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  • Sat April 07 2007
  • Posted Apr 7, 2007
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A Senate committee delivered a victory to bicycle messengers and other riders of fixed-gear bikes on Tuesday, advancing a bill that would legalize their mode of transportation. Fixed-gear bikes, also known as fixies, have a single gear that rotates at the same rate as the bike's wheels. Unlike other bikes that allow pedals to spin freely and rely on front or rear hand brakes to stop, fixed-gear riders use their legs to slow or skid to a halt. Though riders contend that the bicycles — popular among messengers and traditionally used on indoor tracks for racing — don't violate the law, Portland police officers began issuing tickets to riders last June, citing a state law that says bikes must have a brake. "The bill fixes a little glitch in the law," said Sen. Jason Atkinson, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The law suggests that you have to have a brake on a bicycle which makes a lot of common sense, but doesn't make mechanical sense as it relates to a fixed-gear bicycle." The Republican from Grants Pass, typically attired in a suit, wore a black T-shirt that read: "Ride fixed gear go to jail." The committee voted to send the bill to the Senate floor, where it will likely receive a vote in the next few weeks. Atkinson, who raced mountain and road bikes for eight years and owns a fixed-gear bike, gave a thumbs-up sign to supporters of the bill during his testimony and said it was important for the law to meet the current trends in cycling. The legality of fixed-gear bikes was called into question when Portland bike messenger Ayla Holland was given a ticket because the officer said her bike violated a law that says "a bicycle must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement." A Multnomah County judge upheld the $73 ticket, and Holland's lawyer, Mark Ginsberg, estimates that Portland authorities have issued another 50 such tickets since the ruling. The ticketing ignited a firestorm among Portland's cyclist community, and fixed-gear riders have continued to fight tickets in court. Since last summer, two more judges have weighed in — one siding with law enforcement, the other ruling that the bikes are legal. "The reality is we are dealing with a law that is outdated," said Jonathan Maus, the founder of BikePortland.org. "Fixed-gear bicycles are a rapidly increasingly part of the market and it is not just bicycle messengers and competitive athletes. These things are ridden by a diverse group of cyclists and they are going to be out on the streets."

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