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Reactions to fixed-gear ruling

Posted by on August 1st, 2006 at 1:30 pm

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.

This morning the article was linked to from, one of the most well-known blogs in the world with an estimated 1.75 million visitors per day.

Here’s the latest from a local messenger, the lawyer on the case, and a police Lieutenant.

Messengers across the country are expectedly up in arms at the decision and are very worried that this will only increase what they see as unwarranted harassment from cops for merely doing their job.


[Dabby the messenger.]

Earlier today I touched base with Dabby, a veteran Portland messenger. Dabby says he has distributed the story to hundreds of messengers and has talked to many of them about it:

“We’re definitely not happy about this. Several of us are now carrying sticks in our bags just in case we get pulled over…but seriously though, we feel like yet again we are being targeted just for doing our job. What really worries me is that cops are pulling us over for no reason…how they even tell whether we’ve got a front brake on our bike until they’ve pulled us over?”

Dabby has written a letter outlining his concerns to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and is working with the Portland United Messenger Association (PUMA) to stay involved with this issue.

PUMA—who has just recently begun to organize their advocacy efforts—will likely hold a meeting to get input from more messengers and if necessary, will consider a fundraiser to pay for Ayla Holland’s ticket or ongoing trial.


According to Ayla Holland’s lawyer Mark Ginsberg, his office will have the full audio transcript from the trial tomorrow and will have it transcribed by next week. At that point they will decide how or if to move forward with the case.

In a post to a local cycling email list Ginsberg maintained his opinion:

“The judge was of the opinion that the “device” needed to be a “separate” device, not just the fixed gear itself. In my opinion the judge was adding words to the statute ORS 815.280(2)(a), that aren’t there…the word “separate” was not in the statute or in the (definition of brake in the) dictionary. Is a tricycle illegal in this judges opinion?”

Bike lawyer Ray Thomas is also interested in this case and is working to film a video of a fixed-gear rider coming to a skid on dry, level pavement. Thomas hopes to present this video to the judge and the police.

The Police:
I emailed Lieutenant Mark Kruger for his opinion on the situation. Kruger is 2nd in command at the Traffic Division, and Officer Barnum (who wrote the ticket to Holland) is under his command. Here’s Kruger’s opinion on the matter,

“Both Cmdr Rowley and I have looked at the law and think it is clear that a bike must be equipped with a brake and using feet or legs to physically stop the bike does not qualify under the law. Ever since Mark Ginsberg brought this to my attention I’ve been on the look out for such a bike in operation and finally saw a fellow a couple weeks ago going south on MLK. From what I saw he was hard pressed to stop that bike with his feet and legs in any way that would allow him to operate safely. I’m sure there are various ranges of skill out there, however, we still think the law requires a mechanical brake fixed to the bike in order to meet the requirement.”

I have a very strong feeling this case will be appealed. Anyone know a good bike route to Salem?

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

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    Vladislav Davidzon August 1, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    At Sustainable Energy in Motion Bike Tours (, we’ve had this come up when one of our riders brought a fixed gear on the tour, and the decision was made to demand actual *brakes*, both front and rear on all bikes.

    There is a good point to be made here about skill levels, and also terrain. Our tours do hit some very long, very steep hills where I feel real brakes are an absolute must.

    I tend to agree with the police department on this one. The burden of having real brakes is minor compared with the potential benefits. I see this the same as requiring someone to wear a seatbelt.

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    Dave August 1, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    Surely we could find something better to dedicate this kind of time and resource to. There is no reason not to run a front brake on your fixed beyond hipster vanity, and I for one am really bored hearing people whine about it.

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    Jonathan Maus August 1, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    I think the more important issue (beyond a concern for safety or bike aesthetics) is whether or not the cops are overstepping their authority and unfairly targeting a specific group (in this case, messengers) when they have no legal basis to do so.

    This type of policing is usually referred to as profiling.

    I am interested to know whether the police are simply using this issue as a way to hassle and intimidate messengers.

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    Puck August 1, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    A good route??

    HWY 99E.

    Oregon City is the only sketchy part. After that, it is a straight shot to the capital building.

    It could be ridden on a fixxy..
    Although, it would take a while.

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    John Boyd August 1, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    The lieutenant and cmdr look like victims of a Police System that has lost its mission, and are having to make one up. Right along with statute.

    Then if I was surrounded by guns and criminals all day, everyday I might choose to deal more with bicyclists instead of camaroists where I could.

    john boyd

    oh, and most automobiles had (separate) brakes that worked soley by the power applied by the feet until power-assisted brakes came along.

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    Brett August 1, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Control, don’t kill, the ego.
    Be safe.
    And profiling messengers? Now THAT’s stirring up a non-issue. Just re-read what has already posted on this issue and move on.
    Oh, and will more people PLEASE go take a conflict resolution 101 class somewhere.

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    Todd Boulanger August 1, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    Have the local police entered local stored and impounded any unsold street bikes without brakes? Any comment from the retail shop owners out there? It is a bit quiet on that front.

    I assume all the Oregon retail shops have pulled their track bikes from their sales floors or have retrofitted them with at least one brake. Or placed a sticker on the frame warning the rider to not ride it on public streets in the state of Oregon.

    For the time being the streets of Vancouver seem to be open for ‘legal’ fixed gear riding. (Take the MLK 6 or the Yellow Line MAX up here for a fixie sanctuary.)

    Too bad the police are not enforcing the vehicle code in a meaningful way: removing cars with one head light, cracked windshields, or bikes without working lights/ reflectors from the streets. I assume they are placing their enforcement resources where the crash and pedestrian safety data shows to be the true problem.

    Unless the recent adoption of fixed gear bikes by the ‘hipsters’ has created a public safety crisis. I doubt it. (Perhaps the lifestyle marketing of the bike culture has a cost?)

