Fixed-Gear Bikes Illegal in LA?

92839216_424be53e06_m.jpgMaybe so if a rulling from Portland starts being used as a base. Chances are you haven’t been following this so I’ll give you the details – a cyclist in Portland was given a ticket for riding a bike with no breaks. She was riding a fixed-gear bike which while it doesn’t have handlebar mounted lever breaks does allow the rider to break by reverse pedling and thus stopping the back wheel. The cyclist fought the ticket in court and a judge ruled against her. The crux of this ruling is a municpal code stating that a bicycle “must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.” Apparently the judge didn’t think this was possible on a fixie, which it might not be depending on the rider. Of course I don’t know any cyclists who would get on a fixed-gear bike unless they were sure they could stop it, but that’s a different story all together. This brings LA into question because LADOT’s Bicycle LA site states that CVC 21202 and 21204 contain that exact same phrase. While I’m way to chicken and out of shape to even think of going near one of these bikes, there are a lot of people riding them around LA. I mean, hell, if you can get a ticket for not crossing the street fast enough there’s no reason this would be out of bounds. [photo by pancakeman157]

12 Replies to “Fixed-Gear Bikes Illegal in LA?”

  1. I’ve never ridden a speed bike before and I’m not sure if I’d understand the whole “squeeze the handlebars” thing for braking instead of the “backpedal to stop” system of the old cruisers.

    I’ve certainly been able to skid to a stop before … but I also know what it’s like to pop the chain on a long downhill and lost a lot of skin on my leg from that once.

  2. Cruisers and your childhood bike do have brakes, they’re called coaster breaks and they work by backpedaling, but it’s different from what happens with a fixed gear bike.

    On a fixed gear bike, the pedals rotate exactly the same way the wheels do. (Think back earlier in your life to a tricycle or a bigwheel to get a sense of what’s happening with the pedal and wheel.) So if you’re moving, the pedals are moving too. Braking on these is more akin to stopping your car by shifting into reverse.

  3. Well, in response to others commenting here… the fixie bikes don’t use the same braking mechanism that the old cruisers have. Those old cruisers have real back wheel brakes that lock up the tires when you backpedal.. thus me going through a million tires as a child while doing ‘power slide’ braking.

    The fixies have no brakes at all, the only way to stop them is to push backwards on the pedals as they rotate by… it’s a lot harder to stop than the cruisers, at least if you dont know to do it.

    bike messengers and hipsters love the fixies, i myself don’t like them and don’t see the point of a bike without brakes. They say they are easier to maintain… well to each their own, i guess. i dont understand the argument against putting hand brakes on a fixie.

  4. I think some of you are talking about the type of brakes that are on kids bikes and beach cruisers . . . those are “coaster brakes”. On a true “fixie” the pedals continue to turn as long as the bike is in motion (no freewheeling) and braking force is applied by resisting this turning.

  5. I’ve never understood the “easier to maintain” argument. Even when I’m doing a lot of heavy riding, I barely have to spend any time working on my brakes.

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