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  1. #1
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    law concerning handlebar height

    Massachusetts law explicitly forbids riding a bike where the handlebars are above the level of the rider's shoulders. What is the point of this law? Was there ever a widespread problem of people riding bikes with too-high handlebars? This just seems bizzarre.

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    N_C
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    Could it have something to do with motor cycles? The ape hanger style bars, maybe?

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    I think this has been discussed in the Alt Bike Culture forum in the past.
    Paul the Alloy Addict

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    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    You can get a ticket for failure to use a bicycle seat in Oregon.

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    lunatic fringe Dogbait's Avatar
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    Eli,
    This was indeed a knee-jerk reaction to the "Ape Hanger" bars that were gaining popularity in the early 60's. There was much discussion of the new law when I was in high school in West Springfield... Go Terriers.
    To put it in the context of the day, It was also illegal at that time to operate a food store, package store, clothing store or pickup truck (or other commercial vehicle) on Sunday in the Commonwealth.

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    Senior Member R-Wells's Avatar
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    No-Pants Island bbonnn's Avatar
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    So how exactly is the public put in danger by ape-hanger handlebars on a bicycle? Or a motorcycle?

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    Senior Member R-Wells's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbonnn
    So how exactly is the public put in danger by ape-hanger handlebars on a bicycle? Or a motorcycle?
    On a bicycle, I dont know, probably not.
    On a motorcycle, I cant do it at all.
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    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    I've never tried one of those, but it's always seemed to me that it would be harder to steer, or more sensitive. Maybe that's at least the perception, even if not actual fact?
    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
    What's the point of a bike if you can only ride it on weekends, and you can't even carry anything with you?!
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    My old commuter that I also used for "fun" rides and hauling junk had ape hangers. the steering isn't as precise, but that has a lot to do with the decreased weight on the front wheel, upright position and the worn out cheap suspension fork I had. If you ride with ape hangers everyday you should be ok, but in a situation that requires quick reactions they can be a problem. I love them, but I do think there are better options for road riding

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    Senior Member tomcryar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by R-Wells

    That boardwalk chopper looks eerily similiar to my chopped out stingray (2" slick on back). Not safe, but sure was fun to ride! Of course, that was 1975, so there were no rules..........

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    California law is similar; the bicycle must have a saddle, and the handlebars must be lower than the rider's shoulders. I wonder if some recumbents with above-seat steering violate the latter provision. There are also provisions regarding pedal reflectors, which make no sense for either clipless or for recumbents.
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    Hi, I'd say that was the post "Easy Rider" and other copycats too.Some of the sissybars back then were head-high or bigger.Ever use the fork extenders,for a more unstable bike?

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    Quote Originally Posted by John E
    California law is similar; the bicycle must have a saddle, and the handlebars must be lower than the rider's shoulders. I wonder if some recumbents with above-seat steering violate the latter provision. There are also provisions regarding pedal reflectors, which make no sense for either clipless or for recumbents.
    Good examples. This are only a few of the MANY examples of laws that make too many assumptions about a vehicle's architecture. Another example is the whole fixed-gear debate. Also, three- and four-wheeled, pedal-driven vehicles. Or what if you use those spring-stilts that let you walk at 10mph? What traffic laws apply then, huh?

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    Senior Member R-Wells's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E
    California law is similar; the bicycle must have a saddle, and the handlebars must be lower than the rider's shoulders. I wonder if some recumbents with above-seat steering violate the latter provision. There are also provisions regarding pedal reflectors, which make no sense for either clipless or for recumbents.
    As worded "handlebars must be lower than the rider's shoulders" can be confusing, and definitely leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
    When they wrote that law they just didnt consider cylists riding in their Lazy Boy Recliner

    Not sure why the reflector law doesnt make sense for clipless pedals and recumbents though?
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    Real Human Being wild animals's Avatar
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    if your handlebars are too long, then when you turn one way or another you might not be able to reach your outside arm out far enough to make the turn. knowing nothing about the history of the law i'd guess the law came into being because the bikes were considered unstable or because the lawmakers wanted to put the kibosh on a certain bike culture. maybe the people who rode those bikes at the time the law was made hung out on a corner somewhere and that irritated the neighbors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eli_Damon
    Was there ever a widespread problem of people riding bikes with too-high handlebars?
    Yes.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by R-Wells
    As worded "handlebars must be lower than the rider's shoulders" can be confusing, and definitely leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
    When they wrote that law they just didnt consider cylists riding in their Lazy Boy Recliner

    Not sure why the reflector law doesnt make sense for clipless pedals and recumbents though?

