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  1. #1
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    Heard that DC will require front brakes come July 1, 2013

    Is there a new DC law that bikes must have at least a front brake come July 1, else the rider can be ticketed, stiff fine ? ? ?
    .
    Legal and para-legals - Would that law prejudice a bike rider who didn't have brakes and was hit by, say a car or truck on DC streets ?

    For example, if the bike has no brakes - is in violation of the new law - and rider is injured in a car-bike accident where the vehicle driver was solely at fault, then too bad cause no-brakes is contributory negligence and the bike rider loses the case.
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winters View Post
    Is there a new DC law that bikes must have at least a front brake come July 1, else the rider can be ticketed, stiff fine ? ? ?
    .
    Legal and para-legals - Would that law prejudice a bike rider who didn't have brakes and was hit by, say a car or truck on DC streets ?

    For example, if the bike has no brakes - is in violation of the new law - and rider is injured in a car-bike accident where the vehicle driver was solely at fault, then too bad cause no-brakes is contributory negligence and the bike rider loses the case.
    All bikes should have some kinda mechanical braking mechanism, just in case of an emergency, if in no other event. However, I'm most certain that if it can be proven that not having any brakes, did not contribute to the accident, then the brakeless cyclist, I'm sure, cannot be held culpable.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zeet View Post
    All bikes should have some kinda mechanical braking mechanism, just in case of an emergency, if in no other event. However, I'm most certain that if it can be proven that not having any brakes, did not contribute to the accident, then the brakeless cyclist, I'm sure, cannot be held culpable.
    .
    Well that does put a Burden of Proof on the bicyclist, a hurdle that would not otherwise be there absent this new law.
    .
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  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winters View Post
    .
    Well that does put a Burden of Proof on the bicyclist, a hurdle that would not otherwise be there absent this new law.
    .
    And couldn't even some junior third-rate lawyer have fun with this one - someone choosing to lessen their level of safety and disobey the law.
    .
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  5. #5
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winters View Post
    .Well that does put a Burden of Proof on the bicyclist, a hurdle that would not otherwise be there absent this new law.
    In court cases involving fixed-gear riders without caliper brakes, it's not so much about burden of proof than it is about contributory negligence. With judges and jurors generally not very knowledgeable about cycling (to put it mildly), a fixed gear bike without caliper brakes screams "recklessness" even though it's a perfectly legal vehicle in DC right now. Not sure when and how DC ever got hoodwinked into accepting the fixed gear mechanism as a legal brake.

  6. #6
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    Honestly I'm baffled when this sort of conversation comes up. I can understand how discussing the legal theory and ramifications of such laws can be engaging. But when it comes to the practical application it always strikes me as a little silly.

    Man up. Ride with brakes.

    If using a brake interferes with your zen experience while riding fixed (no attitude about this one, if this is your experience I respect it) then don't use the brake. No one says you have to use the brake, just that you must have a brake. As for the legal ramifications I imagine it would go down much as wim suggested: contributory negligence. It's a similar situation to driving a car that gets rear ended in broad day light, but both tail lights are out. I imagine it would mitigate the value of any in-court settlement in favor of the cyclist, assuming that's the way the ruling goes. All bets are off someone stops short in front of you and you slam into their bumper.

    Again, I suggest accepting a slightly less "clean" looking build, manning up, and putting a damn brake on the bike.

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  7. #7
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    One issue is DC's stiff fine for not having a front brake.
    As I've been told, this is a new requirement.
    Some folks here think the main reason is for collecting revenue, i.e. not safety.

    It's not a man-up issue, imo, it's the $100 or so to add the brakes ... I've yet to see any stats that show fixies with brakes are any safer than without.

    My legs are the brakes ... 50 years riding experience tells me that's plenty stopping power.

    So my original post was what happens if I'm hit by a negligent, drunk, cell phone, texting driver who was speeding and ran a red light and bowled me over. Am I SOL, just because my front wheel didn't have a brake ?

    My F150 has been rear-ended three times by cars that had working brakes.
    The problem is the drivers not the presence or absence of brakes, imo

    So, thanks for the comment. Please visit DC often and park wherever you like, especially if you have non-DC license plates. There's a special DC ticket and front wheel boot for those.

    PS - You can google DC parking fines and see the numerous complaints from folks who got parking tickets when they were'nt parked in DC. It's been a TV news item lately. .....
    Last edited by Winters; 04-21-2013 at 04:45 PM.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winters View Post
    One issue is DC's stiff fine for not having a front brake.
    As I've been told, this is a new requirement.
    Some folks here think the main reason is for collecting revenue, i.e. not safety.

    It's not a man-up issue, imo, it's the $100 or so to add the brakes ... I've yet to see any stats that show fixies with brakes are any safer than without.

    My legs are the brakes ... 50 years riding experience tells me that's plenty stopping power.

    So my original post was what happens if I'm hit by a negligent, drunk, cell phone, texting driver who was speeding and ran a red light and bowled me over. Am I SOL, just because my front wheel didn't have a brake ?

