal and will continue to be, regardless of the outcome of this case.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • pcf August 1, 2006 at 12:57 pm

    1. I think part of the point is to not just have a manual brake on the front, but to have a redundant brake: in the case of a fixed bike on the street, front hand brake and fixed drivetrain. If either fails, you have a (reasonable) backup. Which is why it’s a bad idea to run only a front brake with a freewheel, because brake mechanisms can fail (as can chains). Cars have an emergency brake, bikes should too.

    2. This is not the same as a nanny state helmet law. If you can’t slow down to avoid a collision, you’re not just putting yourself in danger. The same goes for lights – it’s not for your sake, it’s for other people on the road.

    3. The idea that a front brake can be dangerous and should be avoided is absurd. I can’t believe someone who says they are an experienced cyclist doesn’t know the first thing about braking in a hurry: you need to throw your weight back. Get off the seat, stretch your arms out (don’t lock) and be ready to hold your weight with your arms. You stop in less space than you ever could with a locked back wheel, with more control. Any rider who manages to go over the bars does not know everything they should about how to safely ride a bike.

    4. You’re going to stop a brakeless bike with your hand on the front wheel? You’re going to do this in an emergency? Lean forward (moving your CG exactly where you DON’T want it in an emergency) take one hand off the bar (better make sure your is hasn’t been trimmed so much you have inadequate torque with just one hand!), and slow the front wheel? Well, I guess you’d stop, probably by going over the bars.

    5. Can we please not confuse idleness or ignorance of cops and judges or antiquated laws with what is and isn’t reasonable behaviour on the roads? We all want to ride bikes – let’s not give them more fodder for harassment, esp. for the sake of fashion.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee August 1, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    The idea that a front brake can be dangerous and should be avoided is absurd.

    I don’t believe anyone’s advanced that idea, actually.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • FE August 1, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    This thread is stupid. The title is over-dramatic. The controversy about riding a fixie without a caliper brake is a different topic.

    The only thing going on here is that the judge is attemping to legislate, which is wrong. An appeal is clearly warranted. He overstepped his authority.

    The current law is clearly satisfied by a fixie with no extra braking mechanism. If you want to legislate a new law, there’s a process for that.

    If the current law isn’t satisfied by a fixie with no brakes, it is also not likely satisfied by a front brake only as the average rider couldn’t make it skid. I wouldn’t want to take my FBO bike in front of that judge to sign off the fix-it ticket.

    All you fools arguing what brakes are better or safer should head down to the jr high bike rack. Some large percentage of bmx bikes have one ill-repaired rear brake that requires extra attention and is not able to skid as the law requires.

    FWIW, I ride a fixie with a front brake which I rarely touch. I could easily live without it. I could also live without seatbelts or an e-brake in my car.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Magnum August 1, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    For those concerned about the weight of thier bicycle might a recomend a stick of balsa wood. Sure it doesn’t have quite the same stopping power as a nice oak staff but it is a small price to pay to smite a few grams.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tiah August 1, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    People…The fact of the matter is that couriers, and other experienced riders who ride fixed gear bikes, know how to stop quickly and safely on their bikes. They are very competent riders, and as Dabby points out, they make their livings riding bikes. To some people they may not seem like the most safe riders, but they know what they are doing. They wouldn’t be able to ride day in, day out in heavy traffic if they didn’t.
    I am not someone in this category, I love my brakes, even when I have to hit them half a block away in order to stop after cresting down a hill. The thought of riding a fixed gear in traffic is not apealing to me, but that is because I admit I would have no control over stopping, at least not at first. After hearing many devotees speak of their fixed steeds I realize it is akin to people who declare stick shifts are far far superior to automatic cars. That may be so but damned if I am gonna be stalling at every other light because I am too uncoordinated to hit the gas and ease off the brake at every stop. (Thankfully I only bike, bus and walk anyhow so that isn’t a real concern of mine)
    The issue here is supposedly one of safety. Should people who don’t know how to ride fixed gears ride them in traffic? Of course not.They would be a threat to themselves and others.
    Should professional cycylists who know how to control their bikes be forced to have a caliper brake? No.
    Perhaps they should be made to demonstrate their capabilities of being their own brake.Every fixed gear rider worth half his weight in gold, or chaingrease would be able to comply with that.
    Doesn’t the city government have better things to do with it’s time other than harassing bike messengers for having good cycling skills?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Senny August 1, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Can anyone show me a brake on a bicycle that does NOT depend on the musculature of a rider? Are there caliper brakes that magically close themselves? Should coaster brakes (standard on kids’ BMX bikes) be banned because they depend on legs (instead of weak hands) and because chains can break?

    I wasn’t aware that bike messengers can’t stop their bikes, either.

    Ponderous, man.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] My recent story on a traffic court decision that upheld a ticket to a local messenger for not having a “separate braking device” on her fixed-gear bicycle has quickly spread around the web and seems to have struck a nerve in cyclists everywhere. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ted August 1, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    The judge seems to have overlooked the fact that caliper brakes (and sticks in the wheel) require FINGER MUSCULATURE to operate. Until somebody invents a telepathic braking system where all I have to do is /think/ about stopping, braking will continue to require muscles. The Oregon vehicle code makes no distinction about what muscles may be legally used to brake a wheel.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] The highly entertaining court report, featuring the judge and office trying to understand bike mechanics, is available at […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John Anderson August 1, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    “If the rear wheel revolves backwards, so do the pedals.”


    But the last time I rode a bike without gears, some fifty years ago, the power (rear) wheel would not go backward: if you wanted to quick-stop, you stood on the pedal and the wheel stopped turning, and I would trust my weight to do so more effectively than a hand-compressed lever (can you apply over two hundred pounds of squeeze? I certainly doubt I can) pulling a wire cable to a small rubber pad which would rub against the wheel. Did some eedjut change that so today’s “fixies” can be pedalled backward?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Paul August 1, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    I say keep the courts out of it and let Darwin’s Theory take care of matters pertaining to people riding without brakes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • pcf August 1, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    adam – you’re right. Nobody said this explicitly, but it was certainly implied in dabby’s post higher up, describing front brakes as dangerous. Use a front brake, break your collarbone. Not stated, but suggested. This is dishonest.

    In any case, if you do hurt yourself with a front brake, then the problem is with you, not the bike, and dabby, above, with all the experience, should know better.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Basso August 1, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. Bike messengers regularly rely on the spirit of the law when hopping on the sidewalk, rolling through stop signs or creeping across red lights, but when a judge uses the spirit of the law to try and mandate safe traffic in the interpretation of legislation all of a sudden there is no room for interpretation beyond the exact letter. I seriously doubt Ms. Holland, as a bike messenger, follows traffic laws strictly to the letter. And I doubt she could brake a ‘fixie’ in any similar stopping distance as a bike equipped with brakes.

    Maybe bike messengers can handle their bikes well enough on most occassions to get away without brakes… I am familiar with these esteemed “professionals” (and I use your term loosly as their poor riding habits give a black eye to all cyclists) I have many times witnessed them riding into pedestrians and motorists because they didn’t have brakes or were just too clumsy to avoid collision. I have also unfortunately seen one disobey a red light to be struck by an auto travelling fifty miles per hour. He won’t have the chance to make a mistake like that again.

    Every commercially available track bike offered without brakes is sold with a disclaimer that it is not meant for street use. It’s not asking too much to require fixed gear bikes to have a hand brake in traffic: manufactuers require it, common sense requires it and now according to this judge the democratically legislated law requires it. If you don’t trust the law, you should at least trust Schwinn.

    I have ridden thousands of miles on fixed gear with cyclist who truly are professionals. I know this is not possible, but for argument’s sake if you can produce one of these professionals who can go from 25 mph to a complete stop in the same distance it takes me, an amateur, riding a conventional bike with conventional brakes I will be convinced.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jpre August 1, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    SKiDmark wrote:
    Actually the Lane-split law in California is you can exceed the speed of the vehicle you are passing by no more than 15 mph. So if traffic is going 50 on the freeway you can lane-split at 65 mph.

    Incorrect, unless you can show me a statute that says otherwise. There is no lane-split law in CA. There’s just no law that says you can’t.

    As for my on topic thoughts, it never ceases to amaze me that people want the govt to rule over themselves and everyone else, and yet people that feel that way practically seem to be in the majority. The officer was within his job description to ticket something he didn’t understand, if he didn’t, but the judge not allowing evidence that the bike complied with the law is unconscionable IMO.

    And to all you members of the safety police that say it’s safer to have a bicycle with handbrakes, you win, OK? That’s not what the legal problem is here.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • gwadzilla August 1, 2006 at 2:50 pm


    there are so many lawes

    some that make sense
    some that do not

    so many that should be enforced and are not
    and others
    well, like this one
    that may need to be overlooked

    in most places the laws are there to cover everyone’s ass

    should dogs be on a leash?
    well, it may be a case by case basis
    it is easier to make it the law that the dog must be on leash
    and owners bend the rule from there

    no need for show and tell
    we all know that some people can handle their fixie better without brakes than others with two disc brakes
    they are just trying to cover all the basis

    it is unlikely that this law will be enforced across the board

    this guy should put a brake on his bike and call it a day

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • August 1, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    Judge faults fixies….

    Yesterday at the Multnomah County Courthouse the law came down against fixed gear bicycles….

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John August 1, 2006 at 3:32 pm

    Officer should be fired ……….this whole world is in trouble if this type of stuff ends up in court.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Here’s an interesting story about a court-case in Portland, Oregon where a bicycle courier was in court over a citation for no brakes. She was riding a fixed-wheel bike, and her lawyer was arguing that the bike had braking ability through the gears, and that the law was satisfied by the technology. This is the relevant section: A bicycle must be equipped with a brake that enables the operatorto make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement. strongenough to skid tire. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • M-A August 1, 2006 at 6:55 pm

    This is completely ludicrous. A stick? Has anyone ever ridden with a stick? Like what a stick off the side of the street? From the park? I remember riding with a set of ski poles (2 sticks) in my hands, returning them to the store I bought them, short ride and all, but en route I accidentally put them in my spokes. Stupid I know, I’m just really thankful it was the rear wheel. Is this the suggestion, the mandate, from the judge that we carry sticks with us? WTF are they thinking? Talk about a waste of time and money, if they thought this through a little, if they’d done any research, they’d simply leave this one alone.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bro August 1, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    “The brake must be a device separate from the musclulature of the rider.”

    I use the muscles in my hand to contract the brake lever, therefore I am in violation of this law.

    This is an idiotic decision. It seems quite obvious that the judge was going to side with the police regardless of the argument of the defense.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adrift at Sea » Government Gone Amuck August 1, 2006 at 7:31 pm

    […] The site has a report about a local judge ruling against fixed gear bicycles. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby August 1, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    First of all, I am back.
    Second of all, someone called my mentioning of cartwheeling over the handlebars becauseoif yanking the front brake dishonest.
    If you had half a brain, you would retract your statement.
    This year, at bike polo, on my mt bike, I had switched the brakes for polo.
    In front of 15 of my friends (or enemies) I hit the front brake hard, catapulted over the bars, hit my head on a wall, and landed rough.
    “It can happen to you, It can happen to me, It will happen to everyone eventually” Thanks to the Who for inspiring that.
    Also, I have read posts by Mr. Basso (if that is your real name).
    It would appear that your supposed experience with such track stars would let you knolw entirely that stopping in this manner is within the realm of anyone who can control a fixed gear. Yes, I said and mean anyone who can control one…..
    Instead, you are sticking with your seemeingly old school of thought on fixed gears.
    I myself will be seen on tape lamblasting downtown fixed gear riding, in a upcoming documentary.
    And then I started riding one off the track, and On the street. And I recognized, within a day, right before removing my dangerous and useless front mechanical brake, that I was wrong. I am going to get nothing but shit from my people for stating that on camera, but oh well.
    I am willing to admit when I am wrong.
    Also, the statements by Mr. Lasourd above, where he states he hasnt and does not ride a fixed gear bicycle, are entirely moot, simply for the fact that he “DOES NOT KNOW WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT!!!!!”
    Once again, Ignorance is bliss.
    I fully encourage any of you to contact me directly in regards to your thoughts, whether you agree with me, or I have just pissed you off, because:
    Nothing will be done if we don’t ruffle a few feathers…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Sasha August 1, 2006 at 9:11 pm


    Please read the wikipedia entry on brake systems for bikes:

    Also the entry on Fixies:

    Any discussion that a fixed gear bike can stop in equivalent or better distances is pointless. A brake will always perform better.

