Last modified: March 19, 2010

Idaho Brake Law

From the Idaho Statesman

The Idaho Senate this week voted to require that all bicycles have brakes. The measure now goes to the House. It is part of a package of bicycle-safety bills introduced by Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise. The Statesman invited a Boise police official and a writer and cyclist who sits on the Ada County Highway District's Bicycle Advisory Committee to make their cases for and against the bill.

Pro: Consistency aids safety for everyone

Having a working brake on a bicycle is an important matter of safety for cyclists and all those who bike, walk or drive near them.

Boise City Code already requires that a bicycle have a brake capable of stopping in 25 feet at 10 mph. The reason for the City Code is safety.

Numerous hazards may present themselves unexpectedly to bike riders in any environment. On roadways, glass, sand, debris, road grates or other traffic can cause the need to stop suddenly to avoid a collision. The Greenbelt and sidewalks through our parks are well traveled by cyclists, runners, walkers, dogs and children. Any of these users can make sudden and unexpected movements. The ability to make a controlled stop can be the difference between a near-miss and an injury collision.

Police find that consistency in traffic rules and operation increases safety. The law requires all motor vehicles to have working brakes. It makes sense that bikes, which also have accelerating functions, have brakes. It's the brake that allows a cyclist to slow or stop. None of us would want to be involved in a collision that meant damage, injury or worse, if it could be prevented by the safety function of a brake.

Con: Fixies are just misunderstood

BY RICK OVERTON

Cyclists and motorists alike should be grateful for Sen. Elliot Werk's fair and forward-looking package of bills. But Senate Bill 1349, requiring fixed-gear bicycles to add hand brakes, is built on a misunderstanding of how the bikes work.

There is no freewheel on these so-called "fixies." Force applied to the pedal translates directly to the rear wheel. This means no coasting, as the pedals and wheels move in synch. Riders slow the bikes by resisting this force. Think of it as unpedaling to a stop, something a good fixie rider can accomplish in seconds.

Fixies are spartan, difficult to ride, and dripping with hipster cred. But fixie bikes aren't responsible for the spate of tragic bike accidents over the past 12 months. Though a few riders maneuver obnoxiously and unsafely through Downtown, there is nothing in the unique architecture of these cycles that makes them a threat to road safety.

The problem of ill-mannered punks is a bit of a social constant, no matter the chosen conveyance. Officers need good laws for those who dangerously flaunt the rules of the road.

But turning cops into brake inspectors squanders resources and antagonizes the cycling community without making anyone safer.

Contact the Idaho legislature here

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