Fixies Outlawed in Berlin

I spent some time in Berlin last month, a lot of it riding bikes, and it was tremendously enjoyable: Dedicated bike lanes, little fear of theft. But it is different. Everybody’s on old clunkers bogged down with a thousand pounds (er, a bajillion kilograms) of fender, chain guard, off-road tires, baskets, bells, whistles, etc. So we go slow.

In San Francisco, biking will get you to your destination faster than driving. In Berlin, biking will get you to your destination a little bit faster than walking. But it’s great.

Didn’t see a lot of fixies (or helmets for that matter). Just now Kevin from Everything is Everything sent me a link to this GOOD story:

Berlin Gives Fixies das Boot

You can’t ride your fixie, but you can drink beer on the subway, so it all evens out I guess. Thanks, Kevin!

20 Responses to “Fixies Outlawed in Berlin”

  1. Glenparker says:

    In Amsterdam and Haarlem, at least, bike theft is a big problem which might explain why everyone rides those ubiquitous 50′s tanks on two wheels. I asked why and was told that the druggies made their living in stealing and reselling the bikes. So people ride beaters. It’s funny seeing 50 Euro locks on 25 Euro bikes.
    One thing that stood out was how everyone pedaled at the same speed; the mother with her daughter in the basket was moving at the same speed as the teenagers. No hot-dogging, no swooping in and out and no screaming at the idiots walking in the bike lanes ( just a polite little tinkle of the bell ).
    I don’t recall seeing one person with a bike helmet now that I think about it.

  2. mcas says:

    California Vehicle Code 21201. (a) No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

    …and the original article referenced from Good says you can get your bike back if you promise to install a brake– so, it’s really not ‘outlawing’ fixed riding– just brakeless fixed (which how do they expect a cop to tell between that and a coaster…?) It’s really just requiring a brake, with a different definition of ‘brake’ than California…

  3. jimbeam says:

    Yeah, brakeless fixies are illegal pretty much everywhere.

    • mcas says:

      Read the CVC language above– you can see clearly that it’s not illegal in CA.

      • jimbeam says:

        It has to be equipped with an actual brake. The pedals don’t count as a brake.

        Unless you mean all of those fixies that don’t get ridden on roadways?

      • mcas says:

        The point of legal code is it’s very technical nature– and I don’t want to be too nit-picky, but it sounds like you are (incorrectly) defining a brake as a lever-operated braking system, which would also exclude coaster brakes. That would make all children under 12 criminals by your definition.

      • jimbeam says:

        I am not defining a brake as a lever operating braking system.

        A brake can be that, but it can also be a coaster brake. This is not the same as riding a fixed gear bike! There is an actual brake on the rear wheel that is operated by pedaling backwards.

        You’re not being nit-picky, you just don’t know your bike brakes ;)

  4. meave says:

    1. Berlin is a wonderful, flat city and biking through it is so fun.
    2. It’s way faster than walking when it’s October and raining.
    3. “Das Boot” puns are SO OBNOXIOUS. They aren’t even really puns! “Boot” is pronounced like “boht” and it means “boat” ENOUGH ALREADY.

  5. Glenparker says:

    I’m sorry but I’m out of the loop on these things called “fixies.” Do they not have brakes of any kind or are they the kind you can stop by sort of back pedaling?

    • neil says:

      They are the kind you can *attempt* to stop by back pedaling, or slow down by pedaling against the momentum, but everyone knows that it’s so hard to start an ultra-lightweight bike from a standstill that it’s better to just roll through.

  6. Glenparker says:

    Thanks Neil.

  7. Charles Nibbly says:

    Fixies are King of Comedy in my book…

    Nothing like watching someone more concerned with hipster vanity over function lock up that rear wheel in a panic break, only to have that whole gyroscopic voodoo that keeps them upright go away…

    Pure comedy indeed. MIght as well wear a clown-suit while riding one.

  8. henry says:

    I ride a fixie and can stop just fine. Just like any moving vehicle if you go too fast you won’t be able to stop in time.

    I think if you talked to people you’d find that most who ride fixed gear are quite into bikes and depending on the situation ride the appropriate bike.

    Charles. A clown suit? Grow up.

    • loosecharm says:

      There is no practical reason for riding a fixie in an urban setting. although i am sure those who do would argue that vanity IS a practicality.

      • Elliot says:

        Simple: Its fun and challenging. As Henry mentioned, it doesn’t have to be dangerous, no more dangerous than riding a geared bike. I think it is similar to riding any bike, it takes practice and common sense.

        From the comments I’m reading you would think every day you see see out of control assholes on fixes running into children. I’ve lived in the Mission for about 6 years and haven’t seen that. I see people fall on bikes sometimes, not too often though. Personally I’m more worried about adults who have not been on a bike since they were kids and start riding…no matter what kind of bike.

      • Mr. Responsibility says:

        Practical reasons for riding a fixie in an urban setting:

        • They are very, very low maintenance, which is ideal for a commuter.
        • A fixie gives one a very direct feel for traction conditions of the road surface making them particularly suitable for riding in rainy or icy conditions.
        • Because you are more solidly connected to the bike, you have better control of it in bumpy conditions and in difficult corners.
        • Track bikes (not necessarily every fixie) don’t have quick-release wheels making them slightly more theft-resistant.

        With that said, I think it’s reckless and irresponsible to ride a fixie without a front brake in an urban environment. yeah it’s your life, but if your chain snaps and you can’t stop in time and cause a wreck, that’s an unfair price for someone else to pay for the lines on your bike to look hella tight, bro.

        But that’s what’s chic now, riding a fixie recklessly and irresponsibly: blowing through stop signs and red lights (it’s just too uncool to stop, and “I can’t be bothered to learn how to track stand”), and if they do stop it’s right in the middle of the crosswalk, skid-stopping and fish-tailing into other cyclists in the bike lane, riding in the wrong direction (bike salmon), etc., etc.

        BUT fixie riders aren’t the only reckless and irresponsible ones on the road (that goes for other cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers): they’re just very easy to spot and deserve to be ridiculed mercilessly:

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