    Finally, the notion that a front brake is in some way “more dangerous” and more likely to toss you over the handlebars is also silly. All braking requires proper body placement on a bike. Sure it happens, but it’s no argument.

    See the rec.bicycles FAQ for some great information on exactly this (as well as all kinds of neat stuff):

    All of that said, none of this has any bearing on the real issues at hand (letter vs spirit of the law). There are just too many silly posts on here suggesting that a fixed gear bike can perfrom just as well in braking situations as a braked bike. All other things being equal, that’s just not true.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Nathan August 1, 2006 at 11:44 pm

    Just on the point of arguments about the safety : the bit a lot of people are forgetting with the braking argument is that the top speed is not limited by how fast you can pedal, but how big a hill you have to go down. I remember a BMX I had a a kid and having to curl legs up onto the frame and just ride out some big hills (hoping nothing jumped out). Also had some pretty bad stacks because of the lack of ability to stop without skidding. Not a problem once I got a mountainbike with front and back hand activated brakes.

    If it is legal in that part of the world to have a bike without proper ability to stop without having to lock up the back wheel then the law should be changed. Cars and motorbikes generally have strict rules on braking mechanisms and ability (as well as things that affect that like shock absorbers/suspension) and it’s fair enough that bikes should have some standards on what constitutes a safe road worthy bike (in Australia that means light at night, bell etc).

    Whinging about infringing rights: helmets are law in a lot of places, while that might be infringing your “rights” what it’s really doing is lessening the chances of you ending up dead or in a wheelchair (so your parents have to look after you for the rest of your life). Enforcing a superior braking mechanism is the same thing. You should be able to brake smoothly and going down steep hills at speed WITHOUT locking up the back wheel (which is worse than useless).

    Also as any real cyclist will tell you (pedal powered or motor): the front wheel is the one with real stopping power. Skidding the back wheel does nothing more than leave a trail of rubber on the road and decrease your stability, it is not “dropping the anchor” as someone described it (that would be stomping on front and back brakes). As for those complaining that front brakes throw people off: learn to ride a bike! If you manage to throw yourself over the handlebars then basically you’re at the level 5 year olds are at when they get their first bike.

    After going through pedal, caliper and disc brakes I dunno how anyone can cope with anything other than disc brakes. Calipers suffer from the wonky rim, pedal brakes are just scary and useless while disc brakes mean you can really stomp on the brakes and stop quickly (maybe that’s why cars and motorbikes use ’em).

    The test should be: after reaching a speed of 40km/h down a 45 degree slope the braking mechanism should be able to bring the bike to a smooth stop within X metres without locking up the back wheel. Reason for this: cars locking up their wheels in day to day circumstances is regarded as neglegent driving (at least in oz).

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • John August 2, 2006 at 12:05 am

    Just as a side though. What a rediculous law. No mention of from what speed the bicycle must decelerate before the skid occurs, nor any mention of within what distance this skid can be achieved. Surely these are the parameters by which a brake should be measured.

    In the UK, bicycles used on the road are required to have two idependant braking systems. In the case of fixed wheel (thats wheel not gear!) bicycles, the drive train is accepted as a braking method. So it is considered to be a brake.

    For the person who posted earlier that helmets, reflectors and horns are required in the uk. This is not true. There are no such legal requiremnt within the uk.

    My thoughts. If you ride a fixed wheel on the road, you should have a second brake on the bike, usually a front one, for the safety of those around you.

    As for the transcript of the court. Describing a fixed wheel bicycle as one where if you turn the rear wheel backwards the pedals also turn, is not very useful. Try doing this with a bicycle that has a freewheel fitted, yes the pedals turn too!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Christian August 2, 2006 at 1:22 am

    In Germany, it is illegal. You are REQUIRED to have working brakes on the front and rear of the bike. I read about a messenger who was stopped on a fixie, and the police here made him destroy the frame, and bring in the pieces with the serial number (BB) as proof.

    Its stupid, especially since old fart judges who are scared of the youth should not ride fixies anyhow.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee August 2, 2006 at 5:20 am

    I think most people were pointing to the fact that any bike with a front brake does NOT meet the law’s requirement, because it’s impossible to make the front wheel skid.

    So all bikes with a front brake are illegal, according to ORS 815.280(2)(a)

    But that’s all beside the point anyway. The point is:

    How much do you want judges legislating what kind of bike you can ride? Sure, you might not have a problem with this, but how about when they want everyone to ride disc brakes? What next?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • JT August 2, 2006 at 6:35 am

    Do we really need the law involved with our decisions about braking options? Just seems like another way for a cop to flex his “I’m having a bad day” muscle and earn some revenue for whoever is the benefactor of a ticket.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Sam’s site · Hump Day August 2, 2006 at 7:24 am

    […] Pop, you say? Strange drinkin in NZ. British on golf. A reminder of a simpler time. Help for the simpler things. Whatever. Dumb ass 08/02/06 40 years ago in Texas. Fukin LAZERS man. Check out what they do for a myocardial infarction. 3-D sound. Killing Castro. Enjoyable art. What a Drag. Purty clouds. Wicked wallet. Fight the Power. Take a day off buddy. Alchemy alive. Killing smallpox. Smarter than you. More art. Finally, someone wrote down what we were all thinking. Bike law! Early Tim Leary show. Better than Record player. Say no to pron. Scary Suduko. Colbert Rules. Clear up October, cause I’ll be in the theater. Duck tape’d fix that. New York, New York. Lots of buzz going around. Hooray! 1000 pics in a day. Because it had to happen here first. Jigs up guys, this lady found us all out. Send it with a song. Half-life, halved. New powerlist. Charts. Get together over net neutrality. I use to have a serious hard on for her, and spiderwoman. Because even the Japanese appreciate choreography. And so does America. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Basso August 2, 2006 at 7:36 am

    This is stirring up the beehive and this could lead to all sorts of unwanted legislation. This is why it would have been better that Ms. Holland was simply apologetic and paid the fine and installed a front brake or was just apologetic to the cop and got off with a warning. She is not an ambassador for cycling.

    Previous to this case, it was a gray area whether a fixed gear bicycle was legal to ride without any additional brakes and now this is not the case. Now there is no talking your way out of the ticket because if you choose to ride a track bike on the street you are open season. Now legislation will become involved to negate any loophole and two working handbrakes or disc brakes might be required. This would be overkill but this case is an opening to this sort of result.

    The biking community needs to get organized out there and figure out what battles need to be fought. This isn’t one of them. When Rosa Parks was arrested on that bus, it wasn’t a random act of defiance but a carefully planned revolt. She was chosen and put in the position to be arrested in order to gain sympathy and exposure for the civil rights cause. Ms. Holland’s act, in contrast is more likely to paint all cyclists as self serving bike messenger juvenile dare devils and will be more likely to bring backlash on the cycle community than resolution.

    It is merely an ancillary skirmish to the bigger problem and the now the war is moving to what is viewed to be the problem by traffic police and courts: out of control punker bike messenger-types rather than what most cyclist feel is the problem: lack of respect from motorists, road designers and facilities to accomodate cyclists.

    Instead, the cycling community is being represented by a bike messenger wearing a sleeveless t-shirt to court and lawyer whose idea of a good defense is to compare a professional’s bicycle to a Big Wheel, a child’s toy.

    If Ms. Holland is going to continue to fight this battle she’d better get ready to fight. Dress properly for a courtroom. For starters, wear a shirt. Heck, even dressing in her professional gear, a clean cycle jersey and definitely carrying a helmet would be better.

    Instead of trying to explain the fixed gear by refering it to a toy explain its history, its use in sport and its advantage in traffic. If you need a metaphor something like the direct gearing on a sharpening stone would be more appropriate. Additionally, the question at hand isn’t that the wheel goes backwards when you pedal backwards, but that by stopping pedalling the wheel is locked and will skid to a stop. The lawyer didn’t seem to even try to address any of the judges concerns. Did he have a hangover that day or is he just stupid all of the time? Also there is nothing wrong with bringing the bicycle into the court room for a demonstration.

    Yes, she’s wrong. A fixed gear bicycle without a brake is dangerous to ride in traffic. But it can be done. Where she is wrong is totally screwing up her defense and basically taking a dive in the courtroom making it harder for all of us. This is why I compared it earlier to the Raleigh case.

    What needs to be done by cyclists everywhere is to earn respect on the road. Follow the rules and the etiquitte of the road. Stop at all stop signs and stop lights just like you were a car. Ride like you belong on the road, not like your just squeaking in. Treat motorists how you would want to be treated rather than like some paranoid street person would. When motorists honk it’s probably because they know you or think you’re cool so wave back with all fingers and a smile, look them in the eye and say ‘hi’ like you recognize them. Never pass a vehicle on the right, I think it really aggrevates motorists when cyclist do this at regulated intersections. Motorists really hate passing cyclists, especially squirrley ones, and to be forced to do it again and again after every red light really stresses them out and it doesn’t give any time or safety advantage to the cyclist.

    The bottom line is if you build a strong habit of riding safely you will project a better image of cycling and you will increase your probablity of surviving and of gaining a respected place on the road. Day in and day out the same motorists will see you and they will eventually respect you. They will cheer you rather than curse you. The will roll down their window on cold winter days and say “Man, I see you on this road everyday, I can’t believe you can stand riding in this weather.” Then and only then will you be an equal on the road.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee August 2, 2006 at 7:42 am

    Hear, hear!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tom August 2, 2006 at 8:01 am

    “…if the cog is not equipped with a lock ring, as most wheels I have seen aren’t since they are mostly modified road hubs which do not accommodate a lock ring…”

    Mr. Basso, i would love for you to find one messenger in portland that rides without a lockring on their hub and get their name and tell me. Please. It is impossible.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jami August 2, 2006 at 8:40 am

    Bill, Rosa Parks is a bit of a thing with me. Saying “she was chosen and put” makes her an object.

    She volunteered. And yes, she worked with others. That is a lesson to the bike community that we discuss ad infinitum — your actions affect others.

    But be careful how you treat Ms. Parks is all.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] I called Lieutenant Kruger this morning and he confirmed that they were, “focusing on the downtown core area and citing all modes (cars, bikes, peds, etc…).” Among the tickets were several people on fixed gears. One cyclist told me he was stopped by Officer Barnum (same guy involved with the Holland trial) and that the officer asked him why he chose to ride without a brake. As the rider explained how his bike worked and that it didn’t need a brake lever to stop, Officer Barnum asked, “What if your chain breaks?” […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Basso August 2, 2006 at 8:53 am

    It is impossible to get their name, or to ride without a lockring? Next your going to tell me they all floss their teeth, phone their mothers every Sunday and obey every traffic rule.

    I have never been to Portland, I am just commenting on what I have seen in Minneapolis, New York, Chicago and Toronto all of which have a decent number of fixed gear bikes on the racks with no lock ring mostly becuase they are converted road hubs. Personally I don’t ride with a lock ring either, because I feel it is dangerous, but I use a front brake. When I to ride with messengers who use the fixed gear, most of them ride converted road bikes.

