Special Coverage of the Fixed-gear Brake Saga

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

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

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

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

Learn more by reading the stories below…


Update from bike day in court

Posted on November 6th, 2006 at 3:29 pm.

As I write this, bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg is doing battle in the Multnomah County Courthouse in downtown Portland.

He is fighting the questionable tickets of ten cyclists.

BikePortland.org 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.
[Read more…]

Despite ruling, Officer continues to ticket fixed gear riders

Posted on September 8th, 2006 at 7:31 am.

officer barnum

[Officer Brett Barnum
taking the oath at the
Ayla Holland trial.]

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).

Then, just last Tuesday, Barnum found himself in court again for the same violation. This time John Boyd, a local architect, convinced the judge to overrule Barnum’s ticket on the grounds that the definition of “brake” was not clearly defined in the statute (815.280(a)(b)).

Now, despite this recent ruling and what would appear to be a statute in legal limbo, Barnum is still ticketing bicyclists for riding fixed gear bicycles without a hand brake.
[Read more…]

Cyclist wins fixed-gear case

Posted on September 5th, 2006 at 2:00 pm.

This morning Portland cyclist John Boyd successfully defended himself in a Multnomah County traffic court trial for a ticket he received for riding a fixed-gear bicycle without a hand brake.

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 violation on July 27th (that case is under appeal with the State of Oregon).
[Read more…]

Appeal filed in fixed-gear case

Posted on August 25th, 2006 at 12:55 pm.

[via the Portland Mercury Blog]

[Notice of appeal]

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

Ginsberg waited to make his decision until after he and his staff could closely scrutinize the transcript from the initial trial.

Ayla Holland told me in a recent phone conversation that she feels strongly about taking this case to a higher court:
[Read more…]

Judge shows no respect for fixie case

Posted on August 25th, 2006 at 8:26 am.

fixed gear sign

The Portland Mercury Blog is reporting that Multnomah County Judge Dale Koch has denied lawyer Mark Ginsberg’s request to have his stack of fixed-gear tickets heard in a real courtroom, instead of in lowly traffic court.

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 an elected, sitting judge (as opposed to a “pro tem” traffic court judge) raises “constitutional issues.”
[Read more…]

Exclusive look at fixed-gear trial transcript

Posted on August 15th, 2006 at 7:38 am.

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.

If you don’t get around to downloading the file, here’s the excerpt from the judge’s final decision:

Judge Lowe:

“The testimony here is that there was no brake. By that, I mean…there was no specific device specifically designed to slow the vehicle down. All right? Your argument, Mr. Ginsberg, si that the gearing could be used to slow the bike down. And the defendant said her feet could be used to slow the bike down.

[Read more…]

Oregon Senator in “rebellion mode” over fixed-gear ruling

Posted on August 14th, 2006 at 12:15 pm.

[Jason Atkinson,
Oregon State Senator.]

Republican Oregon State Senator Jason Atkinson read about Ayla Holland’s court case on CyclingNews.com 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.

He told me he plans to introduce new legislation in January 2007 to fix what he calls this, “ridiculous problem.” Right now, his office is researching the law and comparing legal definitions of “brake” and “stop” in other states. He has also been in touch with Holland’s lawyer Mark Ginsberg.
[Read more…]

T-shirt commemorates fixed-gear ruling

Posted on August 9th, 2006 at 10:23 am.

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.

They had stumbled across the story and thought the judge and the police were being, “completely ridiculous” so they decided to flex their capitalist muscles and do something about it:
[Read more…]

Messengers break out the sticks

Posted on August 7th, 2006 at 7:46 am.

[Photo: Dabby]

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.”

many local messengers are now equipped with stick-brakes.

They are also holding a stick-braking competition.
[Read more…]

Police perspective on fixed-gear enforcement

Posted on August 2nd, 2006 at 2:53 pm.

Several cyclists out on the streets in the last few days have relayed their concerns to me about what they perceive as increased police enforcement of fixed-gear riders.

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.

Here’s his response:
[Read more…]