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    Dan Kaufman August 1, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    I vidoed Ayla yesterday coming to a skidding stop on dry pavement. I also had her ride along side a bike with coaster brakes and they stopped in the same distance. I will post this video on my site as soon as we get permission from her lawyer. Her lawyer will also be welcome to use the video.


    PS – Ayla is not a vain hipster. Her bike is not designed to accomdate brakes and I am convinced she can ride safely and abide by the letter of the law with a fixed gear.

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    Tankagnolo Bob August 1, 2006 at 2:37 pm

    I know in the automobile world, there is a standard for how quick a car must stop. I am sure Honda, or another company could not just set their own rule.


    ALL THIS ARGUING WITH NO FACTS !! LETS SET A STANDARD FOR HOW QUICK A BIKE SHOULD STOP AND THEN SEE WHO MEETS IT. I feel that at twenty miles per hour down Yamhill that a fixie will just keep going, but I DO NOT KNOW THIS. Lets get some tests going here. A wizzing contest without facts will never be more than a wizzing contest !!

    Tankagnolo Bob..

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    TS August 1, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    You know what the REALLY cool messengers do? They put a brake on, but disconnect the cable. Then they don’t get hassled (who can tell?), but they’re still stickin’ it to “the man.”


    Yeah! Take that, “the man”!

    How droll. From the riders to the cops, this is such dumb issue.

    “Hey! What happens if someone wants to ride their track bike to Alpenrose? What then, man? Huh? Huh?”

    “Um, the same thing that happens when someone wants to drive their race car to PIR — they get pulled over.”

    “Duuuuuude. You just compared my fixxie to a race car! AWESOME!”

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    revphil August 1, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Why do so many people out there want to restrict others freedoms? Ride however you wanna ride, take personal responsibility and stop trying to legislate personal safety.

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    Dave August 1, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    John- unboosted automobile brakes were actuated by the leg, but the braking power is all in the friction between brake pads and rotors. You aren’t absorbing the kinetic energy of your car with your legs – you’re converting it to heat energy and radiating it away. Your legs just have to be strong enough to actuate the calipers/pistons. Ditto conventional bicycle brakes.

    Maybe the statute should be rewritten to say a bicycle “must be equipped with a device to convert forward kinetic energy to heat via friction”. But then we’d all look like pedantic idiots. Not that we don’t already.

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    Matt G. August 1, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    The number one reason I am following this issue closely is for the same reason that Mr. Ginsberg describes: that the judge in this case is “re-writing the law” or choosing to interpret it in a way that disturbs me. What’s to stop other judges from “reading into” other bike laws. There’s a precedent here that needs to be reversed.

    That said, I would be in favor of changing the wording of the law to read the way the judge in this case has interpreted it, but that’s a legislative process, not a judge’s perrogative.

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    zerobeat August 1, 2006 at 2:43 pm

    true track bikes cannot accomodate brakes: there simply are no drilled holes for them to be mounted into. please quit labeling as “hipster vanity” the inability to install brakes. there’s a reason we ride track bikes, too – they’re super fast and offer an amazingly comfortable ride.

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    Dave August 1, 2006 at 2:59 pm

    Buy a drill, or replace your fork with a modern pre-drilled fork. I promise it won’t slow you down.

    I gotta say, though, a bike that’s “super comfy” on downtown streets must have been pretty freaking squishy at the velodrome. My track bike would hurt like hell downtown, and I like a stiff ride to begin with.

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    chris August 1, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    i’m siding with rev. phil.

    this is stupid. i’m 30, not a hipster and ride fixies minus caliper brakes. this is my choice. leave me alone.

    there are far greater dangers on the road that the cycling community would benefit from looking at.

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    L August 1, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Most of the fixies I see around Portland aren’t track bikes anyway, they’re retro-fitted old road bikes…

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    L August 1, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    Revphil said: “Why do so many people out there want to restrict others freedoms? Ride however you wanna ride, take personal responsibility and stop trying to legislate personal safety.”

    So I can ride drunk and crash into people? Cool! Or drive a car at 95 mph without seatbelts? Yay freedom!

    “take personal repsonsibility” HA!

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    watergirl August 1, 2006 at 4:36 pm

    The law is there for the least common denominator. My retrofitted 80’s Peugeot PX-10 fixie has a rear brake, and I can’t count the number of times it’s helped in an emergency stopping situation.I’m not super fit, young or a messenger. I just like to grunt up hills on my fixie for a workout.

    Canoes and kayaks are required by federal law to at least carry a “personal floatation device” (aka lifejacket). It’s up to the user to wear it or not. In Hawaii, paddlers tried to say their boat was a floatation device (“my fixie is a brake” arguement) and the coast guard et al said “yeah right.” So the Hawaiians strung bungie on their boats and strapped the jackets to the hull.

    Just put the dang brake on, and if you have the strength/skill, don’t use it.

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    Todd Boulanger August 1, 2006 at 5:59 pm


    Thanks for the nice web link to wikipedia about fixed gear bikes.

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    Joel H August 1, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    L – I don’t presume to speak for Rev Phil, but IMO we are responsible to make sure our bikes are safe whether they have a “separate braking device” or not. Just like it’s our responsibility to make sure we don’t run over people, whether we’re drunk or not.

    It’s just needlessly restrictive to mandate one particular way of making a bike safe. But maybe it makes it easier on the cops if they don’t have to pay attention to whether an individual cyclist is being safe.

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    Dabby August 1, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    I applaud Jonathan for posting, and helping to change focus on to what is the real root of this problem, Improper police profiling of selected groups.
    There is only one answer to this whole issue.
    And I know what it is.
    Keep watching our site for my expose, and solution to this growing problem that is now garnering nationwide attention.
    The Truth Will Set You Free!

