Do You Need a Rear Brake on Your Bike to be Legal in California? I Don’t Know Anymore

You know, I think they went and changed VC 21201 on me. It used to talk about being able to make your rear wheel skid, but now:

“21201.  (a) No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.”

I’ll have to look into this.

Here we have a bike with no rear brake on McAllister. (I know what you’re thinking, but this bike isn’t a fixie, it freewheels.) 

Click to expand

Not exactly safe, IMO, but not necessarily illegal either, apparently…

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10 Responses to “Do You Need a Rear Brake on Your Bike to be Legal in California? I Don’t Know Anymore”

  1. Skitten says:

    How, other than jumping off, does one stop on a freewheeling bike with no brakes?

  2. sfcitizen says:

    Well theres the front brake she had. I should have said that more better. Just changed the text. thx!

  3. Dave D. says:

    …Problem with just front wheel braking is that when the coefficient of friction between the road and your tire is way down ( ice, dirt, bb’s ) you dare not brake or the front wheel will wash out and you’ll be on your butt before you know it. Likewise, in a curve, when you front brake only, it lifts your bike up from a leaned over position and you fade out into the opposing lane ( right curve ) or off the road ( left curve ).
    ..If you lock the rear brake, keep it locked and keep the bikes front tire rolling and pointed in the direction of motion. You can come to a stop without falling, though the frame rotates as if it wants the rear tire to kiss the front one. Just stay on that brake till you stop or it will spit you off like a tomato seed.

  4. sfcitizen says:

    Yeah. I wonder if a front brake only, which I assume could be skidded by a rider while stopping in a straight line, would satisfy CHP / police.

  5. Dave D. says:

    …You absolutely cannot skid the front tire in a straight line. When I took motor training at the Academy in August, 1977 ( Ugh ! HOT ), our instructor, Ron Goats, repeatedly told us not to use the front brake in the dirt. Seeing that some were still doing it, he lined all 15 of us up just before lunch and had us ride towards him at 5 mph, then lock the front brake. I was fourth back. I watched the first three guys go on their asses and decided that if I was exactly straight up and down, and if the front forks were exactly straight with the centerline of the frame, I’d skid and stay upright. Ron was laughing when he helped me get out from under the bike and pick it up. I waited around and watched the other 11 guys go down like we first four did. That broke us from using the front brake on dirt.

  6. sfcitizen says:

    That’s a good point.

    But I suspect that the CVC was changed to include front wheels. I don’t understand the background of this…

  7. Dave D. says:

    …Well, it was passed in 2007, to become effective in 2008. At the end of every legislative session a flood of bills are passed and sent to, in this case, Ol Mr. Bicycle himself, Arnold. Deals are cut and pressure applied. I’d suggest that it’s a classic case of regulatory capture and single cause lobbying. Somebody who makes and sells bicycles wanted this for business reasons. Being a contributor to Assemblyperson Nosepickers re-election, they got her to carry the bill and when it got to Gods Gift to the States’ desk, he signed it. The criteria was ” Who cares “, a pretty low bar to leap over.

    ..Frankly, as the website with the hottest, newest, bikee’est focus, I’m surprised you let this slide by you for four years……………

  8. sfcitizen says:

    I don’t know, but info should be in here under analyses, but I didn’t find it

    AB 478 2007

  9. Dave D. says:

    ,,,Damned you’re good. A 1997 law change. Hmmm ? Pete Wilsons ballpark. I’m sorry Arny. I slurred you unneccesarily. I can’t find the legislatures thinking either, so I stick by my cynical reasoning.

  10. sfcitizen says:

    Yeah, i’m not up to speed on this whole deal. I’ll have to work on this…

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