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Report from Salem: Fixed-gear bill moves forward

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

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

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

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

First to testify today was Senator Atkinson. As promised, he showed up in his “Ride a fixed gear, go to jail” shirt (which was created in response to the Ayla Holland court case that started this entire saga).

Atkinson and his “Ride a fixed gear
go to jail” T-shirt.

Atkinson referred to the current law and said, “It makes common sense, but not mechanical sense.” He continued and said,

“The intent of this bill is to clean up the language and legalese in order to reflect the current state of cycling.”

Next up was Hazel Gross. She told the committee,

“I’ve ridden a fixed gear for six years…think of it like operating a clutch in a car. You don’t just go out and do, you first learn in parking lot.”

To which Sen. Burdick asked,

“In those six years, have you ever had an accident while riding your fixed gear.”

“No,” said Hazel.

Hazel Gross (L) and Mark Ginsberg (R)

Next at the microphone was lawyer Mark Ginsberg, who has spear headed this effort since day one. Mark broke down this bill’s intent by saying,

“We want to do two things. Number one, update the existing law and two, to clarify that fixies are O.K.”

He also pointed out that currently the offense is being primarily enforced by two individual traffic cops (Officers Barnum and Balzer) and that according to detailed police records, there are no collisions caused by fixed gear bicycles on record.

Ginsberg was also responsible for one of the highlights of the hearing. Just before it was over, Sen. Vicki Walker (D-Eugene) pointed out how much she appreciated his written testimony and she read an excerpt from it to the committee. It said,

“Even for legislators that don’t ride bicycles, this should simply be a matter of housekeeping.”

Republican Senator Jason Atkinson testifies
in support of Senate Bill 729.

I got my chance to speak after Ginsberg. This was my first time testifying in Salem and it was a great experience. I told the committee about how important this issue was for many Oregonians. I said that I’ve received over 900 comments in response to the 15 articles I’ve written so far.

I also explained that as fixed-gear bicycles get increasingly popular, they are being ridden by a much more diverse group of riders than just messengers and competitive cyclists.

The other major point of my testimony was that the current law is highly confusing and that bicyclists shouldn’t have to wonder whether or not their bike is illegal (check out the AP article and Mercury blog post for a few of my quotes).

Last up to declare support of the bill was Scott Bricker of the BTA. He spoke about how the current law’s reference to being able to skid is “not a good measure of performance.” Bricker said that not skidding would be the ideal scenario.

At the end of the hearing, all the committee members but one voted “yes” and the bill was given a “do pass recommendation.” This means it will move back onto the Senate floor with a thumbs up from the committee.

From there it will eventually end up for a vote on the floor, which is likely to happen in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.


UPDATE: Read the Portland Mercury’s recap of the hearing.

UPDATE 2: The Associated Press has just filed their story on this hearing. And meanwhile, according to this comment, the Portland police continue to issue citations to fixed-gear riders.

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