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    Liam August 1, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    Perhaps of more importance is the wording of the statute, that says that the braked wheels must be able to perform said skid – I think you’ll find that most bikes with cheap mechanical brakes on their front wheels will be in violation of this legislation!

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    Dabby August 1, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    Yes, true to the last post, but, the statuate wording is only the beggining of the problem, for , they will soon change the wording, and the harrasment willl evolve into being recognized by the court as legitimate.
    Then they will ban the bikes from the road, brake or not.

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    heavyj August 1, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    I have a question. Does not constantly skidding yourself to a stop result in a rather large tire budget? Just a question.

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    Dr. Mark Ross August 2, 2006 at 12:01 am

    “Then they will ban the bikes from the road, brake or not.”

    going a little bit overboard there aren’t we?

    anyway, you gotta choose your battles. I’m an avid bike rider, but you’re wearing me out with what I see as nikpicking. for heavens sake, put a brake on and don’t use it. When you REALLY need support from your fellow bikers, we’ll all be worn out from fighting over this ant hill.

    Many bikers are not particularly well behaved so lets yield a bit and save our energy for the bigger gains.

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    pdxcommuter August 2, 2006 at 1:11 am

    First, let me say, I’m not a lawyer.

    I’ve been corresponding with the Mayor’s office on this issue. Jeremy Van Keuren at the Mayor’s office has been writing back to me.

    Jeremy wrote to me to say that the officer in question observed unsafe behavior on the part of the bicyclist that was ticketed.

    I wrote back to say that the ticket should then have been written for the specific unsafe behavior, such as failing to stop for a stop sign or a red light.

    Jeremy wrote back to me. He referenced the ORS.

    I looked up ORS815.280(2)(a) on the state’s web page. It says:

    “(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 paragraph in question is about 3/4 of the way to the bottom of that web page, which has all of Chapter 815.)

    Jeremy wrote that since this was in the ORS, it was something that the legislature voted on. So, Jeremy argued, not only did the Portland police think that these bicycles are unsafe, the legislature does too.

    Jeremy also made an analogy with a car with non-working brake lights. Jeremy argued that a car without brake lights is not safe, but is operable. But, the police don’t wait for someone to rear-end that car. They give the driver a ticket.

    I’m writing back to Jeremy to say that the statute specifies a performance standard, not a particular device. The person ticketed offered to demonstrate that she could comply with the standard. The judge declined the offer of a demonstration. Instead, the judge went on to rewrite the law to require a specific, separate, braking device.

    In my email to Jeremy, I also point out that the legilation does not say that these bicycles are unsafe. The legislation says that a bicycle must be able to execute a skid. The legislation does not say how. The police may be of the opinion that the only way to make a bike skid is with a separate brake. But the law does not require that. The police should not be enforcing something beyond what’s in the law. Their time would be better spent ensuring that repeat drunk drivers such as Lindsey Llaneza are still not driving. Llaneza was driving without a license for nearly 17 years when he killed 2 bicyclists 2 years ago.

    And I agreed with Jeremy that the driver of a car without brake lights deserves a ticket. While I can’t find a specific reference to brake lights in ORS815, it is probably covered by 815.030(2), which says:

    “(2) Standards adopted by the department under this section shall be consistent with any vehicle standards established under federal regulations or under standards of the Society of Automotive Engineers, the American National Standards Institute or the National Institute of Standards and Technology.”

    But, the point about car brake lights is irrelevent. Again, ORS815.280(2)(a) specifies a performance standard for bicycle brakes, not a specific device with which the bike must be equipped.

    I did not ask Jeremy this question in my latest email to him, but I’ll ask it here. Is there something in the federal regulations which require fixed gear bikes to have a brake? Because of ORS815.030(2), and because bicycles are vehicles, if there is a federal requirement for fixies to have some sort of separate brake, then that may trump the skid standard specified in ORS815.280(2)(a), and end the whole argument. You have to have a brake on a fixie.

    On the other hand, if there is no federal requirement for fixies to have a separate brake, then making up a requirement for fixies to have a separate brake would appear to me to violate ORS815.030(2) because it creates an inconsistent standard versus the federal regulations. Or, maybe it only matters for ODOT and not Portland, since 815.030 pertains to standards that ODOT should set.

    Anyone know what the federal regulations say? I suspect that if the federal regulations prohibited fixed gear bikes without a separate brake, then you would not be able to buy one.

    Again, I am not a lawyer. Nor have I ever road a fixie. I’m a bicyclist and I want to see us treated fairly.

    I also disagree with Dr. Mark Ross, who says that this issue is not important. It is important because the police that are spending time on this could be doing something more important that would provide greater safety benefit to everyone, such as going after repeat drunk drivers.

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    Dabby August 2, 2006 at 1:24 am

