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"Equipment" Traffic Violation

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"Equipment" Traffic Violation

Old 09-02-14, 11:36 AM
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Scotti G
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"Equipment" Traffic Violation

Just curious how others handle cycling tickets. Rec'd a "no brakes" equipment traffic violation in NYC's central park this weekend. Been riding my fixed gear in the park for over 20 years brakeless without incident (I can't even add one with the vintage front fork). Same case here since there was no incident, but when I was slowing I guess the police noticed that I was "resistance breaking". Anyway, the office was apologetic, but mentioned a crackdown due to the recent death of a jogger who was hit by a cyclist (actually an acquaintance of mine). I was told never to plead guilty on-line because the NYC DMV system does not distinguish between car and bicycle guilty pleas and I could wind up with a motor vehicle violation and all the adverse crap that would cause.

Officer told me to enter a guilty plea and the City would send me a response with the fine. Has anyone else had experience with this and the fine potential (relative to bikes). First time in 40 years of riding I've EVER been stopped by the police. Thanks in advance.
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Old 09-02-14, 12:26 PM
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How does the statute read regarding brakes? You actually have a brake. It's the connection from the crank to the rear wheel. It provides both positive (forward) and negative (braking) accelerations. Does the statute require a hand brake or does any braking mechanism qualify? You may be not guilty.
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Old 09-02-14, 12:32 PM
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§ 1236(c) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

From that wording, you could argue that the fixed gear acts as a brake if you feel like fighting it.

I couldn't find any specific fine amount for that violation, but the vehicle code in general for NYS says "Not more than $150".
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Old 09-02-14, 06:18 PM
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Originally Posted by spivonious View Post
§ 1236(c) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

From that wording, you could argue that the fixed gear acts as a brake if you feel like fighting it.

I couldn't find any specific fine amount for that violation, but the vehicle code in general for NYS says "Not more than $150".
It almost seems like it goes out of its way to avoid specifying a handbrake is required. Just write in and explain your situation with pictures (or better yet, video). Hopefully it will prevent other fixed gear cyclists from being harassed.

Though to be fair, it's hard for most non-cyclists to tell, so it's probably just an ignorant cop doing his job.
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Old 09-02-14, 07:04 PM
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Originally Posted by keyven View Post
It almost seems like it goes out of its way to avoid specifying a handbrake is required. Just write in and explain your situation with pictures (or better yet, video). Hopefully it will prevent other fixed gear cyclists from being harassed.
I would think that coaster brakes would qualify, so that's probably why it doesn't specify how the brake needs to be actuated. If you can video yourself skidding on dry, level, clean pavement using FG braking, you *might* persuade a judge.
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Old 09-02-14, 09:19 PM
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Good luck with beating the equipment ticket.

Beause, yeah, a fixie without brakes gets you an equipment ticket in New York. (Is this a surprise?) Suggest you follow BikesnobNYC (NSFW "language" LMFAO) so you know the next time there's a crackdown. It's not like the crackdowns are a secret or anything.

(Hell if I'm going to *gasp* advocate that you put a *gasp* safety device like a brake on your bike.)

-mr. bill

Last edited by mr_bill; 09-02-14 at 09:25 PM.
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Old 09-02-14, 09:41 PM
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NEVER plead guilty. Enter a not guilty plea an they'll schedule a hearing. There's a decent chance for a dismissal due to "failure to prosecute", if the officer doesn't show, or if the ADA decides it's simply not worth the bother (cases of this type are dismissed wholesale). Otherwise, many cases are settled by negotiation in the hallway outside the courtroom before the trial is called. If you, and the officer (if he shows up) and the ADA come to an agreement to a lower fine, or lesser violation, you'll then enter the guilty plea.

In any case, equipment violations of this kind, don't have the import of "moving" violations such as running a red light, so even if recorded wouldn't be considered a strike on your driver's license.

BTW- if no agreed disposition is made before trial, you always have the option of demonstrating that your bike, as it was at the time, met the requirements of the law. I personally don't believe it does, but it's murky enough that the judge may find you innocent.


Of course, all this means hanging around, and losing hours in court, but there's always the chance of wholesale dismissals without a trial scheduled, which seems to happen after crackdowns.
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Old 09-03-14, 09:08 AM
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Appreciate the responses. Be it known that I'm not suggesting that riding a fixie without a hand break isn't dangerous nor that it's not violating the intent of the traffic code. If this happens once every 20 years I will deal with it. However, my fixie rides now are only in the park and only at times when it's traffic free. And sadly, I can barely keep up a 18 MPH average over the 6.1 mile loop.

