What is safer...coaster brakes, rim brakes, or fixed gear braking?
I currently have a 'regular' bike, i.e. a bike with hand rim brakes but I've been more fascinated recently with single speed and fixed gear bikes. One of the reasons that I've held off on getting on is the braking.
How does coaster braking and braking on a fixed gear bike compare to rim brakes? I live in NYC and want to make sure that I can brake in all situations!
A track bike (fixed gear) has no front or rear brakes. You slow the bike down by resisting the turn of the pedals but you need to be careful to not push too hard, which can lock up the rear wheel and cause a skid.
But most fixed gears aren't true track bikes. You should be able to find one that has standard brakes on both the front and rear wheels. The front brake is especially important since that's where most of your braking power comes from on a normal bike.
A coaster brake is basically a drum brake in the rear hub. Pedalling backwards engages the brake.
Personally I would expect a bike with a normal front rim or disc brake to be "safest". Front brakes have much more stopping power because your weight shifts to the front wheel when slowing down. Plus you can control the amount of braking power more easily by hand than by resisting with your feet.
Another thing to consider with a fixie is that body position (weight distribution) plays a huge role in getting the most of out a front brake in emergency stops. Getting your weight back to keep the rear wheel on the ground is much more difficult when the rear wheel wants to keep the pedals spinning.
with coaster brake it's impossible to fly over the handlebars, even if you want to, with the front brake it might happen by accident
Coaster brakes are great as a fail-safe fall-back: They pretty much only fail if the chain falls off. So, as long as you can ride your bike forward, you are also able to stop it with the coaster brake. Thus, a good front brake for normal breaking plus a coaster brake to save you when your cable breaks is a great combo.