    Really Dr. Ross,
    Having your livelyhood threatened, is this considered nitpicking?
    I have read your past posts on other issues, MR. Ross, and I have not been impressed in the slightest.
    And taking this one into account, I doubt I will be in the future.
    And now, on a subject that cuts as dear to my heart as it might if you were subjected to drug and alcohol testing everyday you showed up for doctoring, or chiropracting, or whatever it is you do, you are calling it nitpicking.
    I doubt if you really thought about this topic, and recognized the damage it is and will be doing to all cyclists, you would not look at it as nitpicking.
    Of course, the views you have expressed in the past have surely depicted a closed mind, and probably a cold heart.
    For, to the messenger of today, the fixed gear is like the massage table you crack backs on.
    It is indespensible. It is efficent, it is hardy, and it is higly controllable.
    Unlike the 27 speed carbon noodle you undoubtly ride, my fixed gear (god rest it’s soul, as it is dead now) was a lean, mean, downtown machine. It did not have a hundred parts to fail. Parts cost a messenger more than he makes, which puts the simplicity of a fixed gear within arms reach of a substainable living.
    Track bikes(true track bikes) are light, and manueverable. More so than any high priced or low priced road or MT machine.
    And, they are quick to stop. In the time it takes for you to transfer energy from your brain, to your muscles, through your fingers, through the lever, down and through the taiwanes-made cables, through the housing, and into the mechanism of your mechanical brake, not to mention into the power sucking brake pads,I have already stoppped, looked both ways (twice) and moved on down the road.
    What you see as an anthill, the people who know see as a mountain.
    What you see as a post that will shut us all up, we see as a cry for help from you.
    Maybe you need to be released from your inhibitions, open up, and appreciate the path that cycling has been taking here in the city of Portland.
    A path that for many, many years, has been lit, and, as much as you may not believe it, led by messengers, the same messengers who swear by fixed gears.
    For, in this, or any major city, the core of cycling is the working messenger.
    And the brunt of the damage inflicted on cycling, is, was, and always will be, felt by the messengers before even noticed by the rest of cycling in general…
    Thank you, and have a good day.

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    freewheeler August 2, 2006 at 4:52 am

    So it sounds like the judge will suspend the fine for this rider if she installs a front brake. I can’t see how a front brake alone will comply with the wording of this law that a brake must be able to make the tire “skid”. I think that “skidding” to a stop with your front brake is more tricky than riding a fixie with no brakes.

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    zach August 2, 2006 at 6:56 am

    Brakeless FG riders (who ride with care and skill) can stop fast enough to meet any legal requirement, and should be able to ride with whatever equipment they want to.

    But zenlike messenger technique or not, it is impossible for a vehicle to stop faster with a rear brake of any type than a front brake. This holds true for bikes, cars, motorcycles, horse carts, etc. – everything but unicycles and segways.

    This is because of inertia. While a vehicle is being slowed down, any part of it that is able to move slows at a slightly slower rate. This reduces rear wheel traction, and reduces the strength of whatever braking system is being used, causing rear wheel skids. Next time you see a high-performance motorcycle, take a look at it. You’ll see two large disc brakes on the front wheel, and one small one on the rear. That’s because having more power in the rear is pointless, a minimal braking surface is enough to cause a skid there. The front’s what stops you.

    Skids are bad because the interface between a rubber tire and the road cannot slow a vehicle nearly as quickly as that between a brake pad and a smooth braking surface, such as a brake disc or bicycle rim.

    I know that good brakeless FG riders don’t skid much – that’s because they’re aware of this. But the fact remains that anybody can ride faster safely with a front brake. Because they can stop faster. This isn’t an opinion, but the laws of physics.

    Talented FG riders like Dabby can compensate for this in all sorts of wonderful ways, weaving through spaces between moving cars that I would have trouble walking through. Dabby is also not an average rider. Then again, an average rider who knows how to skid can stop just about as quickly as she or he could with a coaster brake….

    Do this experiment:

    On smooth, level pavement get up to speed – at least 15 mph or so. Begin braking at a specified point each time, and measure your stopping distance:

    1. Lock up your rear brake and skid to a stop
    2. Use your rear brake only, keeping it at a point right before it locks up
    3. Do the same with your front brake (remember to shift your weight back and brace your body against the handlebars)

    What stops you fastest? What stops you slowest?

    I love my fixed-gear bike, but I would never ride it without a front brake.

    That said, all of the people who call riding brakeless “vanity” or something else like that should button their lips. When’s the last time you heard of a serious injury caused by or to a brakeless FG rider because they could not stop quickly enough? Thought so. The last thing we need is more laws restricting our freedom.

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    Brett August 2, 2006 at 8:20 am

    Gee Whiz,
    There is

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    Jonathan August 2, 2006 at 8:21 am

    Anyone see those two motorcycle cops parked on the west side of the Hawthorne this morning? They had one nice looking lady on a road bike pulled over, she didn’t look too happy about it.

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    Lennon August 2, 2006 at 9:32 am

    Personally, I’m torn on this issue: I’ve been riding brakeless for a few months (oops…did I just incriminate myself?) after a couple of years insisting on a front brake, and I have to say that I don’t feel I’ve lost much in the way of control or safety. In fact, re-training myself to not simply yank on the brake at the first sign of trouble has probably made me a much better rider in general.

    On the other hand, riding around on a moving violation is going to get old rather quickly, ticket or no; personally, I rather enjoy feeling that the cops are there to help, and worrying about a “no-brake ticket” would add an unwelcome but constant paranoia when I’m out riding.

    Does it make me a pushover if I go install a brake simply to avoid police harassment?

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    sh August 2, 2006 at 10:27 am

    post no. 28:

    the strange and skewed poetry of this post just completely blew my mind.

    dabby, there’s a rich future for you in children’s literature (and i’m not being at all facetious). When you retire from throwing life on the line over fixed gear braking issues, please turn your thoughts to the rhythms and whimsy of cleverly-illustrated stories for young minds… yes, there’s def. a space on the bookshelf for the the freestyle syncopations of your voice.

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    Dr. Mark Ross August 2, 2006 at 10:29 am

    dabby, nobody is forcing you to use a brake. your livelhood is not threatened.

    there are far too many bicyclists that don’t help our image and as a result we’re often “protesting” from a position of weakness.

    we’ve got to clean our house in order to make greater strides.

    if they paln to regulate bikes off the road, I’m here. advocate for brakeless fixies, I’m not.

