The number of sleek looking fixed-gear bikes on our roads is on the rise, potentially putting riders, pedestrians, and drivers at risk. These bicycles were originally developed for speed racing in the 1800’s. In fact, New York City’s original Madison Square Garden was built as a velodrome for the popular sport. In our century, the bikes had a resurgence among bike messengers in New York and other big cities. Fixed-gear bikes are fast and light, both traits desired by messengers constantly on the go.
However, these bikes were not designed for cruising on the roads in traffic. Regardless, they are growing more popular as a mode of transportation. Maybe you’re planning on purchasing a bike and like the hip look of the fixed-gears, or perhaps you’re are a driver in a college town – it’s important to understand the danger these bicycles can pose in an urban environment.
A fixed-gear bicycle, also referred to as “fixed-wheel” or “fixie,” can’t coast; the pedals are constantly moving whenever the bicycle is in motion. Many of these bikes don’t have brakes. Riders come to a stop by skidding, back pedaling, or braking with their feet. Though it’s possible to install hand brakes, many say that it disrupts the clean look the fixies are known for. Obviously, riding brakeless in traffic is dangerous. It’s also illegal in California, where the law states: “No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake.”
Some aficionados will install brakes in discreet places, such as under the bike seat, simply to make their rides technically legal. But since these brakes are hard to access, they aren’t actually effective.
Of course skilled riders who have put in a lot of hours on their fixed-gear bikes can navigate the roads and obstacles with confidence. New riders accustomed to the common free-wheel bikes, however, will not feel immediately comfortable – even with brakes. The fixie’s inability to coast can lead to pedals scraping the road in a turn that would have been easily manageable on a free-wheel bicycle. This poses a great risk to the rider, pedestrians, drivers, as well as other bikers.
If you ride a fixed-gear bike, we hope you do so safely and respecting the rules of the road. If you operate one on the streets without a brake, be aware that it is against the law. Fixies are being targeted by many local police departments; you will be subject to fines and may have your bicycle impounded if an officer catches you riding brakeless.
For people who frequently ride in traffic, we strongly recommend the use of a free-wheel bicycle. Dual hand brakes enable a rider to respond quickly to unexpected changes in the roadways, and the free-wheel allows sharper turns to avoid obstacles.
We urge all drivers to be aware that this fall there will inevitably be a slew of college students on the streets on these fixed-gear bikes. Learn to identify them, and treat them with even more caution then you would a road cyclist. (We assume that all of our readers already share the road responsibly).
At Bergener Mirejovsky, we take road safety seriously. We have represented thousands of cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and drivers over the years. It is important that all of us share our streets safely and respectfully. If you’ve been injured in an accident, call us for a free consultation today at 1.800.881.2021. One of our skilled personal injury attorneys can help determine whether you have a claim and advise you on how to proceed.
Newport Beach Personal Injury Attorney
4220 Von Karman Avenue, Suite 200
Newport Beach, CA 92660