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California county bans brakeless fixies

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.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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