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    Pete Jacobsen August 2, 2006 at 10:31 am

    This should be a discussion about brakes, not about fixie bikes. I think almost everyone accepts that a front brake can stop a bike significantly faster than a rear brake (however applied) because there is more weight on the front wheel during braking, and more braking is possible before the tire begins to skid. This is just physics. Hopefully most people also accept that more braking (faster decceleration) can be attained if the tire does not skid. This is also just physics – static friction is higher than dynamic (sliding) friction.

    Still, the rules in our country very seldom require that we do things the “best” way, only in an acceptable way. A department store bike department that I visited this morning had 42 bikes, 15 of them without a front brake. These 15 all had “coaster” brakes that require the rider to pedal backwards. Obviously, those brakes will not work if the chain breaks (a question that I believe was asked in the recent trial).

    It certainly seems very reasonable to ask the police department for a clear statement on what is required. If they do require a front brake, the plaintiff in this trial is going to have a lot of support from local stores for an appeal. If the police (and the court) are going to allow chain-operated coaster brakes, I think they will have a hard time upholding their resistance to a fixie operated by a strong rider.

    Just to be clear, I personally would never ride with out a properly operating front brake, but then I tend to be afraid of big things that might pull out in front of me. That doesn’t mean I insist that everyone do so.

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    BLDZR August 2, 2006 at 10:31 am

    “I rather enjoy feeling that the cops are there to help, and worrying about a “no-brake ticket” would add an unwelcome but constant paranoia when I’m out riding.”

    sorry to tell you, but if you’re on a bicycle, the cops are NOT there to help. in fact, I have trouble believing the PPB is interested in helping anybody but other cops. They have an extremely adversarial relationship with the public, which is only aggravated by selectively enforced laws such as the one in question.

    Case in point – Lt. Mark Kruger. Need I remind you of Lt. Kruger’s attitude toward any sort of protest or civil disobedience? This is the man who shouldered the responsibility for the infamous “pepper-sprayed baby” incidents, as well as being documented as beating a female protester in April 2003. He has accumulated of $1 million in liability lawsuits BY HIMSELF!!! And if that’s not enough, there are reports that the man has built shrines to fallen nazi soldiers, and has driven around Portland in an SS uniform shouting racial epithets at people. Do you honestly think this guy is there to help? He is evidence that Portland cops are bullies, and rarely anything else but bullies.

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    Dabby August 2, 2006 at 10:48 am

    I love Bldzr. Marry me.

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    Cantilever August 2, 2006 at 10:53 am

    Two birds with one stone:
    How about Jammin 95/PK giving away free front calipers to brakeless riders?

    Sorta jokin, Sorta not…

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    Magnum August 2, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    Since it is the same penalty I am just going to start riding a freewheel bike with no brake.

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    Magnum August 2, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    Thank you for remembering and posting the Kruger info Dozer.

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    Randy August 2, 2006 at 7:56 pm

    I think Jonathan gives way too much credibility to Kruger’s ‘official’ statements.

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    Jonathan Maus August 2, 2006 at 8:14 pm


    I publish Kruger’s statements. How does that mean I am giving them credit?

    Would you rather not read anything at all about what he thinks?

    And I do give him credit for always being open to me when I contact him and always responding to my emails quickly.

    Regardless of how you feel about Kruger (or cops in general), I think we should definitely give them credit for spending a considerable amount of time in meetings, on the phone, and on emails with the cycling community.

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    Randy August 2, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    The police can say whatever they want, but their actions speak louder than their words. By giving a voice to their ‘official’ statements, which I would basically classify as disinformation, I think you are enabling them.

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    danger August 2, 2006 at 9:12 pm

    well, they came for the red light runners and stop sign rollers, and you didn’t speak up, because you always stop at every sign.

    then they came for the light violators, and you didn’t speak up, because you have front and rear lights and an orange saftey vest.

    then they came for the “brakeless” fixies, and you didn’t speak up, because your fixed gear commuter has front and rear brakes.

    now there are checkpoints to get into downtown.

    the day someone on a bike kills someone in a car is the day i put brakes on my fixie.

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    Bill Basso August 3, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    Okay, the city ordinance on brake requirements are a bit vague so I turned to bike law expert Bob Mionske’s VeloNews Column, “Legally Speaking” which deals specifically with bicycle law. A quick google of his columns located an article on rules about brake requirements.

    He states:
    In the United States, federal laws are contained in a set of volumes called the United States Code (USC), which is divided by subject. These rules are located in the Code of Federal Regulations, or CFR. Buried in Volume 16, Part 1512 of the CFR are the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) “Requirements for Bicycles,” which are 21 pages long. There are rules for handlebars, chains, forks and frames, seats, reflectors and tests for bicycles. And yes, there are rules for handbrakes.

    I looked up these rules defining bicycle requirements and found them at this site:

    This is legislation Ginsberg should have been familiar with before entering the courtroom to plead Holland’s case. If he was familiar with the laws about bicycles I think he would have been prepared for the case and had done some testing to verify the “fixie” in question adhered to the law, which is quite specific. After independant testing he may have come to the conclusion that the “fixie” was not street legal and not have wasted the court’s time.

    First here’s is what the federal government requires for bicycles to comply with for braking:

    § 1512.5 Requirements for braking system.

    (a) Braking system. Bicycles shall be equipped with front- and rear-wheel brakes or rear-wheel brakes only.

    Okay, so yes if you have a brake on the rear wheel you are okay. However, further down the definition of a foot activated brake and its requirements are clearly defined:

    And this is where the case becomes difficult:

    ) Footbrakes. All footbrakes shall be tested in accordance with the force test, §1512.18(e)(2), and the measured braking force shall not be less than 178 N (40 lbf) for an applied pedal force of 310 N (70 lbf).