    What I don’t get, if bike messengers can be so uniform on all employing lock rings, why can’t they get together and decide to follow traffic rules and ride safely? I mean if they all did no one would feel pressured to risk their lives in such a manner. It would be a professional courtesy because in reality when a bike messenger runs a red light she is not only putting her life in danger, but all bike messengers in danger because now they are all forced to follow her recklessness to remain competitive.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • matsuricow August 2, 2006 at 9:03 am

    With regard to the woman who posted earlier claiming that OBRA now requires all track bikes on the velodrome to be equipped w/ brakes… Not only is she correct, but the USOC is actually going back and stripping Marty Nothstein of his ’96 and 2000 olympic match sprint medals for not having brakes! Though I understand he’ll be challenging this ruling based on his having had a little plastic bell affixed to his handlebars that he would ring as he passed other competitors.

    So should I now be afraid to take my brakeless ride downtown with me? Is there legitimacy to these postings claiming the cops are doing a serious crackdown???

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jack Buckette August 2, 2006 at 10:11 am

    “What if your chain breaks?”
    Hell, what if an automobiles brakes fail?
    Do these brilliant individuals expect us to discontue the use of ALL mechanical transport? I guess it’s back to the horse and buggy.

    Oh, wait. The horse might go WILD!! Oh well, I guess we’re going to have to walk everywhere!

    Brilliant, just brilliant!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jenny seattle August 2, 2006 at 10:48 am

    i dont want a ticket when riding my track bike to work. i have to throw my bike on the bus after work from downtown to get to the velodrome. thats the only reason i ride my huge geared (49×15), no brake bike (not drilled)on the street, not on the track. it is ridiculous, and i know very stupid to do it.

    i race and have good handling skills, so i am not necessarily a danger to myself or others in the one mile i have to travel from my home to my work. but i have a road fixie for commuting, with a front brake.

    im torn on the issue, because i side with the judge and cop and prefer a brake on my commuter, but im forced to ride brakeless twice a week for a mile a piece. so i am technically being a hypocrite. i feel they are just trying to protect all road users and not just use it as an excuse to pull people over and ticket them.

    bike speed and stopping power equations are endless.

    track bikes or fixies with no brakes can stop without a caliper. how effective are they? thats the grey area. good luck in court arguing that for the masses is all im saying. but dont write me a ticket.

    if i was ticketed, i would however contest it because the law is so unspecific. but if it werent for my lack of other transportation to the velodrome, i most definately would never ride the bike in traffic or condone others to do so.

    my 2 cents.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby August 2, 2006 at 11:23 am

    While Ihate to use that great name in reference to your posts, I am forced to again.
    The only place where no lockring shoudl be used is on the track.
    To ride on the streets with no lock ring is to effectively ride with no brakes, which makes this rider, or you, as you pointed out that you do this, a fool.
    The lockring, which all, or anyway the thinking, messengers use, is an effective braking aid.
    To ride without a lockring on the streets is death. To not know how to properly apply a lockring is death. Take your fixed gear wheel to the bike shop, a fixed gear oriented bike shop, and pay someone smart to put one on your fixed gear today, Mr. Basso.
    This brings me to another little button that people have been pushing.
    A fixed gear bike is exactly that. When a properly applied and correct lock ring is applied to a hub, the gear, whilst riding becomes unchangable, or fixed.
    The wheel on such a bike is operated by a direct drive system. We know lazily condsider this rear wheel to be fixed. I do not think that this is the proper usage of the word fixed, for it is able to bemanipulated however you need it.
    Also, the ability to pedal backward is there.
    This is also used during a fixed stopping scenario, or even during skidding.
    It is called modulation.
    Oh wait, it is modulating your brakes at that point isn’t it.
    Realizing that not only can a fixed GEAR bicycle stop effectively without the use of a “mechanical” front brake, we know that the braking can be modulated. Unlike a “caliper” brake, but much like a disc or hydraulic brake.
    Which, in m y opinion, having been said, is just one more reason why this is so ludicrous…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Basso August 2, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    Dabby, kiddo, I have been riding a fixed gear longer than you have been alive.

    Thanks for the advice, but I know what I am doing. In fact, Torchy Peden, the greatest track rider ever, was my mentor and he advised me to ditch the lock ring.

    The reason he advised to ride without a lockring is because it’s better to lose a cog than damage the knees or be sprung over the bars by locking up the wheel at a high rate of speed. Plus I am not a fool and I have a real brake, a handbrake on the front wheel.

    As for the moniker, I earned it because I rode for old Marino Basso and later worked for his frame shop. I had a lot of Basso team clothes and my pals identified me with the name which is easier to pronounce than my own. So yeah, I know how to ride and how to turn a wrench too.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • gabrielamadeus August 2, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    “fixed-gear bikes” are the losers in wweek’s winners and losers:

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • fish-e August 2, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    basso, don’t take that bait. your point is best focused on the notion that you brought up previously – this case now opens up the door for more legal hassle upon the rest of us (if I may be so bold as to paraphrase like mad). Bear with me folks, here’s the connection I’m trying to make. More enforceable laws against cyclists = more oportunity for justification of police action against cyclists. Some times it’s best to take your lumps and ride on, and perhaps that’s what Holland should have done. Now we can add one more citation/infraction that a cop can suspect you of and pull you over for – maybe not a hassle factor for the solo commuter, but apply the scenario to recent history of mass rides in every major city. Police departments across the country are itching for enforcable laws to bust up mass rides with. You can find plenty of info elsewhere on the web regarding the heavy police harrassment of critical mass in NYC, Seattle, Boston. LA’s midnight ridazz monthly cruise features intense helicopter scruitiny, arrests, fights and plenty of cat-n-mouse with the law. Adding anti-fixed gear language to the law which officer friendly upholds on the street gives her one more reason to detain, confiscate and arrest. We are a minority on the streets, we are not respected and increasingly we are targets of one form or another. Ironicly an act steeped in ‘doing the right thing’ on Ms. Holland’s part might in fact reverberate badly for other cyclists down the line.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Given the recent court decision and heightened awareness of this issue, I asked Traffic Division Lieutenant Mark Kruger for an official stance on how the Portland Police Bureau are enforcing this. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Randy August 2, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    Bill – you can cut the ‘I rode with Torchy’ crap already; you’re not better than anyone else here, so put your ego away and get off your high horse.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] This story has my biking email list at work all a chatter against the rights and wrongs and the physics of it all. Sure beats whining about Floyd. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jonathon Severdia August 2, 2006 at 7:21 pm

    Hot damn, I am actually most impressed with the sobriety I’m seeing on this discussion. I see so many brakeless fixes out there that I expected y’all to be foaming on your chop-drops over this one. The judge was too stupid to make his decision on the spirit of the law; note that his decision was indeed based on a faulty impression that muscles shouldn’t be used to stop a bicycle (telepathy, only, I guess). So I am both troubled by this sad commentary on our scientifically illiterate law and order professionals, and joyed by this sad commentary on our scientifically illiterate brakeless fixie riders. ‘Cause I am tired of this holier than thou attitude that says there is a non plus ultra to cycling, the cloud-top abode of an elite few who are all steel and nerve and don’t need those debasing calipers that the ragamuffins require. A fixie going 25 mph has over FOUR times the energy of a BMX or cruiser going 10 mph, so drawing such an equivalence is valid only for the letter of the law, but not the spirit, which I interpret to mean that we should be able to stop using the _best_ means available for that particular bike. Such might even require putting a front brake on a cruiser destined for road use. Oh, the histrionics!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tom August 2, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    I agree with randy. I also believe that “Bill” dosnt know anything about city fixed riding. Dont criticize what you dont understand.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill McWilliams August 2, 2006 at 9:39 pm

    Fixie riders unite! Use a rubber band to attack a small twig to your handlebars as a show of solidarity.

    If you are pulled over for no front brake, you can show the officer your “stick” that you could rub against the front tire.

    Lance armstrong has his rubber band bracelets, we’ll have our twigs…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby August 3, 2006 at 1:50 am

    Bill Basso,
    I thinkit is fair for you to know that I am certainly no kiddo.
    Sad to say, but, me, along with about 4 others here in town, are serious messengers over 40. Serious as in, for most, THE ONLY THING WE HAVE DONE!
    (well, I am out on medical, so not at the moment a messenger, but, you get my drift).
    And, sadder to say, no one is going to buy your crap about riding without a lock ring on the street. If that is what you do, you are a idiot.
    If this Torchy fellow told you to do this, he was trying to get you killed. He must not have liked you much.
    And, yes, I do know that on the velodrome, not the street,true track bike riders will ride without lockrings. This facilitates quicker, 1 tool gear changes.And, skidding is highly frowned upon, and unless done in a emergency situation, could get you thrown off the track.
    Thank you, and good night.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] A Stateside Judge, has found fault with the brakeless-fixie-cool set over in Oregon. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Preston August 3, 2006 at 5:33 am

    My question is, what about unicycles. Why don’t those people get the whip for not attaching a hand brake?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Basso August 3, 2006 at 7:59 am

    Sorry for being such a crank and assuming you were a kid, Dabby (if that is your real name) by your posts I would have thought you were much younger, maybe 24. It’s hard to believe your actually older than me.

    I will concede that it is possible to ride a track bike without brakes in city traffic, but having that extra brake is cheap insurance and a good idea. I guess what really angers me about the case is not Holland’s disregard for her own saftey, but her disregard for all cyclists. If you’re going to go to court to defend your right to do something on a bike you better be prepared to win. Her loss is a big loss for cyclist everywhere and I don’t think she even considered this when she entered that courtroom so poorly prepared.

    After reading interviews with the Judge on this case, I would have to say he is less than a crank than I am and is trying to honestly interpret the legislature in a way that is best for the safety of the community and is as close to both the letter and spirit of the law. He was given no valid reason to rule in Holland’s favour and his decision based on the evidence presented was sound.

    The arresting officer did not seem to be crusading a vendetta against messengers but was trying to ensure their safety which is his job. That he was keen enough about bicycles to be able to recognize Holland had no brakes speaks volumes of his interest in bicycles and regard for cyclists. No he may not have been an expert on the issue, but Holland didn’t even try to inform him and insulted him by not respecting his authority and basically speaking down to him with out any direct or comprehensive answer to his inquiries.

    Ginsberg and Holland blew the case by taking the low road by not presenting Holland as professional, by presenting her tool to the court as a toy, and by probably using that annoyingly childish term “fixie”. I wouldn’t be suprised if she had a binkie tied around her neck in court.

    How else was the court supposed to rule when the defendants stacked the cards against themselves so definitively?

    I have represented myself in a number of legal proceedings and I have always won by acting mature and treating both the court and my opponents with respect and by coming to court fully prepared to defend myself clearly and concisely. They didn’t do this.

    These days juries expect CSI level graphics and demos not some cock and bull explaination on how her bike is like a freakin Big Wheel! What a joke! What an insult to cyclists everywhere! I would have ruled against them if I were the judge! They were luck “fixies” weren’t relegated to the sidewalk alongside its counterpart the Big Wheel. That could have happened except the judge has respect for pedestrians.

    Their defense was just wretched. For instance, in the transcript I don’t see Holland addressing the officer with the respectful “Sir”. When asked about breaking a chain she pretty much just dropped the ball and Ginsberg’s interjection was totally non-linear to the questioning.

    Instead, her line of answering sounds more like she’s utterly unprepared and just muttering to her shoes whom she is not convincing at all. She may be safe riding a fixed gear without brakes, but she is in no way conveying this to the court. Her lawyer did not prepare her for the witness stand or prepare much of a defense at all. How else is the Judge supposed to rule? He’s not required to be telepathic.

