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Ventura county shuts trails and bike paths to any bike without brakes

California’s Ventura County has banned fixed-wheel bikes from trails and bike paths.

A hit-and-run crash between two riders on the Ojai Valley Trail  in September left one with severe injuries. The other fled the scene but was reported by parks director Ron Van Dyck to be riding a bike with no brakes at high speed.

Park officials therefore pushed for a ban on fixed-wheel bikes, which are sometimes ridden without brakes. 

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the ban on Tuesday, according to the Ventura County Star.

It’s not the first time brakeless fixies have been a target of local law. In 2006 Portland, Oregon bike messenger Ayla Holland was stopped for riding a brakeless fixie, and subsequently fined.

In a similar later case in Portland, the rider managed to argue that the transmission constituted a braking mechanism and escaped a fine, but for a while some Portland police were believed to be deliberately targetting riders of brakeless fixies.

In 2010, Australian bike shops were threatened with fines of up to AUD1.1 million for selling fixies without two brakes.

In the UK, the law is straightforward. The Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983 say that a fixed wheel bike has to have a front brake, and regular bikes with freewheels have to have two independent braking systems, one of which operates on the front wheel.

We haven’t been able to find any cases of someone being fined in the UK for riding a brakeless fixie.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

46 comments

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guidob [56 posts] 2 years ago
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the Ventura County Star lacks details - is it fixed gear or fixed gear with no brakes that have been banned?

I ride fixed for my commute but I do have a front brake (as I have no confidence in my ability to stop the bike sharp enough) then again I am in West London and not California...

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't think it's unreasonable to decree that bikes should have brakes regardless of transmission type.

You can stop a car or (4 stroke) motorcycle on engine braking if you are skilful, but I'd prefer not to share the roads with unbraked vee-hickles, ta.

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jason.timothy.jones [294 posts] 2 years ago
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so if I ride around on a fixie and stab someone in the face, the fixie is the problem? Sounds like they have British Politicians in Cali

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KnightBiker [75 posts] 2 years ago
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I ride a fixie on the velodrome of Amsterdam, but on open roads I wouldn't dare it. (on a velodrome brakes would even be dangerous and it's one way traffic anyway.)
I know there's a lot of cyclist capable of doing so, but being capable en needing to do so is bit of a difference. at least in my mind it wouldn't hurt to put at least one break on a streetbike. (one is at least free not to use it...)
(Instead of fixed gear, in town I ride singlespeed, makes me feel more save during cornering also, being able to keep the pedal high and lean into the corner.)

(don't think it needs to be a law, it's just a case of awarding Darwin awards)

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russyparkin [570 posts] 2 years ago
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hipsters spitting their skinny machiatos all over their rapha city gloves everywhere.

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mrmo [2077 posts] 2 years ago
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seems odd to ban fixies when the issue is brakes, what are they going to do about bmx's being ridden brakeless??? or do skate shoes and back tyres count as a brake????

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 2 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

seems odd to ban fixies when the issue is brakes, what are they going to do about bmx's being ridden brakeless??? or do skate shoes and back tyres count as a brake????

A lot of riders on the BMX scene ride brakeless. I've asked a few about it. The usual response is, "Brakes drag and slow you down."

I answer, "They don't drag if you know how to set them up right."

So there you have it, teenage laziness in setting up brakes leads to minimalist cool. The saving in avoiding the cost of a functioning brake is outweighed by the rapid wear of each pair of Vans.

My BMXs have a rear brake. It's enough.

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oozaveared [937 posts] 2 years ago
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I used to borrow the old club bike must have been from the 40s for a Friday track night (we are talking fenced path around the boundary of a cricket pitch here) back in the seventies. It had a front brake with the lever on a jubilee clip. The whole brake mech and lever could be removed or put back on in say 30 seconds. I rode it home once without investing the 30 seconds and frankly did not adjust my mindset or riding style either. I came a right cropper. I would have to agree that a fixie without a front brake is not road sensible and ought not to be road legal.

Funnily enough though some old American bikes used to have a freewheel with a brake that came on of you pedalled backwards. I rode one once back in the 60s. Quite a good system I thought. Anyone know if they are still around or what they are called?

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giff77 [1251 posts] 2 years ago
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There seems to be a gross assumption on whether the cyclist was using fixed. All that was seen was the cyclist taking off at speed on a brake less bicycle. I mean to say, how many people actually take a fixed wheel on to a country trail or horse trail not many I can bet.