    (1) Stopping distance. Bicycles equipped with footbrakes (except sidewalk bicycles) shall be tested in accordance with the performance test, §1512.18(e)(3), by a rider of at least 68.1 kg (150 lb) weight and shall have a stopping distance of no greater than 4.57 m (15 ft) from an actual test speed of at least 16 km/h (10 mph). If the bicycle has a footbrake only and the equivalent groundspeed of the bicycle is in excess of 24 km/h (15 mph) (in its highest gear ratio at a pedal crank rate of 60 revolutions per minute), 3 the stopping distance shall be 4.57 m (15 ft) from an actual test speed of 24 km/h (15 mph) or greater.

    3 This is proportional to a gear development greater than 6.67 m (21.9 ft) in the bicycle’s highest gear ratio. Gear development is the distance the bicycle travels in meters, in one crank revolution.

    (2) Operating force. Footbrakes shall be actuated by a force applied to the pedal in a direction opposite to that of the drive force, except where brakes are separate from the drive pedals and the applied force is in the same direction as the drive force.

    (3) Crank differential. The differential between the drive and brake positions of the crank shall be not more than 60° with the crank held against each position under a torque of no less than 13.6 N-m (10 ft-lb).

    (4) Independent operation. The brake mechanism shall function independently of any drive-gear positions or adjustments.

    (d) Footbrakes and handbrakes in combination. Bicycles equipped with footbrakes and handbrakes shall meet all the requirements for footbrakes in §1512.5(c), including the tests specified. In addition, if the equivalent ground speed of the bicycle is 24 km/h (15 mph) or greater (in its highest gear ratio at a pedal crank rate of 60 revolutions per minute), 3 the actual test speed specified in §1512.18(e)(3) shall be increased to 24 km/h (15 mph) and both braking systems may be actuated to achieve the required stopping distance of 4.57 m (15 ft).

    Can the fixed gear rider exert enough measurable force to meet the requirement and can they stop the bicycle in the prescribed distance? Additionally, how should this line be interpreted?

    (4) Independent operation. The brake mechanism shall function independently of any drive-gear positions or adjustments.” Does this mean that a fixed gear cannot be a brake since it does not function as a brake independantly of drive gear?

    These are the sort of arguments that need to be addressed. Not the Big Wheel defense since it clearly applies to what are defined as “side-walk bikes” which fall under a completely different set of requirements.

    How helpful is a lawyer claiming to be a bicycle advocate when he is unfamiliar with the law? I think that could be a zen koan.

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    John Boyd August 3, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    Hello Bill,
    Thanks for information, I was unaware of this.

    >here’s is what the federal government requires >for bicycles to comply with for braking:

    Scope is everything. The fist section is the Scope and reads thusly:

    This part sets forth the requirements for a bicycle as defined in §1512.2(a) (except a bicycle that is a “track bicycle” or a “one-of-a-kind bicycle” as defined in §1512.2 (d) and (e)) which is not a banned article under §1500.18(a)(12) of this chapter.

    (d) Track bicycle means a bicycle designed and intended for sale as a competitive machine having tubular tires, single crank-to-wheel ratio, and no free-wheeling feature between the rear wheel and the crank.

    (e) One-of-a-kind bicycle means a bicycle that is uniquely constructed to the order of an individual consumer other than by assembly of stock or production parts.

    This kicks me out of federal regulation.

    John Boyd

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    John Boyd August 3, 2006 at 5:12 pm

    I’m sure one of the reasons I took up cycling more was so I wouldn’t have to think too hard about city, state or federal regulations when I wanted to go somewhere.

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    emily August 3, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    On Tuesday August 1 at 8:10 am, 3 motorcycle officers pulled up to my right on SW Clay right before 3rd. One, Bill Balzer, told me to pull over. I came to a complete stop immediately, dismounted and walked my bike to the sidewalk. No traffic ordinance had been violated. During the 15 or so minutes I was stopped Officer Balzer and I conversed about fixed gear bikes (FGBs). The 2 other officers were silent the entire time; hard to say if they were even listening.

    Untrue statements made by the officer include but are not limited to: bikes with coaster brakes usually have a second, supplementary brake; the chain on a FGB is more highly tensioned, making it far more likely to break.

    The majority of the officer’s conversation involved relating anecdotal stories about FGBs, including the following:

    1) He had no idea “these bikes” existed until a Critical Mass, when he witnessed a chain come off a FGB. The rider was then unable to stop. He could provide no other details about this bike.

    2) “I don’t want to disparage women, but…” He then proceeded to tell of a time he pulled over 2 people on FGBs. The man stopped immediately; the woman could not stop her bike in what the officer considered a reasonable amount of time. While relating this tale, he glanced down at my legs, presumably subconsciously.

    He did not tell me any stories about all the FG riders he has given tickets to who were riding safely, obeying all laws and coming to a complete stop immediately. The remainder of his verbiage involved the presentation of hypothetical scenarios in which chains pop off or break. Hypothetical scenarios in which brake cables snap did not come up. I was told my $97 ticket would be dropped if I showed him a receipt for a brake, presumably in court.

    There is much that is problematic with regard to bike law in Portland, and I do believe many of these issues are interconnected, but I will try to keep this post confined.

    1) People who cannot safely handle FGBs on the street should not be riding them. People who cannot safely handle ANY type of bike on the street should not be riding on the street. Period. Inadequately outfitted or maintained bikes are a separate issue from FGBs w/ no hand brakes. My close calls w/ other cyclists when other cyclist was solely in the wrong have overwhelmingly involved road bikes with gears and hand brakes or, far less often, cruisers with either coaster or hand brakes. I do not extrapolate from that fact that ALL road bikes are dangerous ALL the time. More importantly, the police do not.

