Wednesday, February 24, 2010

At Least One U.S. Jurisdiction Explicitly Permits Fixed Gear Bikes

At least one U.S. jurisdiction rewrote its vehicular law to accommodate fixed gear bicycle riders who choose not to use a brake separate from that provided by the drive train. Amended in July, 2006 Washington D.C.'s vehicle code states:

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.

18 DCMR 1204.1

The portion of D.C.'s law which precedes the semi-colon, reflects existing law in many jurisdictions in the U.S., including Chicago's ordinance dealing with bicycle brakes. As I've noted in the past, this language alone sufficiently accommodates fixed gear riders. Even the added clarification to the D.C. law acknowledges this. The code states that fixed gear riders need not have a "separate brake," evidencing the authors' recognition that fixed gear bikes already have one brake in the form of the fixed gear drive train itself. However, the added language is undoubtedly a helpful clarification for law enforcement officers and judges who may be unfamiliar with how bicyclists who operate a fixed rear hub may bring their bikes to a halt.

If any readers are aware of any other jurisdictions that explicitly permit fixed gear braking I would certainly appreciate a heads-up.


  1. I was genuinely curious about this and looked into it further. It appears the [presumably] current version of Washington D.C. Municipal Regulations Title 18 (vehicle and traffic code) downloadable from the D.C. DMV website does NOT contain the clause you cited beyond the semicolon.

    You say that the vehicle code was amended in July 2006 as such. Could the D.C. DMV really have left an outdated version of the MR online for 4 years? Or is it possible that this amendement was reversed at some point more recently?

  2. I have a copy of the revised version that I printed off of the internet some time ago. When I tried to create a link to it today, the site didn't seem to be working. It seems that what you were able to see today was the old version of the law. I will soon scan my copy to Google Docs so all can see it. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Here's a link to a D.C. firm that posted the "Notice of Final Rulemaking" that I have:

    Their link to the official PDF version isn't working either.


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