    A better response would have been if she had taken her time and been complete. For example, “I understand your concern, Sir. But you must understand I am a professional. My livelyhood depends on a fully functional bicycle and my machine is serviced weekly by our agency’s mechanic.(providing documentation of this service would be very helpful to her cause) Additionally I know of no incidences where a professional messenger has had this type of chain failure, in fact it is more likely to occur in a multi-geared bicycle where the chain is exposed to much more torsional force through gear changing that a direct line system such as the fix gear in which this pressure does not occur. Even with a multi-geared freewheel system, in my many years as a professional I have not been aware of this occuring. Bicycle chains today are made out of the same high tech components as the fighter jets that defend our country and are not as prone to failure as they were several decades ago. But to try and answer your question fully, sir, and address your concerns for saftey, there are many other ways to bring a bicycle to a safe stop and we practice these methods with a coach on the grass in events such as cyclo-cross and bicycle polo. In offroad events in which I am a frequent participant to improve my skills, mud build up frequently leaves standard caliper brakes ineffective and I have leared methods of using the terrain and wind drag to slow my bicycle and methods to safely dismount and stop the bicycle on foot. And while I might respectfully remind the court that these would be extraordinary circumstances I am confident in my training and skills that I could effectively and safely perform them.”

    Additionally, they may not need CSI graphics, but it would have been a good idea to bring in an expert witness such as a professional bicycle mechanic who could vouch for the saftey and stopping power of a track bike on the road.

    In this fight they took a dive. They went into the court completely unprepared and the big wheel defense was just a joke and an insult to the defendant, the prosecution and the court.
    Did Ginsberg believe that because he supported the County Commisioner that he’d just walk in and win? I hope Ginsberg has a better plan of action for your trial.

    You must be pissed because this effects you much more than I. I don’t live in Oregon. My livelyhood is not connected to cycling. I don’t have a bicycle related trial in the near future, which sounds to be much more serious than a traffic ticket, which may or may not revolve around the use of a fixed gear as the sole brake. There is now a legal precendant and this could seriously change the outcome of your case.

    And yes I have tens of thousands of miles experience riding in the city, but to be honest I haven’t done much city riding since the early nineties. At that time I was commuting year round over twenty miles each way including the entire length of Hennepin Avenue which is the main street of Minneapolis. Since then I have been fortunate to be able to live in rural and wilderness areas. I actually encountered a stop light on a ride a few weeks ago and by habbit reached down and undid my toestrap despite the fact that I have been riding clipless pedals since 1990. So no I don’t ride in the city anymore if I can avoid that, but I have been there and done that and don’t see much of a point in doing it again.

    I did spent a summer in Chicago three years ago and worked downtown and did take notice what was being ridden. There were some nice track bikes but those were mostly owned by traders at CBOT and the Merch. Mostly the messengers were riding converted road bikes with no lockring. Messengers generally ignored traffic signs and lights and frequently rode on the sidewalk. Maybe Portland is different, it’s a smaller town and most of the kids are more affluent.

    I have to say, did enjoy your backpedalling, Dabby, on your edict of all messengers use lockrings by restating that the “thinking messenger” used lock rings, thus inferring a good portion of your fellow messengers are idiots. 😉

    As for this Torchy fellow, I actually exagerated a bit. I realized by researching him for you since you seem unaware of the history of cycling… he was only in his late sixties/early seventies when I rode with him. But when your a little kid anyone over forty seems really old. He did win more six days than anyone when the races were actually six straight days and he was the biggest sports star of his time.

    Here’s some links to info on him:

    The basic fact of it all is that no matter how cool either of us thinks we are, we are novices compared to a guy like that and the men of his generation. Not only could he ride better than anyone, he still took time to teach a little dweeby kid like me how to ride. It was a long time ago, but the more I think about it, I don’t think he used a brake. But the bike those guys set me up with did — a nice little kid’s sized track bike with a wienmann front brake.

    We all stand on the shoulder’s of giants and our achievements are more theirs than ours. I am just relaying to you what he taught me, if you chose to disregard his authority on the matter that’s up to you. Most of it comes down to personal preference, only now where you live a brake is legally mandated on a fixed gear bike due to a botch traffic ticket case.

    Holland and Ginsberg lost the case because they didn’t respect the bicycling community or the profession of the bicycle messenger. This is what really angers me about the whole fiasco.And it should anger you. They thought they’d easily beat this little ticket and didn’t need to worry and had no concern on how the failure to win would affect the cycling community as a whole. This looks like the begining of a huge backlash against the progress cyclists have made over the past few decades and that is the tragedy.

    If you have been riding as long as you say you have been you have seen many of your riding buddies killed by motorists and other types of cycle crashes. It sounds like you’ve maybe come close to the light at the end of the tunnel yourself if you are not able to work due to injury.

    Doesn’t this instill in you a need for higher standards? Yes most of the bikers today are killed by really stupid motorists, but many die doing stupid things. Olympian John Stenner left this world blowing through a stop sign on a casual afernoon training ride.

    We have a responsibility to show we are responsible members of the road, not some novelty act or hipster trend. We have a responsibility to raise the saftey standards for everyone so that motorists see us as a part of traffic flow, not as targets of annoyance. We have a responsibility to novice cyclists that they don’t get pressured into following unsafe riding practices employed by us, their peers. We have a responsibility to ourselves to cultivate safe riding habits so we don’t just get taken out while instinctively rolling through a stop sign.

    Dabby, do you just want to be just a messenger all your life or do you want to leave a legacy? Sure someone needs to stand up for cyclist rights in the courts, but more importantly someone needs to stand up for cyclist’s dignity in the community.

    Messengers risk their lives enough riding in city traffic, they don’t need the peer pressure to be constantly breaking the laws and endangering themselves further.

    Why do messengers ignore traffic laws? Because all their competitors cheat so they reason it’s okay to ignore the traffic laws in order to stay competitive. If the messengers don’t start policing themselves the real police will. What do you expect?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Timgenuity August 3, 2006 at 11:14 am

    The musculature used in stopping a fixed gear bicycle are the same as those used in stopping a coaster brake bicycle (the type a vast majority of children learn to ride first).

    The coaster brake, like a disc, caliper, cantilever, or “v” brake, is a device which allows for effective multiplication of force through simple machines.

    Caliper, cantilever and “v” brakes all allow the user to apply greater force to the RIM than one would be able to apply by pinching the rim or tire of their bicycle.

    Coaster and disc brakes (and even exotic drum brakes that use a hand lever) allow the user to apply greater force to the HUB than one would be able to apply using their legs to put a backwards pressure on the drive chain.

    These brake mechanisms all MULTIPLY the BRAKING FORCES generated by the human body.

    In each system outlined above, the human body is the primary braking mechanism, and the mechanical devices are braking AIDS. Each braking aid adds weakness and expense to the system (a chain is only as strong as…).

    And to the fool that referenced Wikipedia:
    I dare you to use wikipedia as a reference in a court of law.

    The judge was wrong. Dead wrong. I can only hope for an appeal in the name of LOGIC and JUSTICE.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee August 3, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Can you give the links to these interviews with the judge, Bill Basso? I’d like to know more about why he still thinks it was a good decision.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark August 3, 2006 at 11:23 am

    jpre :

    If I remember correctly the law is ” A motorcycle can share a lane with an automobile as long as it does not exceed the speed of the automobile by more than 15 MPH.” So yeah the law is titled lane sharing not lane splitting. I rode loud choppers and cafe racers ( AKA Cop Magnets) in California so I am well versed in CVC (California Vehicle Code).

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Basso August 3, 2006 at 11:31 am

    I found the link on this site. Basically the judge was interpreting the law to the letter as best he saw it.

    “It seemed to me it was a relatively simple issue,” Lowe said Friday in an interview. “A rose is a rose is a rose. A brake is a brake is a brake. And feet or musculature aren’t brakes.”

    more interesting input from the article:

    Sam Adams, the Portland commissioner in charge of the city’s Office of Transportation, said he has asked the city attorney to review the law to see whether Portland police are properly applying it.

    As it happens, Adams said his chief of staff, Tom Miller, has also been ticketed for not having a brake on his fixie. Adams said Miller relented and put a brake on his front wheel — although he demonstrated for the commissioner that he can stop as quickly as a conventional bike.

    But Adams said he’s still not convinced. “My advice to people is to get handbrakes,” he said. “I think it’s an added margin of safety.”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Specf*****tacular » Links of the Week August 3, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    […] If you’re in Portland, you could get a ticket if you don’t have a brake on your fixie. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Link […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Posted in General on 4 August 2006 at 06:28 GMT I’ve seen too many articles recently whining that a judge in Portland ruled that riders of fixed-gear bicycles need to have a brake. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Dan has also just released a film of local messenger Ayla Holland. Holland is currently in the middle of a media and legal storm for fighting a citatation she got for riding a fixed-gear bicycle without a brake. The video demonstrates her ability to bring her fixed-gear bicycle to a skidding stop on dry, level, pavement (and thus, passing the performance test for braking as stated in Oregon law). […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gabrielm August 4, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    Q:“What would you do if your chain broke?”

    OK, that is real fair. What would you,Mr. Judge do if the brake cable on your car broke??? Try using your feet then.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • paul August 4, 2006 at 9:34 pm

    Man, it is a sad day when people make a rulling when they have no idea what they are even talking about.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • paul August 4, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    I would like to take a second and explain why I ride with no brakes. I once read a interesting quote on Sheldon Browns site when I was learning all about what a fixed gear bike is. This was years ago, probably 5 years ago.

    There was a line that was talking about riding with or without a brake. It simply said

    “if you value your life and you ride with no brakes you will ride twice as slow as you would when riding with a brake”

    I agree with this statement 100% and I think it explains why I ride with no brakes. Riding in the city with people in cars driving, talking on their phones, trying to eat fast food on their way to the office is dangerous. It is a date with disaster. Because of this I am a believer of the fact that as a bike rider I need to ride always on edge and in defense mode. Riding a brakeless fixed gear makes me do just that. As soon as I get on the bike I am reminded that I need to pay 100% attention at all times. If a light is green 100 yards up the road I start slowing down, I do not just dart to try to catch it. If I aproach a intersection I know what is going on from hundreds of feet away.

    If something darts in front of me I probably would not have time to avoid it brake or no brake. So, since I am on my fix I ride slower anyway and am in better shape then hitting it with a brake.

    I have seen so many friends riding while not paying attention and riding carless because they think they are safe and their brakes will stop them when needed. I find them to be in just as much risk as a brakeless fixed gear, maybe more.

    I have been riding my bike brakeless for almost 5 years now and I feel 100% safe. I will continue to do so.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • d. rock August 5, 2006 at 8:24 am

    save yourself some heartache and legal fees. install the brake. they can’t make you use it if you don’t want to.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby August 5, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    Another thing people here do not, and seemingly cannot understand, is:
    You do not have to skid to stop on a fixed gear.
    A skid on a fixed gear is actually one of the funnest, but certainly not the effective way of stoppin.
    There is paying attention a few blocks away to everything that is going on, which facilitates having a half block to slow upon approach to anything.
    There is slolam style riding, which I liken to downhill skateboarding, or carving on skis or a snowboard, which can be used, because, as a cyclist, we are permitted full use of the lane.
    This style of slowing is effective, safe, fun, and leads to more and more cycling and cross training skills, not to mention using muscles you do not generally use cycling.
    There is the Hop Stop, where you lean into the front end, pick up the rear wheel, stop the pedal motion, and lay it back down, either entirely stopping, or slowing your speed.
    There is also a sideways hop stop, which is an effective way to stop, a effective way to pull yourself out of a emergency situation, such being cut off by a auto.
    And there is plain ole riding slow enought to not have to worry about emergency situations….

