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Idaho May Require Brakes on All Bikes

Published March 30, 2010

BOISE, ID (BRAIN)—Lawmakers in Idaho are considering a bill that requires all bikes ridden in the state to come equipped with at least one brake.

The bill, SB 1349, is one of several measures included in a bike safety package created in response to a spate of fatal bicyclists/car collisions last summer, including one involving an active community cyclist.

The proposed legislation could pose some risks for local bike shops selling fixed-gear bikes that lack brakes.

“Could it be a concern to retailers? Yes for two reasons,” said Matt Moore, chair of the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association’s legislative committee. “A customer who purchases a bike that does not comply with local laws and is later cited for it may be an unhappy customer unless the retailer made them aware of the local equipment requirement and they assumed the risk of a citation. Second, a customer (or their next of kin) who is injured or killed while riding a bike that violates this kind of safety equipment requirement might claim the retailer is responsible for selling the bike in that condition. If a bicycle as sold complies with federal and any state equipment laws, the retailer has little risk.”

Federal regulations already require brakes on bicycles, among other safety features, though certain track bikes intended for competition are exempt. So the Idaho brake bill doesn’t add much to existing regulations.

Earlier this month, the brake bill, introduced by Senator Elliot Werk (D-Boise), was passed by a vote of 20-14 in the state senate. The bill is currently being held in the state house.

“I don’t understand the need for that bill,” said Tom Platt, co-owner of George’s Cycle and Fitness with four stores in Boise, Idaho. “The injuries haven’t been because of fixed-gear bikes. I don’t know why that got thrown in.”

Platt said many who ride fixies—a group he describes as a sub-culture—would quit riding or rather risk getting a citation than have brakes installed on their bikes.

Other measures introduced this month were to establish a 3-foot passing rule, an anti-harassment rule protecting pedestrians and cyclists, and a funding mechanism for the state’s Safe Routes to Schools program.

Sponsor Werk told the Associated Press that two of the measures—the 3-foot and anti-harassment measures—will die without a senate vote after meeting with some objections from the trucking industry.

—Lynette Carpiet

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