Cyclists welcome proposal to mandate brakes for fixie bikes

SINGAPORE – Mr Abdul Malik, 37, has been an avid road bike cyclist for almost five years now.

He also does food delivery on bicycles and, over the years, has learnt to give a wide berth to fixed-gear bicycles, which often do not have hand-operated brakes but instead rely on the rider’s pedal resistance to stop.

He said these bikes, also known colloquially as fixies, “take too much time and distance to stop effectively”.

“A few have nearly hit my front wheel when they do skid stops. There are many youngsters who do stunts on the road,” he said.

“That is quite dangerous and sudden movements from them can cause panic in other cyclists, who tend to instinctively jam on their brakes.”

The Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) recommendation on Wednesday that all bicycles for use on footpaths and roads must have functioning handbrakes was met with support from the cycling community, who said it is only right that the potential safety hazard is outlawed.

They said this will allow fixies to be ridden in a safer way and is a good compromise. Banning fixies outright would only serve to drive the subculture underground.

If the recommendation is accepted, fixie riders will have to affix at least a functioning handbrake to their bikes when using them on communal paths.

These bikes are frequently used to perform stunts, but came under scrutiny last year when a 13-year-old novice fell to her death after she collided with a metal railing in a multi-storey carpark in Pasir Ris in September.

AMAP cited the incident in its recommendation and noted that the girl had been unable to stop the bicycle in the emergency.

Mr Lufti Oyabun, 34, who has been riding bikes since he was 14, said he has been using fixies for six years due to their easy maintenance and simplicity.

He is a bicycle courier who plies the Central Business District and finds fixies’ easy manoeuvrability most suitable for his job.

He said fixies’ widespread use by young people and these riders’ sometimes reckless behaviour have given the community a bad name.

He said of the AMAP recommendation: “It is a good move as the majority of the younger riders are children and they hop onto this trend with their friends without thinking it through.”

He noted that the brakeless look of these bikes appeals to the minimalist aesthetic that young people subscribe to, adding that he will install a brake on his own bike to “set a positive example” to other younger fixie riders.

Bike dealers The Straits Times spoke to said many fixies are often supplied with brakes, and it is the riders who dismantle the brakes after they get used to using pedal resistance to stop their bikes.

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A spokesman for bike dealer Fixie Singapore said it will adhere to the law if the recommendation is accepted, but noted that other types of bicycles are also involved in accidents, so the absence of a handbrake is not the only possible cause.

He also said some fixie stunts will become harder or nearly impossible to perform if brakes are attached. “So this will affect the range of their stunts. But I am fully on board with the recommendation since safety is of course our topmost concern,” he said.

A spokesman for Dynamic Bike Shop in Jurong West said it sells between five and 10 fixie bikes each month, usually to young people who are still in school.

“It is a small and growing group of bikers, so I think the recommendation is important for safety reasons,” he said.

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