I'm mostly concerned with the potential for "misfiling" by the "fine upstanding civil workers" at the Dept of Motor Vehicles in NYC. This is most helpful:
In any case, equipment violations of this kind, don't have the import of "moving" violations such as running a red light, so even if recorded wouldn't be considered a strike on your driver's license.
Also I would prefer to have some idea of the fine that's associated with this "violation" of the traffic code. I could stomach a $50 fine, but $300 would begin to deplete my daughter's college fund.

Most of all, it sort of takes away some of the joy of early weekend rides when the park is basically empty.

I'll check this out too.

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Old 09-05-14, 10:18 AM
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I'm guessing brakes are cheaper than tickets......
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Old 09-05-14, 10:47 AM
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Call the court and ask if the ticket mandates a court appearance, some do because the judge has to set the fine. If not, see what the fine is. Then it's your call if you want to chance having it reduced or eliminated in court (factor in court costs in your equation).
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Old 09-05-14, 10:50 AM
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Originally Posted by keyven View Post
It almost seems like it goes out of its way to avoid specifying a handbrake is required. Just write in and explain your situation with pictures (or better yet, video). Hopefully it will prevent other fixed gear cyclists from being harassed.

Though to be fair, it's hard for most non-cyclists to tell, so it's probably just an ignorant cop doing his job.
Bear in mind that coaster brakes can fulfill this requirement and are still not "hand brakes."
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Old 09-05-14, 12:29 PM
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The statute says: "Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake..."

Sorry, but the ticket was warranted. Sometimes being a hipster is not cheap.
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Old 09-05-14, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by VTBike View Post
The statute says: "Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake..."

Sorry, but the ticket was warranted. Sometimes being a hipster is not cheap.
NYS doesn't define what constitutes a brake, only what it must be capable of, namely skidding the rear wheel.

Text of the law follows ---
(c) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement."The objective is to ensure that the bicycle is capable of the shortest braking distance afforded by tire traction.

A skilled rider riding a fixed wheel bike can achieve that.

Interestingly, a bicycle equipped with a front brake (only) can achieve shorter stops than one with rear brake only, but cannot meet the skid test because it's usually impossible to skid the front wheel on dry pavement.

I rode fixed wheel in NYC for decades before it got trendy, and never once had police issues (or accidents) of any kind. Unfortunately the OP is the victim heightened attention to bicycles, which is a byproduct of NYC becoming "bicycle friendly". He can, and should fight the ticket, because a guilty plea by mail won't be cheap. Even if the fine is low, moving violations in NYS have become a revenue source and are loaded with fees and surcharges.

To the OP, if/when this gets scheduled for trial, have a reliable witness observe you skid the bike, and record video showing it. Then bring that with his affidavit in support and, with luck, you may get a friendly judge who'll find you innocent. However odds are still good that it'll be dismissed long before that because it's not worth the effort to prosecute. NYC does these ticket blitzes but the DAs office doesn't have that much patience for the results.
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Old 09-05-14, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
NYS doesn't define what constitutes a brake, only what it must be capable of, namely skidding the rear wheel.
You are making the statute more complicated than it is.

First, you are correct that the statute says what the brake must be capable of doing. If a front bake is not capable, then that bike rider should be ticketed. The law is what it is.

Your mistake, however, is getting hung up on the definition of "brake." While the statute does not define the term "brake", what cannot be disputed based on the plain and ordinary meaning of the word (which is what you default to when there is no definition) is that a hipster's fixed wheel bike does not have a brake. It just doesn't. Yes, you may be able to use the propulsion mechanism to do what a brake would do, but there is no brake installed on that bike, plain and simple. If this is unjust, the answer is not to twist logic, it is to have the statute changed.
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Old 09-05-14, 12:56 PM
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How would the cop have known you didn't have a coaster brake... did he examine the bike?
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Old 09-05-14, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by VTBike View Post
You are making the statute more complicated than it is.

First, you are correct that the statute says what the brake must be capable of doing. If a front bake is not capable, then that bike rider should be ticketed. The law is what it is.

Your mistake, however, is getting hung up on the definition of "brake." While the statute does not define the term "brake", what cannot be disputed based on the plain and ordinary meaning of the word.....
Oh I agree there, which is why I added that it would take a friendly judge for him to prevail. In reality, the brake definition is more by way of a good faith defense, in case this ever comes before a judge. IME, judges don't like people who simply waste their time when appearing without any defense at all, but can be very friendly if something interesting is put before them.

