Believe it or not: unicycles are skateboards

On the 5th of February, I was riding my unicycle through town, on my way to get my parents car to drive to Taupo to the Juggling Festival. I hopped up the Post Office steps, and Toni Haggart confiscated my Wilder MUni under the local skateboard bylaw. I had to pay $35 to get it back, because I couldn’t hang around to argue. Toni had warned me and sent me a copy of the skateboard bylaw, but I disagree with her interpretation.

Explanatory Note
The objective of this part of the bylaw is to control the riding of skateboards and similar articles, on footpaths and malls where a nuisance or injury may be caused to pedestrians or damage to public property.

This part of the bylaw provides for enforcement by Authorised Officers.

1.0 Interpretation
This part of the bylaw shall be in addition to the provisions of Part 1 Introductory and if this part of the bylaw is inconsistent with Part 1 Introductory then the provisions of this part of the bylaw shall prevail.

SKATEBOARD means a wheeled device controlled or propelled by gravity or by the muscular energy of the rider, including roller skates, in-line skates, or similar recreational devices. The definition does not include any bicycle, tricycle, wheelchair, baby or invalid carriage.

RIDE A SKATEBOARD means having either one or both feet on any other part of the body of any person, on the skateboard when it is moving.

2.0 Control of Skateboards
2.1 No person shall ride a skateboard in any area defined in the First, Second and Third Schedules attached to this part of the bylaw.
2.2 No person shall ride a skateboard on any footpath outside the areas defined in the First Schedule, without due care to ensure no damage is caused to public property or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the footpath.
2.3 The Council may from time to time by resolution publicly notified, amend the areas to which the provisions of this part of the bylaw shall apply.

3.0 Impounding of Skateboards
3.1 Every person who commits an offence against this part of the bylaw is liable to have the skateboard impounded by an Authorised Officer.
3.2 Any person claiming a skateboard, which has been impounded pursuant to this part of the bylaw, shall:[list=a]

  • Satisfy an Authorised Officer that he is the owner or otherwise entitled to the custody and control of the skateboard; and
  • Pay to the Council a fee of such amount as Council may determine by resolution. [/list=a][B]3.3[/B] The Council shall provide a secure place for any skateboard impounded under this part of the bylaw. [B]3.4[/B] The Council shall keep a register and enter details of every skateboard impounded and every person claiming a skateboard under this part of the bylaw. [B]3.5[/B] The Council may from time to time by resolution publicly notified, alter the fee payable under clause 3.2 of this part of the bylaw. Different fees may apply where a skateboard has been seized or impounded on more than one occasion. [B]3.6[/B] Nothing contained in this part of the bylaw shall render the Council or any Authorised Officer liable in damages or otherwise to any person for any skateboard impounded under the provisions of this part of the bylaw. [B]3.7[/B] Where any skateboard impounded has not been claimed and all fees paid within six (6) months of seizure of that skateboard the Council may dispose of the skateboard in the following manner: [list=a]
  • Written notice to the person from whom the property was seized shall be made where the person's address is known;
  • Where notice cannot be served because details of the owner are unknown or where within seven (7) days from the date of the notice, issued in accordance with subclause 3.7(a) of this part of the bylaw, the skateboard has not been claimed and all fees paid, the Council may sell or cause the skateboard to be otherwise disposed of;
  • Where any proceeds are realised these may be applied to the payment of costs and expenses incurred in selling the skateboard, and also to costs incurred in seizing, impounding, transporting and storing the equipment. Such costs shall include the reasonable time of an Authorised Officer in implementing the above;
  • On demand, the Council shall pay the remainder of the proceeds (if any) to the person from whom the skateboard was seized.[/list=a]It then goes on to show some maps of places you can't ride your skateboard.

    The reason for the police picking on me is because they think I am a danger to the public when on the footpath in town. The light blue section is the part Toni highlighted when she sent it to me, because she believes that is the bit that applies. I have ridden through the Central Business District (the place where the bylaw applies) for 8 years and never caused any trouble, never run anyone over. I would like help from anyone who has had a similar experience or who has advice about how to tell them unicycling is safe. My arguement so far includes:
    A unicycle is not similar to skates and skateboards due to it having direct drive, in contrast to freewheeling. If you go down a big hill on a unicycle you will not continue to get faster and faster, unlike most other wheeled devices.
    Bicyclists are expected to ride on the road and wear helmets, but unicyclists are not expected to wear helmets, so why should they ride on the road?
    Unicycles are manouvreable and relatively slow, and cars take a wide berth around them on the road, causing more of a hazard to the public than on the pavement.