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oozaveared [937 posts] 2 years ago
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to be fair the kids on the BMXs have a partial point. Much like a proper track bike they aren't really for riding on a road and. OK if someone is riding a BMX on a road maybe they should have a brake. I bet they can stop em faster than a lot of cyclists can with brakes. And it's not fair to call it teenage laziness. It's more about wanting the cache. Quite the opposite in fact. They probably had to take the brake off. And as it happens the lazy ones aren't riding BMXs around they are playing Tony Hawke on the PS3.

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tomilett [6 posts] 2 years ago
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Two cars crashed quite recently on a road in Ventura county, one of the drivers was seriously injured. When do you think they'll pass the law banning cars then?...

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giff77 [1251 posts] 2 years ago
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oozaveared wrote:

Funnily enough though some old American bikes used to have a freewheel with a brake that came on of you pedalled backwards. I rode one once back in the 60s. Quite a good system I thought. Anyone know if they are still around or what they are called?

Yep, they're still around. Mainly on kids bikes though. My friends youngster has this set up on his and takes great joy in locking the rear wheel to show his prowess on braking. Can't think what they're called right now

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Goldfever4 [221 posts] 2 years ago
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tomilett wrote:

Two cars crashed quite recently on a road in Ventura county, one of the drivers was seriously injured. When do you think they'll pass the law banning cars running without brakes then?...

Fixed (ho hum)

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Ush [693 posts] 2 years ago
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oozaveared wrote:

bikes used to have a freewheel with a brake that came on of you pedalled backwards. I rode one once back in the 60s. Quite a good system I thought. Anyone know if they are still around or what they are called?

Coaster brakes. All the "C" ending models in the Sunrace/Sturmey-Archer catalogue have it. http://www.sturmey-archer.com/products/hubs/cid/3/id/15.html

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flobble [98 posts] 2 years ago
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giff77 wrote:
oozaveared wrote:

Funnily enough though some old American bikes used to have a freewheel with a brake that came on of you pedalled backwards. I rode one once back in the 60s. Quite a good system I thought. Anyone know if they are still around or what they are called?

Yep, they're still around. Mainly on kids bikes though. My friends youngster has this set up on his and takes great joy in locking the rear wheel to show his prowess on braking. Can't think what they're called right now

Coaster brakes, I think.

No brakes=no brain (metaphorically) = sooner or later, no brain (literally).

Back brake better than no brake
Front brake better than rear brake (more friction under braking)
Two brakes better than one brake

Nobody looks hip with 2 tons of car resting on the remains of their brains.

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Guyz2010 [304 posts] 2 years ago
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"You can stop a car or (4 stroke) motorcycle on engine braking if you are skilful, but I'd prefer not to share the roads with unbraked vee-hickles"
Maybe eventually you can but not in an emergency stop...get real.
Bike should comply with whatever rules apply. Period.

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Ush [693 posts] 2 years ago
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flobble wrote:
giff77 wrote:
oozaveared wrote:

Funnily enough though some old American bikes used to have a freewheel with a brake that came on of you pedalled backwards. I rode one once back in the 60s. Quite a good system I thought. Anyone know if they are still around or what they are called?

Yep, they're still around. Mainly on kids bikes though. My friends youngster has this set up on his and takes great joy in locking the rear wheel to show his prowess on braking. Can't think what they're called right now

Coaster brakes, I think.

No brakes=no brain (metaphorically) = sooner or later, no brain (literally).

Back brake better than no brake
Front brake better than rear brake (more friction under braking)
Two brakes better than one brake

Nobody looks hip with 2 tons of car resting on the remains of their brains.

FFS, they're calling for a complete ban on fixed-wheel bicycles. Not for a ban on brakeless bicycles.

It's a evidence-free, kneejerk reaction which ignores the fact that a fixed-wheel with a front-brake (which provides c. 85% of the stopping power) is possibly safer than a freewheel in terms of sensing road conditions, having a direct incentive not to bomb down hills faster than your legs can pedal etc.

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pwake [376 posts] 2 years ago
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Maybe the rider involved could just fess up and tell them "It's not about the bike but rather about me being an irresponsible f**ktard."

With regard to coaster brakes, almost all 'cruiser' bikes sold here in the US use them. I bought a $100 Walmart cruiser last year with this system and it works very well (can even skid). I'm just not sure about the life of the pads, but at $100 a throw you probably just get a whole new bike!

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Paul J [885 posts] 2 years ago
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oozaveared: Kick-back / pedal-backwards / coaster brakes are fitted on pretty much the majority (nearly all?) of "normal" (i.e. not sports) bikes in the Netherlands.