In any case, the OP shouldn't plead guilty by mail, and should await developments. He can always amend his plea if he decides to.

BTW- it's not the defendant's role to argue the intent or wording of the law. His defense is simply "I have a brake, it can skid the wheel as required, and I have video to show it" Let the prosecutor argue the wording and intent of the law, and exactly what is or isn't a "brake".

The nOP wins nothing with a mailed in guilty plea, and has a better than even chance of doing better in court.
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Old 09-05-14, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
NYS doesn't define what constitutes a brake, only what it must be capable of, namely skidding the rear wheel.

Text of the law follows ---
(c) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement."The objective is to ensure that the bicycle is capable of the shortest braking distance afforded by tire traction.

A skilled rider riding a fixed wheel bike can achieve that. ...
I'm wondering if the word skilled is crucial. I'm not doubting that a skilled and experienced rider can ride a fixed gear bike safely, but how can that be determined objectively and routinely by a cop or judge? I mean, can it be easily observed by the cop that the rider is skilled enough to ride safely in all conditions and situations? Being able to roll slowly to a stop in traffic, or even a quick stop in many situations might be achievable by almost any person on a fixie. But being able to stop whenever necessary, sometimes unexpectedly, that's what requires skill and can't really be determined except with a fairly extensive testing procedure, I would think.

The presence of an actual brake -whether it be hand brake or coaster - can easily and objectively be determined. And, it could be argued that anyone riding a bike can adequately operate a brake, and "skilled" is not a criterion. The presence of an actual brake might not be a perfect tool, but is a reasonable surrogate for determining ability to stop.

Hope that makes sense. Note, i'm not saying that fixie riders who don't have brakes are not safe or are idiots. Just that they shouldn't be surprised or object to being out of compliance with the laws. Ride on, but be ready for the occasional hassle.

Now, if they would enforce noise levels from motorcycles.....

Last edited by Camilo; 09-05-14 at 01:40 PM.
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Old 09-05-14, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
I'm wondering if the word skilled is crucial. I'm not doubting that a skilled and experienced rider can ride a fixed gear bike safely, but how can that be determined objectively and routinely by a cop or judge?....
I'm not arguing that this isn't a righteous ticket, I'm only offering a defense strategy. IMO track bikes (fixies w/o brakes) aren't street legal. But, as the law is written, fixies with front brakes aren't either. By the same token, neither are a large percentage of bicycles with brakes, because many are so poorly adjusted that they cannot meet the law's requirements.

The OP was singled out because of a "crackdown". So while he's not right, he still has the right to enter a defense and take his chances before a judge.
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Old 09-05-14, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Camilo View Post
I'm wondering if the word skilled is crucial.
It isn't. You are over complicating this. The statute says nothing about a skilled rider. But let's assume that the rider is in the top 1% skill-wise. The statute requires that super-skilled rider to operate a bike that is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

It is irrelevant whether or not the rider has sufficient skills to stop the bike without a brake. The law requires a brake. Period.

Again, if there is a problem the solution is not to twist logic. It is to advocate for a change to the statute.

Last edited by VTBike; 09-05-14 at 02:41 PM.
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Old 09-05-14, 03:04 PM
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A lot depends on what you used for identification. If you used a driver's license, there's a very good chance the DMV will link fine, penalty points and surcharge to it. You have a better chance of avoiding this linkage, if you used some other form of id.

If you used your drivers license, your best bet is to plead not guilty and make a court appearance. This should avoid the possibility that the DMV will add additional penalties other than the initial fine.

If you do plead not guilty, you have two possible defenses.

First, that your "brakes" do comply with the letter of the law. You should take videos of yourself skidding the rear wheel on dry, level, clean pavement as per Section 1236(c).

The second defense is more creative because you received ticket on a path that was closed to motor vehicles. The defense is that Section 1236(c) does not apply.

Section 1230(b) states: "These regulations applicable to bicycles or to in-line skates shall apply whenever a bicycle is, or in-line skates are, operated upon any highway, upon private roads open to public motor vehicle traffic and upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, or in-line skates, or both."

You were not on a path that was set aside for the "exclusive use of bicycles, or in-line skates or both" because pedestrians are also permitted on this path.

Were you on a highway? Here's the VTL's highway definition.

§ 118. Highway. The entire width between the boundary lines of every
way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.

Here's the VTL vehicle definition.


§ 159. Vehicle. Every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

So much for those who demand that bicycles should be defined as a "vehicle."