    I was planning to take them to court and demand my money back, but after consulting the Community Law Center, my hopes are failing and it looks like I will have to pay the fine which I can’t afford. The stupid thing was that I was trying not to ride on the footpath the second time my MUni was confiscated. I was in a music shop, and I rode from the door of the shop, across the footpath and onto the road (so as not to be pulled up) and that is when the police officer took my MUni again. I have talked with many members of the public, and none of them feel threatened or endangered by having me on the footpaths with them, and many of them enjoy seeing it because unicycling is different. I spoke with an officer today about it, and he thinks it applies because of the muscular propulsion of the wheel, and he thinks I am dangerous. While he was talking to me, I pointed across the road to some skaters riding their boards on the footpath in the CBD, and he did nothing about it. I talked to a skater who told me he had had 6 warnings for riding in the CBD, and has not yet had his board taken off him. I only got the one warning, and I did not believe it was true because I disagree with their misinterpretation, and I want the bylaw to be amended to include a clearer definition of a skateboard. My submission to the council to review the bylaw will be considered in twelve months time or longer.

    Help me…anyone?
    Can anyone explain why the footpath is the safest place for unicyclists? It seems New Plymouth has suddenly become one of the most unwelcoming places in the world for unicyclists.

  • Bummer.



    I would take a written poll of 100 or so pedestrians on the footpath. Have them sign if they feel threatened by you or not. Then, take a copy of the poll to each council person.

    Second, you say your “submission to the council to review the bylaw will be considered in twelve months time or longer.” See if you can get a variance in the ruling, to allow you to ride, until they review your submission. That would at least buy you a year more of riding.

    I agree with Tommy, “Bummer!” --chirokid–

    Just a thought…
    I think that the people ‘outside’ of the unicycling world (i.e. they have never tried one) get the impression that a unicyclist is completely out of control as they ride. It’s something in their head that tells them that anything balanced over one point on the ground in such a way would be impossible to control, so they deem it a hazard to pedestrians. If they actually knew what kind of control and maneuverability a unicyclist actually has, I don’t think they’d really worry about it, as there would be minimal danger to pedestrians, cyclists, and the like.

    That really is a bummer though. And it’s hard for us to get heard because we are such a minority. I like chirokid’s suggestion of asking pedestrians if they feel threatened or not.

    I have no idea about NZ laws, but I would think that here it would be considered vague. I would think that going to a meeting of the council that enacted the law armed with letters might give you some room to defend your position. Another option is to contact someone in an authority position and getting a letter that specificly exempts you from this regulation. If approached properly that may be your best option.

    Triple bummer. That is gonna be a hard one to change because of that definition of skateboard.

    I disagree. The examples of what a skateboard is includes only items with very small wheels - wheels so small they are just bearings with a solid ‘tire’. All the examples are driven by the rider pushing either his feet or footwear (skates) against the ground.

    A typical unicycle has a much larger wheel with a seperate tire; it is driven by the rider by pushing on pedals.

    (With the sometimes exception of baby carraige)
    The items specifically excluded from the law also have larger wheels, with both wheels and tires, and are propeled other than by pushing agaist the ground with ones feet.

    Seems to me there is a very good argument that a uni is not a skate(board).

    Another idea that just came to me. Find a local Law School. Start a unicycle club. Get these students all fired up with righteous indignation for the discrimination and persecution of fellow unicyclists. Then send them in to take care of the council, law, whatever. Soon to be lawyers are like rabid dogs just looking for a reason to use their newly earned law degrees.:smiley:

    SKATEBOARD means … [skateboards,] roller skates, in-line skates, or similar recreational devices.

    They are claming a unicycle is “similiar” to one or more of these?

    Also, a unicycle has a seat, unlike any of the above (and like all the excluded items).

    An even better idea.

    You could purchase some “Grizzly Bear” grade Mace from Bugman. Then, when that officer approaches you, just point that bottle of mace straight toward her face and…

    Wait! Whoops. That would not be a good idea. Do not do this. It must be past my bedtime. Again I note, DO NOT TAKE MY ADVICE! :smiley: --chirokid–

    You are looking at this the wrong way. This means you can uni anywhere skateboarders go. If you want to talk more about skate parks I have a thread I just posted. It talks about how we are segregated from parks of all kinds.

    Another approach might be to demonstrate how using a unicycle on the road is much more hazardous to you and other drivers than on the sidewalk. Get as many other riders as possible and ride slowly (normal speed) down the roads and cause huge traffic jams. That out to get the point across. They will have you back on the sidewalks in no time!