They're excellent for about-town, utility cycling because they mean your hands are left free, to signal, carry things (e.g. shopping), use your mobile, etc. The downside is they're not the most powerful brakes.  3

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oozaveared [937 posts] 2 years ago
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thanks all for the "coaster brake" references. Last time I used them I was 8. It was in 1968. A couple of American kids lived round the corner (can't remember why that was now) anyhoo they had these and i used to enjoy getting up to full speed and then locking the brakes up. They seemsed to work pretty good for me but I must have been a bit lighter or something.....

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tourdelound [157 posts] 2 years ago
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Sorry, am I missing something here? I don't see any mention of the hit and run rider actually riding a fixie.

Would seem pretty senseless to ride a bike with no means of stopping..... but you can never tell.

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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tourdelound wrote:

Sorry, am I missing something here? I don't see any mention of the hit and run rider actually riding a fixie.

Would seem pretty senseless to ride a bike with no means of stopping..... but you can never tell.

Maybe the dude who got hit saw it was a brakeless bike?

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mrkeith119 [87 posts] 2 years ago
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oozaveared wrote:

I would have to agree that a fixie without a front brake is not road sensible and ought not to be road legal.

I could be mistaken but it isn't road legal in the UK, I'm sure the highway code states that a bike needs to have both front and rear brakes. so you would need a front brake with a fixed transmission.

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rix [123 posts] 2 years ago
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I used fixed bike (with two breaks) for one year because it was fashionable and my friends said that I will love it once I try it. They were, so wrong! At first it was fun as a learning process, but then it became plain annoying that you have to pedal when going down hill. Stupid idea  35

P.S. Actually, it was not all bad... I was quite happy to ride it on mini-drome.

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Guyz2010 [304 posts] 2 years ago
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tomilett wrote:

Two cars crashed quite recently on a road in Ventura county, one of the drivers was seriously injured. When do you think they'll pass the law banning cars then?...

They are not banning bikes per say just the idiotic bikes without brakes. I would imagine that will be policed as all bikes with no brakes at some point. All good stuff really.

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Grizzerly [298 posts] 2 years ago
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As long as I have been aware, it has been illegal to ride a bike without a front brake on UK roads. A rear brake becomes necessary if the bike has a freewheel. Nevertheless, trendy bike manufacturers market 'Fixies' without brakes as commuter bikes and cycling publications review them ecstatically.

Two things strike me about this:
1. Anyone who rides a bike without a front brake is a Twat.
2. Anyone who markets a bike without a front brake for road use is a shyster.

The latter is true no matter how wonderful his brazing and paintwork is!

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jason.timothy.jones [294 posts] 2 years ago
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russyparkin wrote:

hipsters spitting their skinny machiatos all over their rapha city gloves everywhere.

I wish I was cool enough to be a hipster, im just to old, to fat for skinny jeans, I can grow a decent beard, but being a read head it does not look the part, especially with my bald head....but I do have a fixie

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 2 years ago
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giff77 wrote:
oozaveared wrote:

Funnily enough though some old American bikes used to have a freewheel with a brake that came on of you pedalled backwards. I rode one once back in the 60s. Quite a good system I thought. Anyone know if they are still around or what they are called?

Yep, they're still around. Mainly on kids bikes though. My friends youngster has this set up on his and takes great joy in locking the rear wheel to show his prowess on braking. Can't think what they're called right now

Coaster brakes - also popular on bikes in Germany and Holland where they're still on sale. A lot of those old sit up type Dutch bikes have them still.

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armb [100 posts] 2 years ago
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Nitpicking, under UK law a fixed-gear bike doesn't need a separate front brake if the pedals "act on any wheel or on the axle of any wheel without the interposition of any gearing or chain". So a penny-farthing doesn't need brakes.
(There's also an exemption for bikes with saddles lower than 635mm (intended for childrens' bikes but which might or might not exempt some recumbents depending whether a seat back is part of a "saddle"), and for small wheeled bikes built before 1984, again intended for childrens' bikes but would cover old Bromptons or Moultons. Which does not, of course, make it a good idea to use such a bike without the usual brakes.)

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Chuck [546 posts] 2 years ago
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This makes no sense. It's a massive assumption that the accident was caused by anyone's braking capability. Much more likely somebody was just riding like a tw@t.
How many car accidents are caused by cars having faulty brakes, and how many are caused by the drivers? I just don't see how banning fixies is a rational reaction.

That said, I don't really get them myself and think it's reasonable to expect that bikes should have 2 proper brakes.

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