Fixed-gear bikes spark police crackdown in Berlin

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They're sleek, fast and illegal in Germany: fixed-gear bicycles. Marc Young reports on how trendy fixie riders have sparked a police crackdown in Berlin.

 

In a country where cyclists are expected to have a working bell on their bikes, it was probably only a matter of time before fixies fell afoul of the law in Germany.

 

Evolved from indoor track bikes with no gears and brakes, fixies have long been favoured by couriers and other cycling enthusiasts in big cities around the world. But a surge in popularity in Germany has prompted an unprecedented backlash by traffic cops in Berlin in recent months.

 

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As a former track racer, I dig the esthetic draw of a fixie but they're pretty impractical for real transport. But if it gets more hipsters on bikes (and therefore more people), I'm all for it.

The Berlin police should focus on crime, not cyclists. But I've been saying that for years (and they never listened).

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focus on crime!? is that also in their job description?

as a long time cyclist i've actually found the police rather lax. in fact i've only once been given a single ticket (well deserved) for my criminal cycling habits - from a motorcycle cop no less! i have been reprimanded on more than one occasion, however. "Auch f

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The problem is, fixed-gear culture is so snobbish towards people who still have cable brakes on their whips that on one hand, the police will take your bike for 80 Euro if you don't get them, but you lose kudos if you do.

Personally, I think fixed-gear bikes are dangerous. That is why I love them.

As for calling it a hipster plague, I think you're dangerously close to defining cultural symbology for a middle-class youth subculture you know nothing about. If you can't beat them or join them, you just moan enviously.

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Easy just get brakes on them. I have seen these two riders on fixed wheels doing tricks so its good for skills. Once when I was on my racing bike, a car passed me and turned in front of me causing me to lock my brakes. If I was on a fixed wheel, I would not have stopped in time. Doesn't matter how good you are in emergency situations fixed wheels can't lock up. (unless you drop the bike). But if you are strapped in with brakes, thats also dangerous.

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Sorry, I don't get it: So in order to keep your bike moving forward you must keep moving your feet? How do you 'coast?'

Doesn't that take away the advantage of the bike? What's next: It's really cool to get rid of the seat!

sounds like people are going to great lengths to make things difficult for themselves. And I always love the people that want to 'fight the power.' Look, it illegal: abide by the laws or face the consequences.

Another thing to keep in mind: The police DO focus on crime. They have different divisions that handle different areas. Traffic enforcement, homocide, narcotics etc. The cop writing you a traffic ticket is not the guy in charge of gang violence of murders. Separate division.

If you don't like the laws put together an itelligent plan to change them. Don't wait for the cops to pull you over and say "F*$#! you pigs! You're just on a power trip."

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Get brakes, a front brake will do. As for the police, I also find them quite relaxed - I've been given a ticked only once (also well deserved) in the 6 years I've been riding here. I've got no complaints when it comes to cops in this country.

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Since there’s no freewheel on a fixie, the pedals continue to rotate as long as the bike is moving forward. This means the rider either has to slow the bike by fighting the momentum or break by locking up the back wheel to skid to a stop.

Remember, everyone - contact those skilled experts at The Local for all your translating and English copy-writing needs :D

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Make sure you cast that stone straight out El Jeffo. Maybe it won't bring the whole glass house down...

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Get brakes, a front brake will do. As for the police, I also find them quite relaxed - I've been given a ticked only once (also well deserved) in the 6 years I've been riding here. I've got no complaints when it comes to cops in this country.

Frankly, a single working brake on the front is superior to two poorly adjusted and maintained brakes on the cheapies most people ride anyway.

 

I do like the look of fixies, but I usually ride too far for one to be useful for me, so I roll a stealthy beast with gears and brakes. I'm riding a considerably shorter distance now though, so maybe I should think about it...

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Frankly, a single working brake on the front is superior to two poorly adjusted and maintained brakes on the cheapies most people ride anyway.

OI! I resemble that comment!

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Does it mean if I have a front break and still a fixed back wheel everything will be fine for the police? I wanted to go back to Berlin in a couple of years I hope the situation will be diffrent by then...

Everyone who rides a fixie for a while won't go back to freewheel as you feel very connectd to your bike and the cycling feels very smooth and relaxed. I don't like the hype about it too much and some people shouldn't ride a fixed as it can be very dangerous if they don't know what they're doing!

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The 80 EUR fine is nothing, but the 3 points in your driving license is another thing. I totally approve this.

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NOTHING angers me more than the untrained and sometimes socially-deficient cyclists careening down the pavements (sidewalks) at all times of day (I am speaking mainly of Kreuzberg), without lights or bells or even a "hey, here I am!". So when possible my old dogs and I walk in the middle of the street.

That said, I have had no problems with Fixie-riders and I wish them luck, but wish they used lights and bells.

Berlin police and traffic officials (and cyclist groups) have a huge challenge ahead which it's not even clear they fully recognize: Training all the immigrants (many of them Europeans or North Americans) how to safely ride a safe and legal bike.

For these novice cyclists and the rest of us we have an even more difficult task: To confront the automobile industry and its symptoms, among them the propagation of fear amongst sometimes otherwise normal adults who cycle on the pavement even when the street is free of cars (or because it's a little too cobbled).

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Ok, let me make a few things absolutely clear. Bells on bikes are gay, reflectors on bikes are gay, shopping baskets are gay, mudguards, chain guards, wing mirrors are all gay. I know Germans like their bikes 'fully loaded', but you will be more likely to see me naked, painted blue, with sparklers sticking out of my arse, on a skateboard; than being forced to put all that crap on my bike.

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Young children can't safely brake with a hand brake so their bikes just have "back pedal" brakes which are no more effective than a fixie. Is there any evidence that fixie's have an unacceptable accident toll?

My fixie has brakes, but that is just because I want to go faster.

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I disagree. The freewheeling back pedal brake is far more effective than a fixie, especially for a child. How would a child have the strength to stop a fixie in an emergency? I'd never ride a fixie for that reason...oh, and they're Berlin-Hipster-Gehy and I don't have the flouro 80's sunnies to accompany it.

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"back pedal" brakes which are no more effective than a fixie.

Tell me another story.

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Ok, let me make a few things absolutely clear. Bells on bikes are gay, reflectors on bikes are gay, shopping baskets are gay, mudguards, chain guards, wing mirrors are all gay. I know Germans like their bikes 'fully loaded', but you will be more likely to see me naked, painted blue, with sparklers sticking out of my arse, on a skateboard; than being forced to put all that crap on my bike.

Different riders, different needs. I have an old bike I got from my friends father. Sat in a garage for the last 20 years, squeaks a little but otherwise runs good. In your opinon, my bike is almost as gay as possible for for my needs it's perfect. I ride it to work leisurely in the lowest gear with my packed lunch sitting in the basket or I ride it to the store for a bit of grocery shopping. For me, not to have a bell means I will have to holler at the clueless pedestrians who are walking alongside each other by 3 or 4 making sure they are closing the path completely and not having mud guards means I'll have a wet stripe up my ass when it rains. Don't have a wing mirror though, maybe should get one :)

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