Wednesday, October 29, 2008
SAN MARCOS CRACKS DOWN ON FIXED GEARS
A unique group of Texas State cyclists found their bikes the subject of increased scrutiny by San Marcos police this semester.
Raul Perez, fashion merchandising senior, said he rode for years before he became interested in a fixed-gear bike his sophomore year.
“It’s a little more pure,” Perez said. “Fixed-gear riders do not want to have brakes, and they do not want to have gears. They want their bikes to be very simple and to be an extension of themselves.”
The bicyclists favor the original racing “fixed-gear” bike design, which differs from more common multi-gear bikes. The fixed-gear bike has a single gear and is often without conventional hand brakes. The rider must lock the rear wheel with his feet to skid to a stop. The lack of an accepted braking mechanism on a bicycle is a violation of state law.
“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,” states Section 551.104 of the Texas Transportation Code.
Some fixed-gear riders who do not use a brake are adamant they can bring their bike to a full stop in the manner proscribed by the law.
“Once you become skilled enough, you don’t need a hand brake anymore,” said Brian Hanley, psychology junior. “You won’t ever use it to brake.”
He said the law was broad because lawmakers did not appreciate the existence of different skill levels. According to San Marcos police, one citation and one warning were issued for the offense this year. The fine for the citation can amount to around $116.
Danny Garcia, digital and photographic imaging senior, received a warning from a San Marcos police officer on Sept. 15 for not having a brake on his fixed-gear bike. He said he understood the law but felt it was being used to target fixed-gear riders.
“I felt like it was more of a direct jab at the fixed-gear culture than a safety issue,” Garcia said. “I don’t have a problem with the law, but it seems to me that San Marcos police generally look for our type of bikes more than others.”
Sgt. Martin Manzi of the San Marcos Police Department said whether or not a ticket is issued is a matter of judgment.
“It’s up to the discretion of the officer,” said Manzi, the Patrol Support Supervisor in charge of the downtown and outlet mall sub-stations. “It doesn’t matter if the rider feels he can stop in a sufficient amount of time. The officer makes the final determination.”
Officer Otto Glenewinkel of the University Police Department concurred.
“The department will enforce any rules and regulations of the university and any laws put forth in the state traffic code,” Glenewinkel said. “A bicyclist is recognized as a vehicle, so the rider has to adhere to all of the regulations a vehicle does.”
Glenewinkel said to his knowledge, no campus citations were issued in the past year for brake violations. Incidents regarding cyclists are infrequent, but students are likely to see an increase in enforcement as bicycle traffic increases, Glenewinkel said.