Thursday, January 18, 2007

Braking the Law

While looking at something completely
unrelated to the subject, I came across
this little jewel in the Texas state
statutes (emphasis mine):


(a) A person may not operate a bicycle

unless the bicycle is equipped with a brake

capable of making a braked wheel skid on dry,

level, clean pavement.

(b) A person may not operate a bicycle

at nighttime unless the bicycle is equipped with:

(1) a lamp on the front of the bicycle

that emits a white light visible from a distance

of at least 500 feet in front of the bicycle;

and (2) on the rear of the bicycle:

(A) a red reflector that is:

(i) of a type approved by the department;


(ii) visible when directly in front of

lawful upper beams of motor vehicle headlamps

from all distances from 50 to 300 feet to the

rear of the bicycle; or

(B) a lamp that emits a red light visible from a

distance of 500 feet to the rear of the bicycle.

Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 165, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1085,

§ 11, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.

Found here:

Now personally, I prefer to ride my fixed gear with a
brake and the cyclist in me thinks most people are
silly to ride without one. However, the libertarian
in me feels that if they have an overwhelming desire
to become a hood ornament and thin out the gene pool a
bit... then that is their business. However, I don't
know of anyone in Texas that has ever had this problem
(legally speaking). If you have I'd love to hear
about it...

Portland on the other hand, has had more than their
share of problems with this same subject:

Fine and dandy, but really the way the law is written,
it's a bit silly. I have three different bikes in
the stable right now, of all different types. One
road bike, one cyclocross bike, and the fixed gear.

The Masi has dual caliper brakes of very good quality
with excellent brake pads on them, the Cross Check
has Paul Cantilever brakes that are practically
legendary in their stopping ability. The fixed gear
has a single caliper brake on the front and my legs
to back pedal. Point is, not a single one of these
bikes would pass the law the way it is currently stated.
No skid whatsoever. Well, on wet pavement I've
skidded once on the road bike... but I didn't want to.

Actually, skidding to me seems to be an undesirable
prospect. Isn't that the reason new cars are equipped
with anti-lock brakes? I feel comfortable cruising
down hills at speeds that hit 50 mph (yes, I am a
downhill Juggernaut) and have never worried that my
brakes would fail me. So the question that comes to
my mind is this:

Are these laws unreasonable? If so, is it in intent
and purpose? Is it the way the law is currently
written? Or is there more to this than just flippant
thoughts and conversation?

I wonder how many more states have laws just like
this on the books that are difficult to enforce. Of
course this begs the question, should they be challenged
or should we let sleeping dogs lie?


last lap last chance said...

Good times, I remember the case from Seattle when the bike messenger was charged with this same infraction.

I run a single brake on my fixt. Hasty drop me a line sometime --- amnewsom at yahoo dot com --- we need to get together for a ride again.

The last part of the BNYEFGCPP was great, had to flip so I could finish though, but a good trip back with the tail wind.

Tony (Black Fixt Fuji)

Kenny said...

do you know how to skid on your fixed gear?

Hasty! said...

I can skid on the fixed gear, but not consistently. It's hard on the old knees and the tires so I prefer not to do it.

Hasty! said...

Kenny, I originally answered you without thinking too much about it then it suddenly hit me. I get what you're saying, but if you've been following the cases up in the Northwest, skidding on the fixed gear isn't good enough.

That was the argument a few had presented and they've apparently lost. It is the presence of the brake that they were looking for. Of course, since I have a brake they wouldn't hassle me. My only thought was, the power of most brakes alone won't allow for a skid. Only bikes I've seen skid readily are fixed gear bikes and coaster brake equipped bikes.

Besides, a front brake has much better stopping power than a rear, and I don't want that one to lock up!