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Anonymous August 5, 2006 at 12:42 pm

    True,and whilst that doesn’t account for the panic stop, the fact of the matter is there shouldn’t have to be a panic stop if you are being a competent cyclist. Paying attention is key, obviously, as an urban cyclist.
    Allow me to say that again: Paying attention is key!
    We all have oursleves to take responsibility for and arguing about brakes doesn’t let any rider off th ehook for not watching what is happening on the road, so for all the people out there getting disgruntled about fixed gear riders I have this to say: Chill out. Worry about you. Have faith that the messenger in front of you on his or her fixie knows what they are doing, you may want to ride behind them vs. many of the other cyclists you are sharing the road with.
    But!Don’t get too gung-ho about it because the one rule of the road you can count on is to not count on anything.
    Anything can happen so be ready for it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark August 6, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    Basso if you have never been to Portland how do you know what fixed gear setups we run on our bikes? People have been riding fixed here for a LONG TIME ,way before it became a nationwide fad, and there are bike co-ops here with tons of used parts. You don’t need to convert a road hub here cuz cheap fixed hubs are available. Most of the messengers here run 250 dollar Phil Wood fixed hubs cuz that is about all that will hold up to the combination of messenger and Portland rain. If you run a hub without a lockring you will eventually unscrew it either skidding or just resisting (the forward motion of the pedals) . Also just to show your ignorance you can use a bottom bracket lockring as a lockring on a converted road hub.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Basso August 6, 2006 at 7:03 pm

    I only have a general idea of what people ride in Portland because I have been reading interviews with bike messengers describing the type of fixed gear bike they ride out there and their reaction to the ruling. Also get a picture from extrapolating what I have seen people riding in other cities. I also imagined since, according to Dabby, a seventy dollar ticket is a sizeable chunk of a messenger’s weekly income that a $250 hub would be out of budget and most people would just be converting old road bikes straight up or riding department store bikes as I see are often the ride of choice for many big city messengers. I guess my hunch that kids in Portland are wealthier than other cities stands.

    Really though, do you need a $250 hub to deliver ad copy all day? Haven’t you heard of grease? I raced a year in Belgium on Shimano 105’s, and I don’t know exactly how it stacked up to Portland rain, but it was a very wet year even for there. It rained every day. 40 degrees and raining was all you had to say to be a weatherman there. It wasn’t uncommon to have “water crossings” in the Kermesses that was over the bottom bracket. And it wasn’t just the water since you’d be racing and training over cobbles and farm roads there’d be a lot of grunge and not the kind you find coming out of Seattle. I’d usually strip my bike down and regrease everything once a month. Also, the old pipecleaners wrapped around where the cones meet the dustcaps did a good job of keeping the grunge out. I guess I would have loved to have a set of Phil Wood hubs back then, but it was relaxing to spend the evening with my mates ripping down our bikes while watching tv and chatting. Good stuff that was.

    Anyway, I don’t care if you listen to me on the lockring. I don’t rely on my fixed gear as a brake I use it to improve my pedalling. Then again I live in the country and can ride hours and not see a stop light. The basic point is it’s an equipment decision not a religious one. My point is that if you rely on a fixed gear as a brake at some point you are going to be forced to lock up your wheel when you shouldn’t and this can end up in a knee or hip injury or worse getting flippd over the bars and you could end up like that east coast messenger at the polo game whose crushed ribs punctured his lungs and made him loose a lot of blood — something I imagine is not within the standard messenger’s budget either. I have never had a cog spin off on me, but I am strong an crank that fucker on tight. Also I use a front brake. A bottom bracket lockring might be a fit in a pinch on a road hub, but it is not counter threaded so it’s not exactly the same thing and could just as easily spin off so I wouldn’t bank on it.

    I guess the one thing I know about ‘fixies’ in Portland is that it’s definitively against the law to ride one without a front brake, thanks to the ingenious ‘big wheel defence’ and if you get in an accident without a front brake you’re screwed and you could get charged with reckless driving and even assault. You’ll get put with the bill for your hospital stay and the repair of the pedestrian or car you collided with because you’re not going to get any insurance settlement in your favor and you might even end up serving a year in jail. Wow.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dabby August 6, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    Just to let you know the reality of the situation. I ride Phil Wood hubs also. And, they are about 125 dollars, not 250 as stated above, which totals around 260 for the complete wheel. While this may seem alot, the amount of wear and tear, rain, torque, etc. that these hubs can take, as compared to say, a suzie, a mieche, etc, is amazing.
    We here in Portland are basicaly at the lowest end of the pay scale for messengers in the US. And, in europe, messengers are considered professionals, as we should be, thus paid much more.
    So, for reference, I have been saving for a long time for my $260 dollar wheel. It is my new replacement wheel, I need it, it is built, but I am saving to get it, cause I am not paid crap.
    But, it is the wheel I should be running for what I do.
    It is a great deal compared to what I am going to put it through.
    I could run say, your 105 hubs, which I own also, a couple sets, with GREASE.
    That would be fun.
    But, a point you missed is you are comparing raod hubs to track hubs.
    You do not compare the two. Even though you are trying to, you cannot
    A road wheel and hub set will not be enduring the damage that a track hub does.
    The last cheap wheel I bought lasted me 21 days.
    Also, I do not ever reccomend anyone run a road wheel fixed with a bottom bracket lock ring.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] In response to the following comments made by the traffic court judge in the Ayla Holland/fixed-gear trial, “If your client had a stick she could rub against her tire, you’d have a case.” […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gaz August 7, 2006 at 11:22 am

    Geez what is next? Trying to legislate what women can and can’t do to their bodies?!?!? We have found proof in ourselves that we did not draw the ire of the world because they are freedom haters. You can act like there is no connection, but micromanaged citizenship is bullshit. Does the government think they are keeping me safe? Pure idiocy. If the government had any care at all about the well being of its’ people than there would be universal health care and no expansive war policies.

    Have you ever heard the one about driving a car with a metal spike in the steering wheel as opposed to an airbag? How many accidents would there be then? The fact is that when you decide to live on a bike as I and many of my friends have the check is in the mail (thanks Dee). You will get hit by a car. So in the fact that I and other cyclists face their mortality daily, regardless of the type of speed control the rider chooses, makes us far safer than the person whose greatest concern will be finding a colormatched bumper in time for the cotillion.

    This whole hootenany goes to prove that local police are interested in repression, intimidation and revenue generation. Go ahead and test it. Get pulled over and try to enter into a dialogue with the officer(s). It is like trying to use logic on a thirteen year old.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark August 7, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    Phil Woods are 250 a pair.

    And no shit a bottom bracket lockring is right hand thread that is why you can screw it on a road hub.

    I honestly do not know anyone with a fixed gear bike that does not have a proper fixed gear hub with a lockring.

    Oh yeah Basso, the law states you have to be able to skid the braked wheel, so a front brake does not satisfy the law, not nearly as well as skidding a fixed wheel does.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tiah August 8, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    a. for the record i was post 243-i didn’t mean to send it anonymous-i just posted it before i remembered to fill in my name.

    b. Bill Basso, I have found most of your statements to be quite ludicrous. Why are you getting so involved in this discussion when you have never even been to Portland, and who do you think you are to lambast the messengers of the city that you have no experience with?
    I especially find your comments about Ms.Holland’s wardrobe choices to be immature and closeminded. What do you expect a messenger to wear? They have to ride all over the city, get sweaty and covered in car exhaust, should she have been wearing Prada? Oh, so she had to go to court, for a ridiculous matter, and you expect her to change her entire appearance because of that? Last time I checked your rights didn’t depend on how you were dressed. Furthermore I seem to recall something about this country striving to break down barriers, accepting all sorts of people, etc. etc. I’ve only met Ms.Holland on one occasion but she was very nice, which is more than I can say for you. Your comments to Dabby are also ridiculous. Why do you think you can just smugly insult people? Even if Dabby was 24 using that as some sort of way to belittle him, and build your self percieved bike expertise up would be yet another immature approach. Your condescendence of age and looks about the fine denizens of my city are not needed.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Basso August 8, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    Tiah, I am sure Ms. Holland is very nice, but she is also very naive to go to court completely unprepared.

    I am not expecting her to wear prada and I did not even come close to suggesting that so please don’t take such a condescending tone and start putting such exaggerated words into my mouth.

    What I suggested was that she dress professionally: wear a clean cycling jersey and carry a helmet or at least wear a shirt over the purple undershirt. The courtroom is a serious place and if you want the judge to respect you, it is best to respect him and appear serious and professional.

    No your rights don’t depend on how you dress, supposedly, but showing respect and presenting yourself as a professional will go a long way to promote your case. Google ‘how to dress for court’ and tell me if you find any site that suggest wearing dangly earings and a purple sleeveless t-shirt. Part of being a good defense lawyer is coaching your clients to the etiquitte of the court. Ginsberg didn’t do this.

    Dressing respectfully is just the start of how Holland and Ginsberg should have prepared her case. They should have been familiar with the law. As I pointed out elsewhere on this site, there are federal guidelines as to what defines braking safety for bicycles. Those are the guidelines the laws in portland refer to for definition. By those guidelines, I don’t think a track bike qualifies as having brakes. But if she wanted to win, she should have demonstrated that her fixed gear bike was capable of complying. There are definitely enough loopholes in the law that she and her lawyer could have used them to their advantage. They didn’t even try.

    Even the video of her stopping within the same distance as a coaster brake bike does not illustrate that her bike complies with the law. The federal guidlines clearly state the stopping distance, rider weight and velocity to meet the standards of safety. If they had walked into court with a video demonstrating how a fixed gear bicycle meets these guidelines they would have won. They would have been better off with the coaster bike video than the big wheel defense. How much exactly did Ginsberg prepare?

    Regardless, if she was going to be prepared for court, she would have been better off to have made her video before the court ruled against her. Making it after the trial is like cramming after you failed your final exam. It’s not going to change your grade.

    Her ability to defend herself against the charges was awful. She came off as disrespectful, incoherent and unprepared. Something like this could eventually effect national law so it effects me.

    The law is a standard for everyone, not just the elite. Previously you posted that professional cyclists should be allowed to ride with out a brake implying it was unfair to burden Holland with the law. How should this be regulated? Would professional riders be required to be licensed by the state? And how about the professional courriers who have weighed in here and in media interviews that they don’t feel comfortable riding without a brake? Should they be ineligible to receive a license? It seems like a lot of administrative overhead and a way to add a lot of red tape to riding a bicycle.

    I prefer to take a more existential view of the issue. Sure it’s okay for me, or Daby, or Ms. Holland to ride a fixed gear without brakes under most situations… but if everyone started doing this it would not be safe because most people are not qualified to do this. From what I have read about this case in Portland, the critical mass of hipster dufusses riding ‘fixies’ without brakes has emerged.

    This is one of those cases where it would have been better to beg forgiveness than insist on permission: this sort of demand is going to make the requirements more stringent as a result rather than less.

    So I may not be a part of the Portland community, but I am a part of the cycling community and when a case such as this is gaining national and international attention it affects me. I don’t like being represented in this manner.

    As far as smugly insulting people, that just seems to be the tone of this site. It’s a very emotional issue. If a guy like Daby’s going to get condescending to me, call me stupid and try to push me around — yeah I am going to push back. That’s what discussion is about.

    I have a good deal of fixed gear experience. I have held a category 1 license on the track and competed internationally, have written extensively about track riding and the benefits of fixed gear use on the road for several publications and I have taught track racing programs. I also organize saftey events for kids that teach good riding skills, gets them a free helmet and give their bikes a free mechanical checkover and repair. I work hard to promote safe cycling and put cycling in the best of light.

