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Earlier this month a 16-year-old Watsonville teen, sustained serious head injuries which has prompted a warning to parents and their teens that removing brakes and other safety gear from the trendy fixie bikes can lead to serious life-threatening injuries.

Fixie, or fixed-gear bicycles have become popular in the Bay Area and other parts of the country, with many teens stripping their bikes of reflectors and other safety equipment including brakes for a “sleeker ride.” Unfortunately, this minimalist approach does not take into consideration the serious danger the riders now face.

Watsonville police Lt. Michael Ridgway in a statement to the Mercury News said “The fixies are very trendy right now; the kids love ’em and they’re fun to ride, but they strip them down. They take everything off the bike. It’s a dangerous trend, and I recommend that parents take a role in what their kids are riding.”

After the recent accident involving the Watsonville teen, authorities are hopeful other teens will take heed of the dangers. On  Aug. 7, the Watsonville teen was riding a fixie bike west on Green Valley Road near Melwood Street. He had modified the bike by removing the brakes and he was riding without a helmet according to Lt. Ridgway.

While turning left into a shopping center, the teen collided with a car headed east. The driver tried to stop, police said, but the teen was thrown into the air and his bike was crushed by the impact with the vehicle. He suffered head injuries a broken leg, wrist and nose, police said.

He was taken by helicopter to a Santa Clara County hospital. The teen told authorities that he didn’t see the Acura before the crash. Even if he had seen it, Ridgway said, his brakeless bike had no way to stop.

“Hopefully he’ll make a full recovery,” said Ridgway. “It’s unfortunate. That can be a life changing event.”

Sgt. Henry Robles said he understood teens’ recent fascination with fixies. He too rides a blue and gold fixie — with brakes — yet he heard of recent complaints of packs of fixie-riding teens on sidewalks.

“We hope to educate these riders a little bit more,” Robles said.

He said he liked that youths were spending time with bikes rather than getting in trouble with gangs. He just wanted them to follow the rules of the road.

All bikes must have a brake. Cyclists must ride in the direction of traffic, according to state law. Those younger than 18 are required to wear helmets. At night, bikers must have a front light and a rear reflector.

“We’ve had several collisions involving the fixies,” Ridgway said. “A lot of times it’s the first real bike they’ve had, and they haven’t had any training.” Police said they planned to visit Watsonville schools again this fall to give students tips on safe bicycling.

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