    My F150 has been rear-ended three times by cars that had working brakes.
    The problem is the drivers not the presence or absence of brakes, imo

    So, thanks for the comment. Please visit DC often and park wherever you like, especially if you have non-DC license plates. There's a special DC ticket and front wheel boot for those.

    PS - You can google DC parking fines and see the numerous complaints from folks who got parking tickets when they were'nt parked in DC. It's been a TV news item lately. .....
    does 50 years of riding experience also give you telepathic powers so you ALWAYS know what every car, bike and pedestrian is going to do 100% of the time? if the money required to put a brake on a bike is an issue, you should probably stick to the F150.
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  9. #9
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    OK, I'll add the 10 years with coaster brakes .... ages 5 - 10.

    . It's about riding appropriately for the conditions.
    .
    Did bike brakes help those pedestrians run down, some killed, in San Francisco and other cities ?
    .
    Look around, try these for starters:
    ... Bicycle Blueprint - Cyclist/Pedestrian Accidents
    ... Boulder study sheds light on bicycle, pedestrian accidents - Boulder Daily Camera
    .
    Being cynical, I can see how some DC bike shop folks are all for this new law. $100 is the diy cost. Wha's your price for adding brakes and levers to some 10 year old's fixie ?
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  10. #10
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winters View Post
    $100 is the diy cost. Wha's your price for adding brakes and levers to some 10 year old's fixie ?
    Where did you get this $100? To satisfy the DC front brake ordinance, all you'd need is a used brake and lever out of a bike-shop junk box, $3 worth of housing and a $5 cable. $20 at most if you're the least bit resourceful.

    And to get back to the subject: yes, and again: the law would "prejudice the bike rider" who didn't have a brake or brakes. If the jurisdiction requires a front brake, making the claim that you can stop your bike by back-pedaling would be just as useless as making the claim that you can stop your bike by dragging your feet on the ground.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by wim View Post
    Where did you get this $100? To satisfy the DC front brake ordinance, all you'd need is a used brake and lever out of a bike-shop junk box, $3 worth of housing and a $5 cable. $20 at most if you're the least bit resourceful.
    Two local bike shops, and they were very particular about mounting brakes vv the liability issues.

    Craigslist - "Tektro R 350 front and rear brakes (fronts are slightly used and the rears are brand new) and Tektro RL 530 Brake levers - $60 "
    ... plus the cables and misc. bolts.
    ... If I'm mounting a front, might as well add the back too.
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  12. #12
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winters View Post
    Craigslist - "Tektro R 350 front and rear brakes (fronts are slightly used and the rears are brand new) and Tektro RL 530 Brake levers - $60
    You can do better than that. Just as an illustration: many years ago, I satisfied the Virginia ordinance on one of my bikes with a freebie front brake out of one bike shop's metal recycle box, a freebie toddler's bike brake lever from another bike shop's junk box, and a piece of cable and housing I found in my garage bike spare parts box. Do a little networking with other fixie people suffering from this new ordinance and things will come your way without spending a lot of money.

    The $100 quote is outrageous; the liability issue is hogwash.

  13. #13
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    I just looked at 2 sources (Nashbar and Chain Reaction Cycles), and for the parts, here is what it should cost for a DIY brake modification.

    Brake: 24.99
    Lever: 27.00
    Cable: 4.99
    Total: 56.98

    There may be some drilling needed if your fixie does not have a hole for mounting a brake. The fork may also be incompatable with a brake, which is something only the owner could say.

    To add both a front and back brake, here is the costs that I came up with:

    Brakes: 34.99
    Levers: 54.00
    Cables: 10.00
    Total: 98.99

    I could see how adding a front brake would cost $100, in my experience the labor costs have been about the same as the parts, so $56.98 x 2 = $113.96. For adding both a front and back brake, the parts alone (retail) are @ $100. I doubt the wholesale prices are significantly less than what they can be bought for on the internet, so it is likely that the quotes of $100 are legit.
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  14. #14
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    I don't know whether the law is a good idea or not, but my fixies all have a front brake, and I don't see the value in riding brakeless beyond showing off what I will admit are sometimes impressive skills. But you clearly have diminished stopping ability with that setup. There's no denying the physics -- the back wheel will skid at decelleration rates far below what you can get with a front brake. And then there's the expendable-tire issue. Doesn't make sense to me.

    That said, coaster-brake bikes have never been illegal anywhere, so I'm not sure the safety concerns are well thought-out by proponents of the law.

    On another point raised by this thread, I find it odd that somebody who has been riding for 50 years and has the skills to skid-stop a fixie in traffic would even consider paying a bike shop to install a brake. I guess some guys just ride 'em and dont fix 'em. Seems strange to me, especially in the context of FG, where until pretty recently most of the bikes on the road were conversions cobbled together from various parts. I still find it peculiar that there are so many off-the-shelf road fixies.
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  15. #15
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    i ride with a front brake & personally wouldn't be without one. in fact, i use one of those clamp-on dealies so i can put a caliper onto my undrilled track fork.

    that being said, afaiac if someone is able enough to go brakeless...more power to them.

    however...@JCavilia - i find it curious that you join the boo-birds attacking the op for choosing to ride brakeless, which his experience has taught him works for him; especially considering that you just posted a screed defending suicide hubs because even though many think they are dangerous, & problems with & injuries caused by them are well-documented...your experience is that they work for you

    @Winters...if that law is really on the way & you plan to ignore it, i'd suggest that you consult a lawyer in your town about it rather than rely on (mis)information you get here.

    good luck...

