The Anthill: Fixed Gear Bicycles Illegal In Gulou [UPDATE: April Fools!]

This piece is republished with permission from the Anthill.

I don’t generally post news on the Anthill, as it’s designed for narrative writing and there are too many China news aggregators anyway. But this is breaking news I discovered myself and have to share: the municipal authorities for the Gulou area of central Beijing have, as of midnight last night, made riding fixed gear bicycles in the area against the law.

I found this out last night when out on the town with a friend who was wheeling his fixie down Guloudongdajie. A policeman stopped us, inspected the front of my friend’s bike, then shook his head and said we were to come with him. At the police station on Baochao hutong, he pointed out a notice plastered outside, outlining the new regulation.

We couldn’t believe our eyes. Fixies have been made illegal due to “safety concerns,” and there is a 500 RMB fine for riding one in the Dongcheng district. We badgered the policeman for more information, and he (grudgingly) fetched someone else who told us that fixies were not safe (“不安全”) because of their simpler mechanism with no gears and no brakes.

This is patently ridiculous for so many reasons. For starters, it’s only a certain kind of fixed gear bike that doesn’t have brakes. But that’s beside the point. If you’re going to pass a law to protect cyclers, make it mandatory to wear a bloody helmet and have bike lights. It’s like addressing food safety concerns by outlawing eating while walking down the street.

Frankly, this seems directed at the expat population. Fixed gear bicycles are popular in this area of Beijing, and mostly among foreigners. There’s a store on Wudaoying hutong which specialises in them. Poor guys, I guess they’ll be “asked to tea.” What will Beijing’s hipsters be reduced to? Are they going to outlaw Fei Yue trainers next? Or maybe brunch?

I asked the policeman if there was anywhere else this regulation was in force. Yes, the policeman said. The French concession in Shanghai. If anyone is in Shanghai, could you confirm this?

My friend wrangled his way out of the fine by arguing he wasn’t riding the bike but walking it along the street. But this is disturbing news. Everyone please be careful, and leave your fixie at home today.

Hipster's fixed gear bike parked in Tiananmen

Alec Ash, a writer and freelance journalist in Beijing, is the founder of the Anthill.

UPDATE, 11:59 pm: 愚人节快乐!

12 Responses to “The Anthill: Fixed Gear Bicycles Illegal In Gulou [UPDATE: April Fools!]”

  1. Chuckle Brother

    It is ridiculous and born and comes from not really understanding what a fixed gear is.

    Still, the fixed gear ‘community’ to a point pretty much have only themselves to blame.

    In Shanghai the guys that were selling the Flying Pigeon and Pheonix bikes converted into fixed gear were selling them without brakes to people that had never ridden a fixed gear bicycle simply in the name of fashion and that is dangerous and not what a responsible bike shop should be doing.

    Brakeless fixed gears are really meant for the track, some people that are experienced cyclists like messengers chose to ride brakeless to buy into a macho elitist cycling subculture, in my opinion if they ride with low enough gearing to control the bike and maintain the bike well, then let them, more people cycling is better.

    Unfortunately a lot of the guys that are riding fixed gears around trendy Chinese districts are idiots. And they are reaping the rewards of the idiocy that they have sowed.

    Tough shit really.

    Most people that own these kind of bikes spend more time wheeling them along when they walk and should also be able to wheedle their way out of a fine anyway.

    Reply
  2. Rob

    Any pictures?

    It would be great to know the full policy. Is it actually for all fixed-gear bicycles, or is it just those without brakes?

    Rob

    Reply
  3. Bobathecylon

    The sad thing is, “laws” are so often made up by police here, especially dealing with foreigners, that I believed this till someone pointed out it was April 1st.

    Reply
  4. bag-o-dicks

    Yun Rui is talking about this on his Weibo account. He says that “bullying” foreigners have taken over many parts of Beijing and it’s about time the police crack down on them. Apparently, we don’t realise that China can no longer be bullied.

    Reply
  5. Markoff

    I know whole story is made up for april’s prank, but actually in most of the western countries is illegal to ride fixie (without brakes) and I would not be surprised if it would be illegal in China too. But as usual in China, laws are one thing and reality is something else.

    Reply

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