    Still, I try to qualify what I say with either examples or quoting other authorities. If he doesn’t want to listen and just argue back by calling me stupid that’s his business. I’d be more convinced if he were to relate to experiences where he has seen someone loose a lockring and get hurt. He hasn’t. I have seen bike messenger get hurt and hurt others riding without brakes. That this happens is undeniable. There are multiple reports of it in newspapers and I am sure you have heard of unreported incidents as well.

    But I do try to listen to what he and others have to say and in many ways have changed my mind and have expressed this throughout the discourse on this site: yes it is possible to ride a track bike without brakes in traffic. No, I don’t think it’s the wisest thing to do and I can understand why Ms. Holland was ticketed.

    The thing that annoys me the most about this is that she might have won if she had taken the court case seriously. She didn’t. She was unprepared and she lost. She came off portraying cyclists as immature big wheel riders who should probably be confined to the sidewalk. It was perpetuating a stereotype in the national media that cyclists have been working so hard to overcome. This cast a bad light on all cyclists and this is why it is in my interest to comment.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Last week—in the middle of the fixed-gear fiasco—I got an email from an employee of The Bicycle Business, a bike shop in Sacramento, California. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] I meant to post alink to this story which i think I first saw on, but when I went to look for it again I couldn’t find it, so maybe I read it somewhere esle. Basically a cyclist in the US has been prosecuted for riding a fixed gear track bike on the streets without a rear brake. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tiah August 9, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    I realize you are a cyclist and that is why you are keeping up with the unfolding scenario. I wasn’t questioning that. I just feel that your comments have strayed from the path when you start commenting about people’s attire and/or age in an attempt to discredit their cycling capabilities and knowledge.
    Personally I would also say that when one goes to court it is in their best interest to dress up for it, likewise when going to a job interview or church or a funeral or any sort of formal affair. However I would never assume that it is my place in the world to assert my opinion of the matter on other people, especially strangers, especially strangers that I will most likely never meet. My point in calling you out on doing so was that I felt it was overly judgemental about Ayla’s case. I certainly do not need to google “how to dress for court” to be aware that if I were to go to court I would dress in a professional manner. However my sarcasm in reference to Prada was that Ayla was dressing for her profession and having seen her riding around town I know that this is her typical garb and I think it is silly to make such a fuss over it.
    As per any thing regarding the case i.e Ginsberg’s preparations and such clearly know one other than Ginsberg himself would be able to answer this question for you.It is not my place to respond. I will say that what little I know about Ginsberg implies that he is a passionate advocate for cyclists, so there is that to consider.
    I did earlier suggest that is fine for experienced cyclists who can control their bikes to ride sans brake. I stand by that. If that means you, Dabby, Ayla, other couriers around the world, velodrome racers who choose to ride fixed on the street, some random guy or gal who I’ll never even meet: that seems reasonable to me. I don’t think we actually need some specialized license for it, nor did I imply that I think all couriers should have to ride fixed (I don’t know how that entered into it). I believe the operator of their vehicle needs to know how to ride it safely, be it a fixed gear bicycle,a moped,a motorcycle, an automatic car, a stick shift, a truck, a train, a plane…and if they don’t then clearly they should not ride said vehicle in traffic.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gaz August 11, 2006 at 10:07 am

    Neat, your a cyclist(Bill). Neat you got into an internet pissing match(Bill and Tiah).

    How many times have you heard of bikes with brakes that failed? I have friends that have had brakes fall into the spokes causing the accident.

    Just a few short weeks ago a cop ran a stop sign and killed a person in a car who was obeying the law.

    I have broken chains on my track bike and turned it into a high speed rolling machine. I have heard of the seat binder bolt breaking causing accidents.

    The list goes on and on….

    No one in the US government cares about road safety. I have taken the Oregon drivers’ license test and a monkey could pass it. I have had people joke to me about how many times they failed the test BEFORE getting their license. The only thing in the world that can AID you in your safety is your own head. Survival of the fittest. Even then some will die due to no fault of their own. The amount of people on this planet is just as responsible for the amount of accidents as any type of mechanical anything on any type of anything.

    If anyone actually cared then their would be rigorous training involved in any type of vehicle operation. There would be people deemed unfit to operate any of type of vehicle. There would be a safe and comprehensive mass transit system and universal healthcare. Regardless of the “red tape” and “overhead”. Go to Holland. They are light years ahead of us in terms of safety and still only maybe a third of the way to creating a stable and safe transit environment for all types of vehicles.

    The current business environment in America has to much of a stake in insurance and healthcare. You will not see safety become a true concern involving fundamental shifts in our society until insurance companies are eliminated and healthcare is free.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Arrr August 11, 2006 at 10:09 am

    A couple of things to highlight here:
    The issue should be ability to stop safely, not presence or lack of caliper brakes. As a portland bike mechanic, I saw hundreds of bikes with caliper brakes that were either not attached or so poorly adjusted\maintained that they couldn’t brake if they tried. And I’ve also seen hundreds of silly kids on their “my first fixie” who can’t even stop for a stop sign with actual cross traffic. So maybe instead of stopping able fixie riders who don’t have brakes, the cops should be stopping cyclists who can’t brake, no matter the implied mechanical system.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark August 11, 2006 at 10:17 am

    The main reason Messengers ride fixed without cable brakes is because if they squeeze a brake cable and it snaps they are in some seriously deep shit. They know they can depend on their legs to stop them. Cables slip or break a lot more often than chains.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Adam Bee August 11, 2006 at 10:27 am

    That’s obviously false.

    What about a fixed gear with brakes? Then you’d be covered if either broke, which would suggest that if you were right that messengers really care about braking then they’d combine a fixed gear and brakes.

    Is it so wrong to admit that fixed gears just look prettier without all the cables all over the place? Is it so wrong to have a bit of art in everyday life? Safety isn’t the end aim of society, and life is arguably slightly less worth living in a world without cable-free bikes.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ryan August 11, 2006 at 11:45 am

    Just take the hit. 73 bucks? The problem now is that they’re going to rewrite that law that clearly says, “must have a caliper or lever or a metal trigger thingy that when activated clamps brake pads to the rim of the wheel bringing it to stop from 20mph hour in under 5 seconds.” Good luck getting by that law for the rest of us fixies. Don’t talk to people that aren’t going to listen. You’re wasting your breath, energy, and attention. Shut UP! Stop whining. Ride your bike and don’t get caught. (How many fixies run red lights?) -cheers.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • metropolio » Blog Archive » hipster death August 12, 2006 at 10:03 am

    […] Fixed-gear bikes illegal in Portland […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Republican Oregon State Senator Jason Atkinson read about Ayla Holland’s court case on and was furious. Atkinson—who was elected to the Oregon State Senate at the ripe age of 30—is an avid cyclist and traveled through Oregon on a fixed-gear bike during his campaign for Governor in ‘05. Atkinson splits his time between Portland and his district in southern Oregon. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Mark Ginsberg, lawyer in the Ayla Holland case, has just sent me the official transcript (PDF, 2.1MB) from her traffic court trial. It’s an interesting read. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Local bike culture personality Reverend Phil may be down but he’s not out. Phil and friends will host a repeat performance of his Kickass Bike Movie night tonight at Free Geek (1731 SE 10th). The free show starts at 7:00pm and promises a few surprises. Among them is a premiere video on the recent Stick Stop Competition held by fixed gear bicycle riders in response to the infamous comments made by the judge in the Ayla Holland case. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Speaking of which, a judge in Multnomah County, Oregon (i.e. Portland), found a (brakeless) fixie messenger guilty of violating an Oregon statute requiring bikes to have “a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.” According to, the judge said, “The brake must be a device separate from the musclulature of the rider. Take me for instance. I don’t have leg muscles as strong as a messenger…how would I stop safely?”  […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Since the Ayla Holland case, Ginsberg has collected seven more cases of bicyclists being ticketed for not having a braking device on their fixed-gear bicycles. According to the Mercury, Ginsberg believes the fixed gear issue deserves a real hearing, not just a hurried run through traffic court. He says Koch’s refusal to hear these fixed-gear cases by a real judge raises “constitutional issues.” Here’s what Ginsberg told the Mercury, “It appears to me that many of the tickets given to cyclists lately are over-reaching the law, and as much as possible we will fight those as hard as we can.” […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Portland lawyer Mark Ginsberg has filed an appeal in the Ayla Holland fixed-gear case. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jef August 26, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    Give me a brake!

    To brake or not to brake?

    What if the break is broke?

    What if the break breaks on Brokeback Mountain?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Drew August 28, 2006 at 6:02 am

    the parts that get me are the “coaster brake hub” and the “What would you do if your chain broke?”
    what would you do if your bike was equiped with a “legal” coaster brake hub and your chain broke? SAME THING YOU’D DO ON A FIXED GEAR BIKE~!
    much like regular maintainance required on a car, maintaining your bikes drive train, Chain line, and axle nuts should keep you safe from this incident

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Boyd, a 40 year-old architect and resident of Northeast Portland, was given the ticket by Officer Barnum of the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division. Barnum is the same officer who ticketed Ayla Holland, a local messenger who lost her case for the same vioation on July 27th (that case is under appeal with the State of Oregon). The judge in Boyd’s case was Christopher Larsen, who, unlike the Judge in Holland’s case, is an avid cyclist. Boyd credits his victory not just to the fact that Larsen is a cyclist, but that in his defense he stuck to one simple fact: the dictionary definition of a brake. I spoke to Boyd this morning and he told me about his trial: “My entire argument in my defense was a copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary definiton for the word “Brake”, Which says “designed or used to slow or stop motion”. Barnum’s argument for the State consisted soley of the dangers involved, which I agreed with. In his rebuttal, he asked me how would I stop if I had a leg spasm, to which my answer was, “I would be unable to stop and would crash”. Barnum’s rebuttal included the phrases, “separate device” and “alternate means” in describing what he considered a brake, and my final rebuttal, quoted these phrases and said these terms were not provided for in the statute. Slam Dunk. I’m very sorry to all for taking the law-breaker edge away from the the other pleasures of riding fixies without redundant brakes.” […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Officer Brett Barnum of the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division has been at the center of the fixed gear enforcement issue. He was the officer who convinced a traffic court judge to uphold his citation of Ayla Holland back on July 28th (the case is being appealed). […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • gotshoo? » Fixed at the gear. September 12, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    […] You thought Springfield had it bad with a smoking ban? Well, there is a big fiasco over fixed gear bikes without ‘hand brakes’. Ayla Holland, a bike messenger, was ticketed by a particular officer whom has deemed himself the ticketer of brakeless bikes with a loosely interrupted Oregon law. A few other cyclists have been ticketed by the same officer. Kind of interesting -read it for youself because I am going to bed. Jessie, how is your fixed gear bike coming along? How about some pictures? […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • searsclone September 27, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    I haven’t read all of the replies, so I hope I am not repeating something that someone else has already written, but…

    I ride fixed w/o a brake. When I first started, I rode with a front brake. I could not, nor would I want to, skid my front wheel. Also, the argument about a coaster brake being OK is blown away when the court asks about a broken chain. A coaster brake doesn’t work without a chain either.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chris the Biking Penguin October 8, 2006 at 8:31 am

    I don’t ride a fixie, I have tried one and will eventually add one to my stable, and when I do it will have a hand-brake. That being said, I could perform an emergecy stop without braking of any kind, and have done so in the past. As a kid I rode a brakeless coaster bike for over a year, stopping power provided by my shoe and rear tire. It was very effective (it just wore a nice groove into my shoe). I can, and have on more than one occasion, jumped off my bike while travelling 20mph and skidded on my feet to a stop, without wiping out. Like anything, it just takes practice.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Mark Ginsberg is a Portland-based lawyer who specializes in bicycle-related cases. He’s also the guy who represented messenger Ayla Holland in the infamous fixed gear brake trial. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jaime October 13, 2006 at 8:08 am

    I guess the judge doesn’t realize that any braking device on a bicycle is dependent on the riders musclulature. In an emergency situation I would rather depend on my legs and hips (the largest muscles in my body) than my forearms. I smell a little bias here…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • brock October 13, 2006 at 9:29 am

    “In an emergency situation I would rather depend on my legs and hips (the largest muscles in my body) than my forearms.” – I think you’re missing the mechanical advantage of squeezing a hand brake… Anyone can squeeze a hand brake, not everyone is going to be able to stop a brakeless fixie.*

    * Don’t take this as an argument that I think a fixed hub qualifies as a brake, I do think it does. But let’s be realistic, eh?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • brock October 13, 2006 at 9:30 am

    Sorry, I was not clear, meant to say – I do think that a fixed hub qualifies as a brake, as in I disagree with the ticketing.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gabriel October 13, 2006 at 10:02 am

    “Anyone can squeeze a hand brake, not everyone is going to be able to stop a brakeless fixie”

    I disagree with this logic. Not *everyone* can squeeze a handbrake with sufficient force to skid. However, we should not ticket those who choose handbrakes just because a percentage of the population will not be able to use them.

