Monday, August 8, 2011

Bike Courier: Road Rules Aren't For Me

I often complain about motorists who thrust unjustified vitriol upon cyclists. But every now and then, I find exactly why these motorists hold these views.

This well written article from The Indianapolis Star (also via Indy Cog, which re-published the entire article) profiles a bicycle courier service, whose site I won't link to and whose company I won't identify. In the article, one of the owners of the company says he blows through red lights, goes in and out of traffic lanes at random, and doesn't have brakes on his bike. It's this type of behavior that ruins the reputation of cyclists who advocate for sharing the road and following all the rules that any other user of the road has to follow.

I'm all for pulling over and ticketing these assholes just like you'd pull over and ticket a motorist who weaves in and out of lanes, blows through red lights/stop signs.

Also, one of the things that pissed me off about the article was this particular passage:

Most of the couriers ride bikes with a single gear that causes the pedals to spin at the same rate as the wheels. Typically, the only way to stop is if the rider reverses the pressure on the pedals and skids to a halt or uses his feet to slow the bike. Jamison has been riding a fixed-gear bike since 2005. He described his two-wheeler as “bare bones,” with no cables, levers or extra parts to weigh it down. But it’s the collection of parts — a Fuji bike frame, a rare fork from Japan, an Italian seat — that makes his bike perfect.

This passage makes it sound like that single-speed and fixed-gear bikes are interchangeable terms, but they aren't (I don't quite understand the differences, but I'm assured by more knowledgeable gearheads that there are). It also seems to imply that a defining feature of fixed gear bikes is the lack of breaks. In fact, breaks can (and should) be put on a fixed gear, or any, type of bicycle that's going to be used as a mode of transportation.

I actually was at the downtown Circle Starbucks a few nights ago, and a couple of police officers were sitting at the table next to me. One of them asked me if my bike had breaks, and I responded "Yes sir, my bike is fully up to code." I don't think he was intimately familiar with the Indiana Code section that regulates bicycles, but he mentioned that "the article in the paper said some courier group doesn't put breaks on their bikes". Unbeknownst to me, he was probably referring to this article that I'm now writing about. I explained to him that just because a bike is a fixed-gear bike, it can still have breaks, and I told him my dad's fixed gear bike has breaks, and I showed him where my bike's breaks were located on my non-fixed-gear bike.

So for once, I'm with my motorist friends. These guys are assholes. Let's hope they either change or are out of business soon enough.


  1. I'm sure there's more to it than this, but this is how I've had fixed/single gear explained to me:

    Single gear: You can coast.
    Fixed gear: If the wheels are moving, your pedals are moving.

  2. I'm sorry, I don't buy for a second that those couriers are riding bikes without brakes. There isn't a bike rider out there who doesn't occassionally have to at least touch the brakes to avoid collisions. This is especially true in an urban environment. Not putting brakes on bikes would actually slow down the riders because they couldn't take the chances they could take if they had brakes. Plus it would make the courier company extremely liable for any accidents that happen, liable to the rider and to whoever he hits. I'm sorry but the BS meter on the "no brakes" claim is going off big time.

  3. They probably have brakes on the the bikes we had as kids. Those might actually be quicker to use on a bike. But I guarantee you the bike has brakes.

  4. I should have read better...I think you said exactly what I'm saying.

  5. I suppose it could be an error in the story. But the guy is still riding like a maniac.

  6. Having been hit by a car that ran a stop light and finding out that I don't bounce (literally) like I used to, I now wear a helmet, I have a Miracycle mirror, and I obey traffic lights for MY safety.

    Maybe these people should read an article that Brock Yates wrote a number of years ago titled "You Bet Your Life" which explored the connection between societies that did not have a rite of passage into adulthood and irresponsible/dangerous behavior.

  7. I'm studying writing at IUPUI, and there is a difference in meaning between 'breaks' and 'brakes'.

    They are homonyms, but the word you're looking for is 'brakes'.


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