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A sad day for bicyclists and freedom-lovers

Is your brake government approved?

In this account of a bicyclist contesting a ticket for not having a brake on her bike the judge found that a fixed gear bike does not constitute a brake. This is sad.

Deifning what is or isn't a brake by it being "A lever, a caliper or a coaster brake hub" shows great lack of creativity but also lack of basic knowledge of how bikes work and what constitutes a lever. A bike pedal is on the end of a piece of metal. Which makes it a lever. So the bike pedal is attached to a lever that can be used to stop the bike.

The judge's claim that the woman's legs might not be strong enough to stop the bike or that she may have a leg muscle spasm is equally ignorant. The same problems could be identified with a hand brake - which requires a non-spasming hand of a certain level of strength.

Indeed it's an especially sad day to me because the legislature's definitions was

"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."

Which seems to show that the legislature was willing to be creative in how there definition of brake was applied.

People Involved: 



I am in portland right now and saw this article a couple of days ago in the local newspaper. I would love to give the court a demonstration of a 10 or 15 foot skid on dry, level, clean pavement with a track bike!


I certainly hope Holland appealed and want to add that all Holland is behind her. Here in Holland, where I live, the hand brake is a relatively young innovation on our bicycles. We use fixed brakes (moving the pedal and the chain backwards) for ages, and unlike Oregon judges we don't worry about leg muscle spasms, simply because we have none (spasms, that it).
Most distburbing thought concerns your legal system: do you have time for this?

pedal brake vs. fixed chain

Gerard - I think you're confusing a pedal brake with a fixed chain. I've ridden Dutch bikes several times (Ik leefde in Den Haag 6 maanden!) and pushing the pedals backwards would engage a brake inside of the hub. This woman's bike was "fixed" meaning that if she stopped pedaling the momentum of the wheel would keep pushing the pedals forward. It's the way bikes were maybe 100 years ago and the way that some track racers still like them - and certain bike afficionados as well.

I do of course agree with you - regardless of the mechanism, this shouldn't have been a case in the first place. It was probably a small altercation with a police officer that resulted in a ticket.

In terms of the legal system and whether we have time for this...who knows. I know that many critical mass riders in Denver got tickets a few months back. Most were dismissed or plead down to a no point issue. Oh well...

OK, I can now see the point.

OK, I can now see the point. I'd say engaging in traffic riding a bike with a fixed gear and no hub break (which wouldn't be very helpful in this case anyway) is a device for self-destruction.
One addition: the point is not so much muscle power of the probability of spasms, for the continuing rotation of the pedals would easily lift an overweight man, no matter how hard he tried to push the pedal backwards...

killing yourself without brakes

It's not clear to me from that story or the comments that the person had "no brakes" or "fixed gear" bike. One comment says it might have been a fixy, but that's not proof.

Further, it's not clear that the lack of a brake is what led to the death in this case. So, if you want to jump to conclusions, be my guest, but I sure won't.

If there's any message here, it's that any mode of transport can be dangerous and that people should be careful neither bikes nor trucks nor pedestrians are immune.