    I included a survey with my submission, which had about sixty signatures from local people who I talked to in town. The survey question was “Would you support a submission to the New Plymouth District Council to allow unicyclists to ride on the footpath in the Central Business District?” and I printed out a table on both sides of the paper, one headed with "YES (Unicyclists should be allowed on both the footpath and road in the CBD) and the other side with “NO (Unicyclists should not be allowed on the footpath in the CBD)”. I only got one signature on the “NO” side, from a crazy girl who is scared of anything. I am currently doing a petition which says that the Council should give back my unicycle, and the $35 I had to pay after the police stole my unicycle from me. The policeman who I asked to sign my petition today was not impressed, and said “you can’t say that shit” referring to the part about them stealing it. I told him to watch his mouth and that profanity is not acceptable in public, and he apologised in case he had offended me (the cop who took my unicycle had threatened to arrest me after I called him an asshole, so that was my payback). I think I can say that they stole it, because I was on the road when he took it, at the very edge of the CBD. I can’t (yet) afford the $70 fine to get it back, nor the $4000 it will cost to replace it. No one can give me back the time I have spent without my MUni.

    I have tried to get them to make me exempt from the current bylaw, but they will not seem to listen to reason, and they say the current legislation stands. I am still allowed to ride on the road without a helmet, but it is so hard to not ride on the footpath. It is a habit of mine to always ride on the footpath through town, where it is safest and sheltered from the rain/sun. From now on I have to walk my unicycle (woe is me) through town when it rains, or ride on the road. I’m going to try to get free legal advice about it but it seems that the Law Enforcement is against me, and they can bust me for just about anything. I’m still going to try to reason with them some more, I will write letters to the council and the police, but it seems I am fighting a losing battle, and eventually I might have to bend over and take it, unpleasant as that may be.

    I think Todd has hit the nail on the head, Police (non unicycling police) have no clue as to what a unicycle is like to control, and they mistake casual weaving between pedestrians to be out of control dangerous riding.

    Duaner, I agree with you that unicycles are not similar to any of the examples they have used, and unicycles are more similar to all the things which are exceptions to the rule. The problem is the police do not see it that way, I made that point today and the policeman said “But is a unicycle propelled by muscle?” which it is, so I said “yes…but…it’s not similar to any of the examples given, and it is similar to the exceptions”. I may have a case in getting the bylaw changed (eventually), but it seems they have won for the meanwhile. It doesn’t matter if you are a good citizen, if you don’t abide by the letter of the law (loopholes and grey areas included), you’re screwed if the Police don’t like you. It makes things worse if you appear different from other people, because Police can single you out for persecution. The fact that unicycles have a seat does not seem to help my case (I’ll use it though, but they don’t listen). The woman from the Community Law Service (who was first to sign my latest petition) sent me a discouraging letter today saying that “The law is clear that the footpath is not for any form of propulsion.”

    Good idea Bugman, but I think that it will take too long to train new Lawyers. I can’t go without my MUni for the length of time it will take, and there are no garauntees I will succeed. If it’s able to be fought in court, I want to do it now! I like the idea of holding up the traffic, I should try that sometime, I’ve been thinking about it, but they will probably get me for disruptive something or other. I have tried to explain this factor many times but it falls upon deaf ears. I’m sure their eyes will believe it if they see me disrupting traffic, making cars swerve into the opposing lane to pass.

    Thanks for the support everyone, keep the suggestions coming if you can think of any explanation as to how safe unicycling is among pedestrians. I mean smallish unicycles, not cokers (I’m not going to complicate things by telling the police about gliding or big-wheels). If anyone has any similar experiences with local bylaws against unicycles I would love to hear about it.

    Is there any bylaw pertaining to bicycles that could potentially include unicycles? In that case, you could be on the exceptions list.

    Cosmic justice

    Dear Rowan: It is easy for me to see why this misfortune has come upon you :angry: The Gods are angry with you for giving your female friends a crappy 24" unicycle with bent/loose cranks and spindle to learn on:p You should consider borrowing money to buy them an inexpensive unicycle in good condition to appease the Gods. Your fortune will then change. Your humble counselor;)

    Seems to me that ALL of the exceprion items listed in the first section are muscle powered. I haven’t seen many (any) none muscle powered baby carriages. And that a unicyle is much more similar to a bicycle than a stateboard, haveing a seat, which a bicycle has but that a skateboard does not, and pedals, which a bicycle has but that a skateboard does not. However, you might also want to check the laws definition of bicycle, it might be interpreted to include unicycles and then the powers that be could not say any thing against you as the law would then be on YOUR side. Also, if a giraffe would be included in the bicycle definition that might be useful information.

    Does that mean that if i snap my front wheel off my bike that i have a skateboard???

    Rowan, I just sent a email to the secretary of the Cycle Action Network, asking for help. I made reference to this thread. Hopefully my request is taken seriously.


    Infact unicycling is now progressing the same way as skateboarding has, both uni and skating having there roots in freestyle both having “muni” versions, both having sponsorships “pros”, both having people doing stair sets and hand rails when you forget one has 4 wheels and one has 1 there is little difference.the only thing unicyclists do that skateboarders don’t is trials.

    Bicycles have progressed the same way; all of the above are also frequently done on bicycles, not just skateboards and unis.