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by markaitch View Post
    however...@JCavilia - i find it curious that you join the boo-birds attacking the op for choosing to ride brakeless, which his experience has taught him works for him..
    Ah, apologies if my discussion was construed as an attack. I thought I said - and meant to say - pretty much the same thing you said. I'd rather ride with a brake, but I see guys riding without, and they pull it off, with the necessary adjustments in technique. There's no denying they have less braking ability, but that doesn't mean you can't ride safely if you anticipate adequately. That was the point of my mentioning coaster brakes, but perhaps I didn't make it clearly.

    I do get a kick out of watching the messengers here in Hartford. They almost all ride brakeless fixies, and when I see one do a little skid to position the cranks to hop up a curb, or track-stand in the crosswalk, it's a lovely thing.

    Good luck to you and Winters ;-)
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  17. #17
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by markaitch View Post
    @Winters...if that law is really on the way & you plan to ignore it, i'd suggest that you consult a lawyer in your town about it rather than rely on (mis)information you get here.
    Well, any lawyer would certainly be happy to take his money for a consultation. But really, this is just common sense: if the ordinance says "must have front brake" and it's clear that you didn't have one, your case isn't as strong as it could be.

  18. #18
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    No offence taken at all.
    .
    LBS guy said his concern is that folks, tourists, visitors, kids w/o front brake could get a "... surprise stiff fine starting July 1", his words, for just riding around.
    .
    So anyway, I got a set for $50 and will be mounting them soon. Gonna try flat bar levers first.
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  19. #19
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winters View Post
    LBS guy said his concern is that folks, tourists, visitors, kids w/o front brake could get a "... surprise stiff fine starting July 1", his words, for just riding around.
    I wonder about that myself. Passing an ordinance is one thing, but are they actually going to enforce it? As you probably know, DC is one of the very few jurisdictions (perhaps even the only one) in the U.S. in which brakeless fixed-gear bikes are legal.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winters View Post
    No offence taken at all.
    .
    LBS guy said his concern is that folks, tourists, visitors, kids w/o front brake could get a "... surprise stiff fine starting July 1", his words, for just riding around.
    .
    So anyway, I got a set for $50 and will be mounting them soon. Gonna try flat bar levers first.
    Probably prudent. And I apologize for criticizing you for mechanical timidity or ineptitude. I understand now that your talks with shops were hypothetical.

    I have a question, though. You said several times that you've been told that the law will change in July, but I haven't seen a cite to a news story or a piece of legislation. Is this actually a done deal? My interest is merely academic and nostalgic (used to live in the District, but moved away some years ago), but a little searching has turned up nothing on this.

    Good luck with the "upgrade". The cross levers do seem like a good way to go, if you're used to riding brakeless and don't need or want the hoods for a hand position.
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  21. #21
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCavilia View Post
    Is this actually a done deal?
    Good question, and one I should have asked in my first response. I have not heard of this from anyone else and can't find anything on this either. False alarm?

  22. #22
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    Heard this "news" last week from an LBS guy, who'll remain nameless for now.

    Then I saw blog entry that said DC was going to revise it's human powered (fixie) regs for conforming with what most other jurisdictions have, i.e. require at least a front brake.... The fine at some cities is up to $ 1,000 ... that's stiff.

    I'm one cup of coffe short of finding that this am. More later.

    Here's the current text per the internet: Full Text Search, DC Regulations

    "1204.1 Each bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which enables the operator to cause the braked wheels to skid on dry, level, clean pavement; provided, that a fixed gear bicycle is not required to have a separate brake, but an operator of a fixed gear bicycle shall be able to stop the bicycle using the pedals. "
    - - - - - - - -
    and:
    "720.15 No person shall operate on any street or highway any vehicle referred to in this section if the Director has disapproved the braking system upon the vehicle."
    ... Director could be disapproving leg and pedal system, and now requirring a mechanical front brake system.
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  23. #23
    wim
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winters View Post
    Heard this "news" last week from an LBS guy, who'll remain nameless for now.
    I'm familiar with 1204.1, which was amended in 2006 to make fixed-gear bicycles without brakes legal in DC. That's just 7 years ago. It does seem odd for the District to reverse itself after such a comparatively short time. More and more, it sounds like misinformation. Or (dare I even think this?) could the story be at the center of a shop scam?

  24. #24
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    The front ''Oh Sh*t! brake'' is already adopted by Fixed riders in Montreal Quebec Canada and its not even enforced by law. When you gotta stop you gotta stop .

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