    2)It appears to be a couple of motorcycle officers giving these tickets. Officer Balzer told me he gives no warnings, only tickets. There is at least one other officer who HAS given warnings in the past couple months. In at least one instance he said he uses these stops partly as an “attitude check.” “Brakeless” FG riders pulled over for other traffic infractions by any other officers have not been given these tickets. They have not, in fact, even been spoken to about it. Perhaps this will change soon, but for now this seems to be a few cops on a mission, personally reading into a poorly worded law regarding a topic they know next to nothing about.

    3) I can skid my bike sufficiently quickly on dry level pavement. As far as I’m concerned I am in compliance with the law. The fact that some others may not be able to or the fact that some people do not adequately adjust or maintain their bikes is irrelevant.

    4) People riding bikes with coaster brakes have not been targeted by these officers. The coaster brake bike I occasionally ride is in fair-to-middling shape. It’s old, heavy and loaded with baskets. It is far harder to stop than my track bike. Are these officers patrolling the streets in ALL of Portland ticketing these people? No. I would be very surprised if the majority of these “no brakes” tickets have not been given out in the downtown core. It is not a baseless feeling of persecution that messengers believe they are going to bear the brunt of this. And it does add insult to injury that when the majority of people riding FGBs on the street were current or former messengers this was a non-issue. People adopting the accoutrements of an occupation they have never participated in because they think it’s cool or whatever DOES have negative repurcussions.

    Being forced to immediately purchase and install new and unnecessary equipment so you can continue doing your job IS a hardship for many if not most messengers. There IS a frustration among messengers, which I believe is justified, that subcompetent riders have co-opted the usage of a type of bike for street riding (as well as other aspects of messenger culture) without having to deal with any of the economic realities of the job. Experienced riders who have been riding FGBs for many years in cities all over the country are angry and frustrated and they have every right to be.

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    Bill Basso August 3, 2006 at 7:33 pm

    I guess that’s where the legal discussion should have been focused, it looks like there was a good deal of room for interpretation that Ginsberg could have argued but he still would have had to answer these questions… is a bicycle sold for competition legal to ride in traffic in a non-competitive environment? Is it still a track bike if it has clinchers rather than tubulars as specifically outlined? Do the state’s requirement for brakes apply to track bikes when used on the highway and if so do they need to meet the federally designated requirements? Does a fixed gear meet the federally designated guideline for stopping distance? None of thes valid points were addresed.

    Maybe the trial could have gone a lot better if Ginsberg had been more familiar with the laws regarding bicycles. But maybe he was aware of this and didn’t bring it up because he knew it wouldn’t help… why he went with the “Big Wheel Defense” is anyone’s guess. If GInsberg s pro-bono, Holland got what she paid for.

    As of now, since Ginsberg didn’t argue these points they are moot the Judge’s ruling is the way the law is interpreted unless Holland proceeds to the next level. There is now a legal precedent and that says a fixed gear does not meet the legal requirement of a brake as required by Oregon law.

    A funny thing about the Oregon rules of the road, and here I am quoting another Mionske article:

    “section 811.140 of the traffic code makes reckless driving a Class A misdemeanor. Note that this is no longer just a traffic offense, it’s a misdemeanor. That means, although highly unlikely, one could face up to a year in jail for this one. By “reckless” the statute means:”

    “A person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in a situation.”

    So I guess if you are stopped for riding a track bike without brakes, your best bet is to be very cordial to the officer because you might end up with your only riding option for the next year as a wind trainer in your cell.

    Additionally, if you hit someone or another vehicle while while riding in this reckless manner, you could be charged with assualt. So definitely don’t run over any lawyers. 😉

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    Randy August 3, 2006 at 8:08 pm

    Bill Basshole – you don’t even live in Porland and you’re an ass. Give It Up.

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    Dabby August 3, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    Thank you for your upfront and imformative recollection of your citation. I applaud the courage it takes to stand up, and call out that you may have not only been the victim of police profiling, but also sexual harrasment, whether unintentional or not.
    I already know you are a great person. Now the rest of the world will learn.
    Basso (I still hate referring to you as such),
    You have crossed a number of lines already on these posts. You do not appear to be from here.
    You do not appear to have much fixed gear relevance, besides name dropping your buddies.
    And now, you are name dropping the federal government.
    What would you imagine we care here in Portland about federal regulations and requirements towards bicycles?
    Why would you imagine that that would make any difference what so ever?
    Would you like the federal government coming to you and telling you how to ride your bike?
    Would you like some out spoken, and in your own words, older than us kiddies, blowhard telling us to follow federal and state guidelines that are ludicrous in proper reference at best?
    Would you like me to relate the new federal guidelines or laws(I do not know if they are actual laws yet, I will admit) (ask the dept. of Homeland Ignorance, I mean security)as to using your real name, not a annonymous or nickname, when making public posts, for public safety? I believe President Idiot either has already, or is in the process of pushing these through?
    Of course, I use a well known nickname here.
    Mainly because people do no know me by my real name. In my case, that would be hiding behind my thoughts.
    My point is this:
    This is Oregon. This is the state that passes things that the federal government outlaws.
    I, at least, do not give a rat’s ass about federal regulations regarding bicycles. The voting we do is constantly overturned by our federal government. I believe that the general consencous here is the same.

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    Dan Kaufman August 4, 2006 at 8:21 am

    I mentioned above that I had a video of Ayla skidding to a stop. You can see it at

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    Jeff Quinonez August 4, 2006 at 9:52 am

    My .02 cents… I live in California and ride a single speed with a front brake. The CA law regarding brakes is exactly the same as Oregon, and I think I would be in violation of the law because I wouldn’t be able to perform a skid. But the front brake performs better, faster and more controlled than a rear brake.