    The same should be true for fixies. I may not be able to skid with one, but does that mean that it should be made illegal for those who can? The judge may not have the leg musculature to hold up a two wheeled motorcycle, but does that mean that all motorcycles should be required to have three wheels?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • brock October 13, 2006 at 10:26 am

    Oh whatever, there’s a mechanical advantage at work with a hand brake. It takes far less force from the operator to brake with a hand brake than with a fixed hub. That’s all I’m pointing out.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark October 13, 2006 at 10:36 am

    Any braking device on a bike is actually dependent on whether or not the bike is well-built and maintained.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gabriel October 13, 2006 at 10:39 am

    Sorry, but all I am pointint out is that a statute was already in place. It defined that the brake would be qualified in corespondace with the operators ability:

    “with a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement”

    The judge disregaurded this using that same logic that you are using: “I don’t have leg muscles as strong as a messenger” Hense – since I can not do this, no one should be allowed to.

    Just my 2cents…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mike October 15, 2006 at 9:44 am

    Wake up people. This isn’t about legality. It’s about money. The judge thumbed his nose at the letter of the law.

    As Drunk driving offenses drop, that money well is drying up. Time to find new revenue. Such as the move to implement “sleepy” driving laws that equate with the drunk laws. Brakes on bicycles etc.

    I’m wondering how many of you that claim a fixie actually ride. If you’ve ever ridden in the rain, or sand on the road , or gravel, or dirt, and you’ve got to know that’s all out there. You’d know that a bicycle with only a front brake is headed to the ground and scuffed body parts for it’s rider. At least with a rear brake locked there is some amount of control left.

    Now aren’t you all going to enjoy when your children start coming in with tickets for YOU to pay because of the can of worms this opens? Just more govmt. intrusion into our lives…. and don’t we all need that. We must be protected from ourselves! HA! I don’t think so.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark October 15, 2006 at 5:46 pm

    I wonder if you’ve ever ridden fixed, Mike, because you don’t seem to know that with fixed you can ALWAYS tell whether you have traction or not, and you can use your legs to regulate your speed without running the risk of locking up a brake. And of course, a fixed hub functions as a brake, so anybody riding fixed does not have “only a front brake”.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Cate October 15, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    Sorry to take this a bit off-topic, but what’s a “fixed-brake” bike?

    From today’s Oregonian:

    “It’s Portland, where bicycling is a tribal experience, fixed-brake bikes help define local cool and sticking to two wheels is often a political stand, er, ride against the car-centric life.”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Cecil October 15, 2006 at 9:47 pm

    Cate said “sorry to take this a bit off-topic, but what’s a “fixed-brake” bike?”

    You mean other than yet another example of The Oregonian’s status as a second-rate newspaper with second-rate reportage? 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Sureavolution October 22, 2006 at 8:53 am

    Obviously the Officer never heard of “jake” brakes. But this is no surprise with an Officer being ignorant as it has been a major factor why I have only lost once in traffic court in the last 18 years.
    For those of you not familiar with these brakes they are used on semi-trucks to slow down “brake” without using the more traditional caliper, pad brakes.
    In effect it uses the engine to slow down the vehicle. For the fixie bikes the rider is the “engine”.
    Beyond the laws and definitions in regards to “jake” brakes there are a number of other braking systems which are recognized by law.
    These include the parachutes used on dragsters and the magnetic systems on mag-lev trains.
    Or for that matter the magnetic drag system used on some fishing reels.
    And yes there are Oregon state laws covering these non-traditional brake systems

    Admitedly it is a matter of definitions, however; muscles are by definition an “engine” and there are physics definitions going back literaly centuries involving muscles being used to power and brake modes of transportation.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • chromatonic October 24, 2006 at 9:35 pm

    I think this is an outrageous abuse of gov’t power. These messengers are better bike riders than over 10% of the auto drivers on the road. They have a very important job to do, and their extra speed and lack of visibility should give them the right-of-way in any situation. Everybody knows that car drivers take an aggressive approach toward cyclists – they ought to be the ones getting tickets, not the cyclists. If a highly skilled messenger wants to ride a track bike on the street in downtown traffic, we should support them 100%. The way these messengers ride – in and out of lanes, through stops, on sidewalks through pedestrian traffic – obviously shows them to be the skillful professionals they really are. When someone works so hard to develop their cycling skills to that level, traffic laws shouldn’t even apply to them. When is the law going to learn it can’t apply to all of us?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Chris Stevens October 25, 2006 at 11:07 pm

    The “cars-are-traffic” legal system still doesn’t understand how to deal with bikes in general, much less fixed-gear bikes.

    Many bikes with standard brakes I’ve ridden couldn’t lock up the rear wheel no matter what you do … yet they’re legal in all states. The judge’s logic is spurious … what if your brake cable breaks? What if it’s raining and your brake pads can’t stop your wheel?

    Getting tickets from mean cops is a hazard of being a messenger. Most messengers I know who go to court have a 50/50 chance of getting the ticket dismissed outright, or paying a reduced fine. $73 isn’t bad compared to $250 in California for running a red light, which most of us do many times a day.

    I understand the precedent of wanting to get fixed-gear defined as a braking mechanism, but even if it’s on the books, cops will still write you a ticket because they don’t like the way you look.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SKiDmark October 26, 2006 at 12:04 am

    Except that an a “jake brake” is NOT intended to stop a vehicle, only to slow it down. All it is, is an ignition cutout. A fixed hub has the ability to stop a bike completely, and at its inception it was intended as a brake. Please stop making comparisons between 20 lb. bikes and 20,000 lb. trucks.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] You might recall that there seems to be some confusion in the courts as to what constitutes a “braking device” on a fixed-gear bicycle. Meanwhile, some cops continue to write tickets for this violation. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] correspondent Elly Blue was there this morning and said that unfortunately the judge of the day is Gregg Lowe, the same guy who upheld the fixed-gear ticket against Ayla Holland and has proven by his demeanor and judgments to have a less-than clear understanding of bicycles. Matt Davis from the Portland Mercury was in attendance and just wrote on their blog, “Ginsberg was visibly disappointed when Judge Lowe emerged from the doorway behind the bench” […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • The Cycling Dude January 2, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    Blogosphere Covers Cycling 6: A Quick Look Around…

    On January 5th, 2003, a Blog was born with a BANG. It was created by a then little known Mainstream Blogger who had been sharing his opinions for less than a year, and who was a lifelong cyclist. He only…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Val January 7, 2007 at 8:32 am

    Here’s another ruling to confuse things even more: At least fixies aren’t the only ones getting picked on.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brady January 7, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    these comments are so funny. its people who know what they are talking about versus people who don’t. or advanced riders versus inexperienced. I like to ride lots of different kinds of bikes. But I prefer to ride a brakeless fixed gear in the city. Because it gives me the greatest sense of control. and without the handbrakes it *can* make it easier to carry things. I wish the police would just mess with the trendy coffee shop hipsters that are probably the root of the problem if any. i’ve been riding brakeless, fixed for about 3 years, 8 hours a day; and i still have all my teeth.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Check out this Portland, Oregon case. It appears fixed gears are illegal there for the time being…or will be after this ruling. If you have one, make sure it stops. But even if it does, you might end up in court vs. a power hungry cop like this girl. […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • dan March 22, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    i’ve been riding fixed and single-speed since the ’80’s as a messenger, on the track, for road training, for ‘cross, and to get around town, so my friends are always asking me why people like brady choose to ride without a brake. i explain to them that it’s just like these hayseed kids who drive trucks with enormous wheels; i.e., it’s for style. nothing else. it’s not better in any way, it’s just fashionable. oh, by the way: i’ve won several organized skidding competitions, so i know how it’s done, and i know it’s limitations.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] The instituting and enforcing of laws against bike riders for victimless “offenses” has always seemed rather drastic and of course unnecessary, who but ourselves are we offending or putting at risk? Bells, brakes, and helmets, oh my! […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mofo May 20, 2007 at 9:26 am

    how i see it is every case is different, she would have proven that she could stop without a break lever but they didn’t want to see it!! well, window washing, construction and war are not safe but do they ticket people for these things..

    i think this just shows how much fear is implanted in people toward anything different.. if you can’t handle one don’t ride it.. go get a beach cruiser!!!!!!!!!!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • nick May 29, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Does anyone know how this turned out? This type of statute may exist in many other states – we have it in Maryland. Maybe the messengers should stop delivering for a day to see how many court deadlines get blown.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jonathan Maus / BikePortland May 30, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Nick,

    This ended up becoming a bill in the Oregon legislature to clarify the statute so that fixed gears are legal, as long as they can meet the performance requirement of the law.

    The law has passed the Senate and is close to being up for a vote in the House. Should now in the next few days what the outcome is.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • alaninaustin June 15, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    Some people, including me, enjoy a certain threshold of risk-taking. Riding without brakes is thrilling; you have to be highly attuned to what\’s going on at all times. That said, I\’ve crashed, I\’ve survived. I turn 50 in two months after a lifetime of fun on less than four wheels. Enjoy your life instead of worrying about what might happen.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Richard June 18, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    Just a couple of thoughts on the fixed gear issue- first, the judge does not have much imagination, crazy to give a guilty plea, w/o even seeing the possibility of braking. On the other hand, I have ridden a fixed off and on for ~30 years, and there\’s no way I would use one on the street w/o a brake. I ride it hard sometimes, even descents, and I can\’t imagine not having braking. No brakes is cool, staying alive is cooler….

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] a link to and the interesting legal battle between a messenger and a cop about whether a fixie actually counts as having a brake or not It’s a good read if you haven’t checked it out. Well, unfortunately, the judge […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • sx August 12, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    I own a track bike that I ride brakeless because the frame doesn\’t have the holes or clearance to install brakes (even if I wanted to drill a hole in the fork). Getting a new drilled fork is also problematic because it\’d be longer than my current fork so the bike would be \”front-tall\” about an inch. I love my bike, and after weighing the options I decided to ride it brakeless. With proper maintenance and careful riding, I wouldn\’t say I am less safe than on a bike with a brake. I see people riding freewheels with a front brake and the thought terrifies me. A brake cable is much more likely to snap or come unscrewed than a properly maintained track chain is to snap. I agree that you can always make a bike safer by adding things to it but that\’s a slippery slope of arguing over definitions.

