an Alice Award in March.
In a conference committee in Salem today, Senator Ginny Burdick decided that Senate Bill 729 — which sought to update Oregon’s law regarding bicycle brake requirements — will move forward without a key phrase that would have allowed fixed-gear bicycles to not be required to have a separate brake.
“A bicycle must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator of the bicycle to stop the bicycle within 15 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement, except that a fixed gear bicycle is not required to be equipped with a separate brake.”
Burdick, a Portland Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, made it clear today that she was not comfortable with the fixed-gear clarification, even though she has twice voted in favor of the bill while it included that phrase.
According to Portland lawyer Mark Ginsberg, who attended today’s hearing, Burdick told her colleagues in the committee that she would not allow the bill to leave the committee unless that phrase was removed.
This last minute change is a huge blow to Ginsberg, who has worked with southern Oregon Senator Jason Atkinson to clarify the law.
“It’s disappointing to me that one person (Burdick) can trip up the entire process, especially in light of the fact that she changed her position on the bill, then used procedural maneuvers to squash it.”
–Portland lawyer Mark Ginsberg
Back in August, Atkinson vowed to clear up confusion about fixed-gear bicycles back in August, when he heard about Portland cyclists being ticketed for not having a separate hand brake on their fixed-gear bicycles, despite conflicting traffic court rulings on the issue.
Ginsberg, who has been involved with this issue since defending bike messenger Ayla Holland against a fixed-gear brake ticket in July of last year, says he’s “disappointed” with Burdick’s move.
Speaking on the phone from Salem today he said,
“I’m disappointed because the language that’s been problematic is still there…so we’ve spent a lot of time and taxpayer dollars and telling our elected officials what’s important to us and we still haven’t fixed the problem. We’re exactly where we were before all this started.
It’s disappointing to me that one person (Burdick) can trip up the entire process especially in light of the fact that she changed her position, then used procedural maneuvers to squash it. I expect we’ll be working with her in the future…but it seemed like we were there already.”
Burdick says she takes full responsibility for what happened to the fixed-gear portion of this bill, and that she is not “anti-fixie”. She told me her change of heart was mainly, “just second thoughts,”
“After it initially went through, I had a lot of reservations…my own daughter (who works at River City Bicycles in Portland) rides fixies on the velodrome. She jumped on me pretty hard and said there were a lot of people on fixies who really don’t know what they’re doing, so changing the standard across the board would not be a good idea.”
Burdick says she realizes that a problem remains, but that she thought the solution “is more complex” than she had time to deal with,
“…I’m certainly not anti-fixie…what I’d like to do is deal with the fixie issue on its own, in a more deliberate way. I think what we did today, by getting more of a performance standard, might help, but I’m not pretending we solved that problem. I take full responsibility for this and perhaps we should have spent more time on this in committee.”
For Burdick, it comes down to a safety issue,
“My first priority is safety so I think this issue needs more deliberation. You really have to find a way to allow the bikes for the people who know what they’re doing, but if you don’t have something that’s kind of tangible (in the law), it’s very hard to enforce it…that’s my struggle here.
I feel guilty for all this, so I’ll try twice as hard to deal with this issue next time it comes up.”
The committee held today was comprised of Senators Atkinson, Burdick, and Roger Beyer (R-Mollala) and Representatives Tobias Read (D-Beaverton), Greg McPherson (D-Lake Oswego), and Kevin Cameron (R-Salem).
According to Ginsberg the fixed-gear language had strong support from four members of the committee — Read, Macpherson, Atkinson, and Cameron — but as Chair of the committee, Burdick has final word in this situation.
For complete coverage of this issue, visit my Fixed Gear Ruling archives.