§ 102. Bicycle. Every two or three wheeled device upon which a person or persons may ride, propelled by human power through a belt, a chain or gears, with such wheels in a tandem or tricycle, except that it shall not include such a device having solid tires and intended for use only on a sidewalk by pre-teenage children.

In a private corresoncence, NYS DMV there's no case law regarding this second strategy. They did concede its validity would have to be established in a trial.

A lawyer-cyclist friend notes that traffic court is an administrative hearing conducted by an administrative judge. Such judges rarely go out on a limb to set precedent. This same friend always concludes his correspondence that anyone appearing before a hearing should be represented by competent counsel.

If you are trying to safeguard your child's college fund, the first defense strategy is the better choice.
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Old 09-05-14, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by VTBike View Post
It isn't. You are over complicating this. The statute says nothing about a skilled rider. But let's assume that the rider is in the top 1% skill-wise. The statute requires that super-skilled rider to operate a bike that is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

It is irrelevant whether or not the rider has sufficient skills to stop the bike without a brake. The law requires a brake. Period.

Again, if there is a problem the solution is not to twist logic. It is to advocate for a change to the statute.
Define "brake." That is the problem... a brake is only something to stop the rotation of the wheel to enable the "required" skid. If you can stop the wheel with any means and achieve the skid, you have filled the requirement.
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Old 09-05-14, 03:44 PM
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Just hire SB.
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Old 09-05-14, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Define "brake." That is the problem... a brake is only something to stop the rotation of the wheel to enable the "required" skid. If you can stop the wheel with any means and achieve the skid, you have filled the requirement.
Good luck with that.

The arm-chair lawyering here is entertaining to say the least. It is also completely ignorant of the realities of the traffic court system.

The parsing of the statute to try to get out of the scope of the statute has about a 1% chance of winning. Traffic court judges can't stand people who play these semantic games. The overwhelming likelihood is that the judge will interpret the "exclusive" provision to be referring to the exclusion of motor vehicles, and not pedestrians. And I could hardly blame the judge for doing so. The intent of the statute is to keep people safe. That's not a matter of debate. Bikes present a much greater likelihood of hurting a pedestrian than someone in a motor vehicle. So good luck trying to get a judge to adopt an interpretation of the statute that says that pedestrians shall have no protection from bicyclists if they are on a recreational path. Good luck indeed.

If you want to help out the OP, at least have an understanding of how the real world operates - whether it's fair or unfair.

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Old 09-05-14, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
I'm not arguing that this isn't a righteous ticket, I'm only offering a defense strategy. IMO track bikes (fixies w/o brakes) aren't street legal. But, as the law is written, fixies with front brakes aren't either. By the same token, neither are a large percentage of bicycles with brakes, because many are so poorly adjusted that they cannot meet the law's requirements.

The OP was singled out because of a "crackdown". So while he's not right, he still has the right to enter a defense and take his chances before a judge.

In portland track bikes can be legally ridden if the rider carries a stick.
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Old 09-05-14, 05:01 PM
  #25  
Camilo
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
I'm not arguing that this isn't a righteous ticket, I'm only offering a defense strategy. IMO track bikes (fixies w/o brakes) aren't street legal. But, as the law is written, fixies with front brakes aren't either. By the same token, neither are a large percentage of bicycles with brakes, because many are so poorly adjusted that they cannot meet the law's requirements.

The OP was singled out because of a "crackdown". So while he's not right, he still has the right to enter a defense and take his chances before a judge.
Originally Posted by VTBike View Post
It isn't. You are over complicating this. The statute says nothing about a skilled rider. But let's assume that the rider is in the top 1% skill-wise. The statute requires that super-skilled rider to operate a bike that is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

It is irrelevant whether or not the rider has sufficient skills to stop the bike without a brake. The law requires a brake. Period.

Again, if there is a problem the solution is not to twist logic. It is to advocate for a change to the statute.

Oh, I don't disagree with either of these comments at all. I was just trying to parse between what would objectively be seen as a "brake" by a cop (probably a judge) and what would actually work as a brake by a bicyclist, and further parsing the word "skilled". Too much time on my hands today, although I did go for a little ride this morning!

I think the cop has not alternative but view a bike without coaster or hand brake as violating the law (and for good reason- thus the riff on skilled vs. skilled - how to determine if one is skilled enough to ride w/o a real brake? No practical way). I think the OP, if he/she has time, should go ahead and try to make the case based on the wording of the law and evidence that he/she could stop the bike, but I wouldn't bet on the judge agreeing. The OP should think about how to present the argument with good will so the judge doesn't think it's frivolous.

Last edited by Camilo; 09-05-14 at 05:04 PM.
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