    There are inserts for MTB SPD two sided pedals.

    The requirement is that the reflectors must be visible from 200 feet behind the bike. The foot position on a recumbent blocks any rear view of the pedals.
    Silver Eagle Pilot

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    Junior Member fiferguy's Avatar
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    I wonder about that reflector law. I use Speedplay pedals on my road bike, and there's no way you could see any reflectors on them, cause they fit almost inside the shoe. In Oklahoma, I've not found a specific reflector law, but there is a law that says you have to have a headlight and taillight if you ride at night. Also, in the town I live in, the statute says "No person shall ride upon a bicycle other than astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto, and with at least one hand upon the handlebars." It also says that you can't carry more people than the bike was designed for. But they're some of those un-enforced laws.

    Like bees can't buzz on Sunday or you can't wear a mask in public (both actual laws on the books in Oklahoma).

    On a side note, it's also a Felony in Oklahoma for people to throw things at bikers, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. I've seen this one in action before--On the tail end of a 30 mile ride, some fool threw a crumpled soda can at me. He didn't hit me, but the police officer behind him was impressed by the throw. He was so impressed, he arrested the man, got my information, and I was called to testify. The judge was also impressed, and gave him 3 years community service and a $1500 fine for littering.

  20. #20
    Portland Fred banerjek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fiferguy
    I wonder about that reflector law.
    I don't. Where I live, most laws are enforced strictly. If you go a few mph over the limit, you'll get ticketed. Same goes for a rolling stop. Warnings are normally issued for lights that are out, but I've heard of tickets. I have been warned for failing to signal a left turn while riding my bike.

    All the same, I have NEVER been pulled over for failure to have reflectors on my pedals or wheels or even asked about it. I wear reflective gear and have reflectors where it makes sense as well as decent lights.

    Off the top of my head, I can't think of any production bents where the handlebars are actually higher than the shoulders, but I'm guessing that the ones that fit this category might be highly specialized cycles which may not be intended for road use anyway.

    All of the people I've seen using ape style handlebars have modified ordinary bikes rather than using ones that were designed to use that way resulting in bikes that are obviously poorly handling. Having said that, the people I've seen riding those type of bikes go so slowly that I'm not sure how serious the safety issue really is.

    If you do things that make sense to most people, you will rarely be bothered even if what you are doing isn't totally kosher from a technical point of view. If you go out of your way to get attention, don't be surprised when your plan works.

  21. #21
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    We just had the clipless pedal/reflector debate this weekend in my LCI training. I think most shoes have reflectors on the heel and when the shoes are in the pedals that they should meet the requirement.
    I'm not one for fawning over bicycles, but I do believe that our bikes communicate with us, and what this bike is saying is, "You're an idiot." BikeSnobNYC

  22. #22
    Mild-mannered Commuter
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    Was there any kind of historical precedent with too many gibbons riding bicycles?

  23. #23
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    We just had the clipless pedal/reflector debate this weekend in my LCI training. I think most shoes have reflectors on the heel and when the shoes are in the pedals that they should meet the requirement.
    I doubt it, because the law requires that the reflectors be visible from the front and the back:

    Vehicle Code section 21201

    (d) Every bicycle operated upon any highway during darkness shall
    be equipped (1) with a lamp emitting a white light which, while the
    bicycle is in motion, illuminates the highway in front of the
    bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and
    from the sides of the bicycle; (2) with a red reflector on the rear
    which shall be visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear when
    directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor
    vehicle; (3) with a white or yellow reflector on each pedal visible
    from the front and rear of the bicycle from a distance of 200 feet;

    and (4) with a white or yellow reflector on each side forward of the
    center of the bicycle, and with a white or red reflector on each side
    to the rear of the center of the bicycle, except that bicycles which
    are equipped with reflectorized tires on the front and the rear need
    not be equipped with these side reflectors. Such reflectors and
    reflectorized tires shall be of a type meeting requirements
    established by the department.
    That said, these rules are violated by at least half the bikes I ever see on the road (including all of mine!) and I have only heard of people getting stopped/ticketed for not having a headlight, and once in a while for not having a brake.

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