    I understand when people are shocked to see a bike without visible brakes. This is largely accumulated bias; people associate \”stopping\” with \”break\” and \”break\” with \”lever and calipers\”. This judge and cop obviously suffer from an acute case of bias.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • mike September 2, 2007 at 1:38 am

    hey u guys need to stop using the term brakeless fixies if u are to make an arguement that the fixies brakes is the gear fixies are not brakeless they do require mor pressure more time and more understanding to operate poperly huh seems like the same arguement can be had for power brakes vs manual brakes just means more strength needed well if u dont have the strength dont play the game

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Kaare Iverson September 25, 2007 at 9:44 am

    I recently got into riding fxd (last month or so) and as much as I feel confident on the road with it, it still requires forward thinking to stop the bike effectively. The city I live in is notorious for its horribly inattentive drivers and their habits of suddenly rolling past stop lines on blind intersections. Pedestrians here seem to share the same habit of stepping out onto intersections or sprinting across roads without looking.

    I can effectively stop my bike in the same distance as a traditionally brake equipped bicycle given some forethought. However, if I have to suddenly make a controlled stop in an unexpected emergency situation…I\’m screwed. Not only can I not make a controlled braking aversion of said situation, but locking into a skid (which is still reasonably \”steerable\”) may not be possible until my legs reach a certain position in the rotation where i can get my weight off the seat. That lag between reaction speed and actual action is the difference between a face full of side panel and a nice arcing line of molten rubber.

    Basically…I\’m completely in support of, at least, a front brake on fxd bikes (which, admittedly, I don\’t have right now *wince). The challenge of controlling the bike through strictly leg power is still there, it\’s just nice to know that you have less chance of getting pwned by some asshole in an H2.

    All this aside from it\’s accommodation of steep downhill riding / drive chain failure / etc…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Kaare Iverson October 3, 2007 at 8:44 am

    …just realised that I said \”drive chain\” when I meant \”drive train\”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mitchell October 10, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    What seems to matter in this case is that the judge has a personal pre-existing idea of the defintion of a brake. There is no room in the legal system for subjectivism. If lawmakers want vehicles to have a specific device to be used for braking then there needs to be a definitve objective description of such a device. If not then the standard defintion (such as the one quoted by the lawyer from webster\’s dictionary) should be sufficient to define brake. In this case since the rider is effectively able to stop the forward motion of the bike (and even skid the tire which constitutes a valid brake according to state law) then the defendant should be innocent. This is a bigger issue than just bikes or brakes or whatever, what it comes down to is that subjectivism on the part of the judge was used to mandate a person to do something. This is not how our legal system should work and if it were to fuction in this manner imagine the implications that it could have…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • nick October 10, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    It does not matter what a judge says in a court room, or what some cop says on the street. The heart and soul of fixed gear bicycling is the lack of a conventional break. No matter what the law is, fixed gear enthusiasts will continue to ride with out a brake. It is also against the law to skateboard, and I know a lot of skateboarders that make a great deal more money breaking the law daily then any cop trying to stop them. My point is not having a break on your fixie and skating are both activities that don’t harm anyone and shouldn’t be against the law. But even if they are it wont make a difference, people will still do it. Post Script: I was a bike messenger in New York City for years. I never have used a break on my fixed gear. Grow up and take off the break.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Peter October 18, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    I ride a fixed gear without brakes, but I\’d be a fool to ride it the same way I do my road bike. The truth is, you have to ride according to yours and your bike\’s capabilities. On my fixed gear, I ride much more smoothly, with less stop and go. I have a completely different mindset. Without sounding too critical, people who try to ride a brakeless fixed gear without a lot of experience and practice, are like those inexperienced teenagers who try to race around in their souped up imports without any clue about how to drive fast. They don\’t live too long.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Schuyler October 27, 2007 at 12:30 am

    I agree with Peter. I ride a fixed gear with no breaks in West Philly, and I have had to learn to pay a lot more attention to my surroundings. Riding without brakes forces the rider to become more aware. Now that is not saying that it makes it safer. As for the actual law, I think it is pretty clear that they meant you must have an actual braking mechanism, not just your legs. But, making it illegal not to have brakes will only add to the popularity of riding with no brakes. So i guess to each his own.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • bicker November 6, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Everyone seems to have missed the stupidest part of this ruling. Let me quote it.

    “The brake must be a device separate from the musclulature of the rider. Take me for instance. I don’t have leg muscles as strong as a messenger…how would I stop safely?”

    A hand brake doesn\’t work if you don\’t have hand muscles. CARS don\’t stop if you don\’t use your muscles to press a brake and stop them. Many cars do not have power brakes even.

    By this idiot\’s definition, NO vehicle is safe.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Gabriel Nogueira November 29, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Cool or not cool, I ride a track bike on the road for the simple fact that I can\’t afford having two bikes.
    I do both my training sessions on the drome and everyday commute on a track bike. Installing a front brake and taking it out every-other-day is not a very reasonable option.
    That said, I\’ve noticed that most of the people is not considering the \”heightened awareness\” ridding brakeless provide on a track bike on the road.
    I know I\’m being naïve, but I\’m sure there are no one out there stupid enough to ride a track bike at the same speed (they would\’ve on the drome) on the road…
    And just to remember you chaps; while we\’re here discussing this subject someone just got killed by a damn car out there…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • GEEZER-guy December 6, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    I rode my 1941 Schwinn Superior track bike which has WOODEN rims (so installing a caliper brake was impractical)for years on the streets of Chicago. I wore a leather work glove on my right hand; combined with a compatibly low gear, was quite adequate. NEVER had an accident (which is more than I can say for my road bikes or my tandem (with 3 brakes). \”It\’s a poor workman who blames his tools\”.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Fixed Gear Bikes Review February 1, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    That is a hilarious article. San Francisco has a pretty chill vibe though, not much hassling by the cops.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Airic March 6, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I think a place like Portland who generally has a very open mind to things like biking, trends in biking and other sports would be much more open minded to this. I live in Chicago and ride a track bike in an urban city; without a brake for at least 14 years and have never had a issue stopping but we also don’t have hills just long cold winters with ice and such and stopping has never been an issue either. I personally think if you are going to use a brake; just ride a single speed, having a brake on a fix gear seems defeating or shows in reality you probably should be riding a fix gear to begin with and probably should be riding a single speed instead – which are just as cool but a lot safer if you’re bike handling skills are not all that and you don’t think you can lock up the rear wheel successfully.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • JOEJACK April 6, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Hypothetically, the judge is right. But this is the real world. The judge referred to \”brakes\” and the act of braking, not how efficient one\’s brakes are. Fixed gears can stop with a certain act. that is braking. i think portland\’s cops need to go through the suburbs and ticket some 5 year olds riding their first bikes…lots of them require the back pedal to break if this is the future coming.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ryan April 17, 2008 at 10:57 am

    i believe that if my fixed gear had brake it wouldnt be a real fixed gear.
    i also think if your not strong enough to stop yourself then you shouldnt be riding a fixed gear in the first place.
    its just the state trying to get more money

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dr. Leslie Brown May 14, 2008 at 2:52 pm


    I thought the question \”what if the chain breaks?\” was clever, but then I realised I could equally ask the question \”what if your brakes break?\”.

    The trouble is that the judge and the cop are obviously not cyclists. I don\’t take sides, but I\’m certain that in some hilly places (like here in Tenerife), a fixed gear brake just won\’t cut it. I\’m not sure… is Portland flat?

    Every cyclist knows that you get way more braking power with the front brake than ANY rear brake… but I still think the cop had too much time on his hands… Go out and catch the real criminals!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • ken May 27, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    I\’ve only been through Portland a couple times, but they do have a reputation for one of the flattest, fastest marathons around, so I suspect their city is fairly flat, too.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • The Jeff June 4, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    if you are stupid, and can\’t skid, don\’t ride brakeless, it\’s that simple. but if you can show the cop that you can stop just as fine without a brake as with a brake, then you should not be issued a ticket.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Dan July 2, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    It should be noted that to skid stop you\’re shifting weight onto the front wheel, then aligning the cranks at the right angle. It\’s a three step process of applying friction between the back tire and ground surface. I ride with a front brake that I probably use once during the course of a day, but I know that if I was ever to need an emergent stop my first reaction would be to grab it rather than relying on skidding a metre and throwing my tail end out to the side.

    The case in point was a bad ruling because the judge was not considering the competency of the party in question but rather the definition, validity and application of the statute. If I were in his shoes however, I would have done the same. I believe there is a need for a brake. Use a brake. Don\’t be stubborn.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Portland area have been ticketed for riding without a brake lever and rolling through stop signs (…t-with-fixies/ ,…-to-complaint/) — just like those tagged auto […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Brian July 30, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    I ride a fixed in NYC, love it, and I have a front brake. In the past year, I have been hit twice by (you guessed it) fixed gear riders without brakes. But I say appeal appeal appeal because, the cops don\’t care about this law to protect people, they only want to be able to intimidate cyclists.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • messenger of doom August 8, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    In the UK, the law states that bicycles must have two independent braking mechanisms – one on each wheel. So over here, any bike with no front brake is illegal. Still, lots of London messengers ride with no front brake, and BMX riders ride on the road to the skatepark/trails with just a rear brake… mind you, BMX riders don\’t really go very fast on the road.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • apocalypse dude October 22, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    i hate fixed gears, let me get that out of the way.

    ok, so. here is a real smart one. put a caliper and lever on your bike, then have little to no tension in the cable. there, problem solved. you can still ride “brakeless” since they wont even work, and you wont get tickets because you tecnically have a brake.. and if you were asked to demonstrate you could skid stop and fake em out.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • paul February 3, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    I’m with the defense, according to the law, the fixed gear satisfies the brake requirement fully.

    Personally id never run a brake on a fixie, nor do i run one on my bmx… Its personal preference, and that cop is a tool.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • scumblz February 11, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    I ride a fixie with a front brake. I break the law mostly every time I ride. I run stop signs/lights. I don’t signal, I pass on the right, I swerve in and out of traffic and go very fast in a busy setting.

    I sometimes make some pedestrians feel uncomfortable and I rarely make some drivers stop abruptly, honk their horn or yell out the window…but it happens.

    I don’t want to piss people off. It happens, though, because of my craving for a rush/stress relief/work out.

    There is a lifestyle/trend/hobby here with fixed gears and it attracts people like me (yes, and some of you) who draw attention by behaving in a ‘bad’ manner.

    My point? The law has a problem with fixed gears because of the mentality of a number of the riders so they’re attacking what they can. Just the same as when I used to shred hand rails and ledges with a skateboard: stupid laws were put into place.

    I say appeal, screw the man. I also say put a front brake on your ride and save your knees.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Robert May 5, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    sounds like typical trial judges — appeal might be fruitful, but not inexpensive. I gave up some time ago and have a front brake… oh well.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] him if there was any problem with not running breaks, because my friends out in Portland have had some issues with it.  He told me (paraphrasing now) that they are much too busy to worry about how we set up […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Craig September 19, 2013 at 11:57 am

    What is worse?
    A judge that is wrong, but for the right reason…
    Or a Judge that is right, for the wrong reason?

    This Judge arrived at his decision incorrectly. It does not matter where the Judge could cause a bike to skid on dry pavement. What matters is whether or not the operator of the bike could, and it was made apparent that he/she could.

    However, the Judge was right about setting the correct precedence. The only way to get a Fixed Gear bike to skid, is by “UN-WEIGHTING” the rear wheel. In that case, the friction causing the bike to slow is not commensurate with the total weight of the bike+rider. Thus, you are not really skidding with the full weight on the wheel. Also, every bike rider know, that especially so with thin tires, that a rear brake nearly worthless in slowing you down quickly.

    Judge should have said, just because you can trick the bike into skidding, doesn’t mean that you’re truly braking the bike as intended in the legislation. That would be harder to appeal.

    Recommended Thumb up 0