    The judge is a moron, the fixie is the same as a coaster bike except the coasting. When the judge asked how she would stop if the chain broke Ayla should have replied, “The same way as if I was on a coaster brake bike, either my feet or lay it down.” I seriously don’t see how they lost this case and they need to appeal this judge made law.

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    SKiDmark August 4, 2006 at 11:13 am

    Nobody is going to tell me that a 1000 dollar track bike, brakes or no, is less safe than a department store assembled 99 dollar Magna mountain bike. Generally the only track bikes that can’t have brakes (no brake holes) are of the highest quality. The chain is not going to break because it won’t break if you have to resist pedaling on the track to avoid hitting someone who has crashed in front of you while you were both going in excess of 35 mph.

    All of this crap is based in ignorance. The Police and the Judges don’t know anything about track bikes, and the people making negative comments about them don’t ride them.

    Fixed Gear 101

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    Wondering August 4, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    I’m convinced that everyone in PDX doesn’t think they’re a hipster. Funny, Fixies were a pretty rare bird a few years ago… If this isn’t ‘hipster vanity’, then it’s just macho vanity, for women or guys. Just part of the ‘uniform’ I guess…

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    Dabby August 4, 2006 at 8:33 pm

    Vanity Schmanity.
    This has nothing to do with vanity.
    Brakes are nice. I have sweet caliper brakes.
    But they are not necessary on my fixed gear.
    The fixed gear bikes we messengers ride here in Portland are of quality. Note I said messengers, not everyone.
    The point of a fixed gear is simplicity.
    Quality + Simplicity = Effective.
    Adding a unecessary thing to something very effective
    Does not render it more effective. It in fact renders it less effective, taken the context of what we are discussing here.

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    Wondering August 5, 2006 at 3:13 pm

    I find it hard to believe that adding a simple caliper brake makes an already simple bike less effective. It adds a negligible amount of weight, nothing more. Big deal. The argument seems like a big stretch…

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    SKiDmark August 5, 2006 at 6:21 pm

    (4) Independent operation. The brake mechanism shall function independently of any drive-gear positions or adjustments.

    A brakeless fixed gear satisfies this requirement better than a coasterbrake does. You can resist the pedaling motion regardless of where the cranks are in their rotation. A coaster brake on the other hand is most effective with the pedals at 3 and 9 O’clock.

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    SKiDmark August 5, 2006 at 6:29 pm

    Hey Wondering, I was a messenger in Boston back in 1987. I guess I am just “recapturing my youth”, huh? Do you only exist within cliches? Or cliques? Ever hear of free will?

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    Dabby August 5, 2006 at 9:22 pm

    Pretty much if you called a messenger in this town a hipster, he would just push you over. Then walk away.
    I WONDER if you would enjoy that.
    And, if you knew what you were talking about you would realize this has nothing to do with vanity, although it would be nice if I had a lit mirror on my track bike, so my date could fix her lipstick.

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    SKiDmark August 6, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    “I feel that at twenty miles per hour down Yamhill that a fixie will just keep going, but I DO NOT KNOW THIS.”

    You could lean forward and skid but you would likely speed up. A hop stop would be the way to go. Most experienced brakeless riders would resist the pedaling motion and LIMIT their speed to something THEY COULD CONTROL, like around 12 mph. This is the problem with the misconceptions of the non-fixed riders like you, that we are barrel-assing around town like crazed idiots.

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    Jack Buckette August 9, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    As regards the police stance on the Safety issue: So what. The argument regarding a chain failure could just as well be made about automobile brake lines. IF the police wish to perform random maintenance checks as to bike safety, fine. (Yes it is harassment, but hopefully this will appease the “safety” faction).
    I mentioned this before on the “Judge finds fault with fixies” blog site but it bears repeating: 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 article stated this; ‘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 musculature of the rider. Take me for instance. I don’t have leg muscles as strong as a messenger…how would I stop safely?”

    Judge Lowe’s competence (or lack thereof) is irrelevant. It is not the place of the Court to re-write Law. Again, the Law does not state a separate mechanism is required. If the judge wishes to play politics and submit an amendment to the existing law, fine. That is the proper procedure. If the judge is unaware of this simple fact of American Jurisprudence he has NO business on the bench.
    The inequity of the issue is infuriating. Please discontinue the whining (Both sides) and concentrate on the legality of the matter.

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    John Boyd August 9, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    Jack, you have nailed the issue precisely. Thanks.

    Here are my not as elegantly expressed problems as I posted them to the Shift mailing list in response to an opinion offered up by a UK cyclist:
    “This judge has clearly decided to ignore the letter of the law in favour of enforcing its obvious intent, that bikes have at least one maximally effective brake…”:

    1) A bad law is one where the intent is not commonly understood and verifiable. “maximally effective brake” is not objective, and as such, I’m sure was not the intent of our statute. Only minimun performance is verifiable. We need a better standard to meet for sure. “bring the braked wheel to a skid” may not be the intent, but it is objective, and it seems to be the best language they could come up a the time and as such, is the law of the land. Enforcing bad laws just gets you more lawbreaking.

    2) Can they do that? I mean I know judges can do anything they want to, but is that good law? Their job is to devine intent, but it’s not to rewrite intent. I don’t know. It doesn’t feel right that a judge should step so far outside common meaning of words even if he thinks he’s got a better idea of what they meant to say.

    John Boyd

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    Dabby August 10, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    It has been brought to my attention that people believe I am acting as the representative for PUMA.
    I have never, and will never claim this to be the case.
    My thoughts represent me.
    While every messenger is a member of PUMA by default, since PUMA is meant to be for all messengers, we all have our own, personal voice.
    This is my own personal voice. If you don’t like it, turn your computer off.
    I also reccomend that any and all cyclists support PUMA, either verbally or financialy, as, once again, messengers are the true core of the cycling community.

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