commuting help

For the first time in my uni journey, I crossed a main street today. I crossed half of it and then got off to wait for cars. Then I walked the rest of the way and free mounted on the other side. Is there a technique I should start working on to avoid dismounting? I haven’t tried idling yet, I guess that could be one.

Thank you,

Safety first… if there are no poles to hold and it’s not safe to go, you should dismount.

Another option is to find another route to minimise the need to be at the intersections. Eg. Can any local off road bike paths get you there, even if they are slighty longer?

My idle skills are not great, but idling for more than a few seconds can be quite tiring so it’s not really a solution for this situation, especially only larger wheels. And there’s nothing worse than idling while waiting for the chance to cross, only to fall off as you start because your legs have become wobbly :angry:

For waits of a few seconds, I usually hop as I can do that better. Again, short time only maybe 10 secs.

Otherwise where possible try to time crossing the road during a break in traffic by adjusting speed on approach. Also not an answer, but helps me having to stop from time to time.

For longer delays with no dismount, only option is to hold onto pole, fence etc. perhaps the traffic light pole. Find alternative routes which have a place to hold near the road and wait there for your chance to cross.

I’d say if you can’t safely stay on your wheel in traffic then you would make a better pedestrian.

I think a person standing, mounting, or failing a mount could all lead to confusion while in traffic.

Cross at major intersections on the pedestrian crossings and always look out for something to hold on to if you need to wait. Or if you know the light timings and your speed you can time the lights but you’ll need some experience with the particular crossing. If you can’t do either then you just have to dismount and wait. Obviously don’t try to mount in the middle of the road and if the lights change while you’re dismounted just walk across don’t attempt to mount.

I commute to work on my 29" and now my 36", I cross 2 major intersections of 4 lanes of traffic and one railway crossing of 3 tracks. At the traffic intersections I just grab the pedestrian pole press the button and wait. When the lights change I just ride to the other side. The railway line is a cinch as you just ride across but when the lights start flashing before you get there just hold onto the fence and wait.

Idling sucks. It’s more annoying then just dismounting and remounting in my opinion… I dismount, or hold onto something (trafic sign, lamppost, traffic light…).

Use the safest and most convenient option (bike paths, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings or the road) available. Usually no one really knows where a unicycle should legally be, so you can choose…

Idling could confuse drivers who may think you are about to cross in front of them, so you could be a distraction - not good

As others have said, hold or to something or dismount woul be the safest option

From your estimated skill level, I would agree with most of the comments that dismounting or holding on to something is probably the safest thing.

As your skills advance there are three options to dismounting, but it depends on a lot of factors (space available, safety, pedestrians, wheel size, etc.):

  1. grab a pole
  2. hopping in place
  3. idling

If there’s a pole or sign in just the right place, then that’s great, but sometimes there’s not.

Hopping in place can be a very good choice to stay mounted. Hopping has the advantages over idling that it takes less space (if idiling then a bicycle or pedestrian behind you might “fill in” by moving up close as you idle forward and then you idle “back” into them) and doesn’t confuse people/drivers as much.

If you can idle well, then idiling is also a good option, assuming you keep track of your surroundings, as it does take some space. By good, I would say that you can do at least 10 revs, but more that you think you can idle for the duration of the light (after practicing I can do over 100 revs on my 20", a good 40+ on my 29, but on average only around 5-10 on my 36 with 125mm cranks).

On my 36 with short 100mm cranks I do not try to idle, but either hop, grab a pole or dismount.

On my 29 I will generally idle at first and then switch to idling if it gets crowded or I think I am loosing it (rather than dismounting and slinging the uni front/back of me).

On my 20" I will idle as it needs less space and I am pretty confident I can idle for the duration of the light.

Again, depends on the situation and if in doubt of your safety or of those around you, dismount.

on a 36er, hopping is king for me. It took me a long time to get good enough at it that I was willing to do it in front of cars, but it really does work well. Virtually no extra space taken, it puts your feet in the ‘correct’ position to set off again, and it uses very little energy once you’ve got it down. I find it’s easier to hop than to dis/re-mount the 36er (Which even after all these years I’m a bit flaky at) especially with shorter cranks.

On the G29 I can either hop or dismount. Hopping the smaller, lighter, stiffer wheel is weirdly more difficult, there’s less spring under your feet so your movements cause the uni to flick about all over the place. It’s easier for me to just remount in low gear 99% of the time, unless it’s only going to be a quick stop for a pedestrian crossing or something (In which case a quick one or two idles or even a straight up stillstand works fine).

Don’t listen to the naysayers who are telling you to stop commuting or become a pedestrian! Uni commuting is awesome and I wish I had the patience to do it every day :smiley:

I commuted on various unis for a few months. Bear in mind that other road users do not expect you, and do not know what to expect when they see you. You are in a sense “out of place”: you have every right to be there, but it would be naive to think that everyone else wants you there.

If you have an accident, you will be more likely to get the initial blame. If someone reacts badly to your presence, and that causes an accident, you will be in the firing line.

Therefore, go for a low risk strategy. Choose your unicycle (if you have more than one) for ease of riding; idle only if you are confident and there is no risk of a UPD and the uni hitting pedestrians or traffic; lean on poles etc. whenever you can; do not be too proud to dismount and walk; thank people who give way to you; try not to react badly to anyone who is hostile; and do everything you can to look like a serious commuter. Anything that reinforces the circus/clown/extreme sports stereotype will make you vulnerable.

Famous last words, but too long for an epitaph.

thank you to all for your thoughts and info. i’m looking forward to commuting by uni.

Grabbing a pole is my preferred method as well:)
Remember it doesn’t have to be right at the crossing, it can be 10-20meters back if that’s where the convenient pole is:)

I recently cycled past a bunch of young kids waiting for a bus. I was on the pavement (“sidewalk” for you Americans), which is legal in Norway.

As I cycled up towards them, I slowed down since children and dogs can be very erratic and unpredictable. Sure enough as I got very close, one of them suddenly jumped in front of me. Presumably to see what I would do(?). Luckily his buddy instantly grabbed him and yanked him out of the way, just before I would have crashed into him.

After this I thought about it for the rest of my trip (and several times since). Now while my very first thought was that it would have been his fault, the more I think about it, it probably wouldn’t have been. He was a kid (similar in age to one of my own). They do stupid stuff and it is up to me (the ‘theoretically’, sensible adult) to realise that and to be cautious and in control enough to counter it.

Also while legal for me to cycle there, it is fairly obvious that since it is for pedestrians primarily, if an accident happens, it would be my fault. Further (and to take my Mike’s point), I would obviously get the blame. After all, how would I have explained this to others. If I started with “So I was just unicycling along on the ice and…”, at which point they would instantly make up their mind and there would be little point continuing to argue my case.

My take away from this is that whilst I was cautious because kids were about, I need to up that level of caution.

And to answer the initial question(s). I go with finding something to lean on, timing my crossing, or I just do a dismount and quick remount.

P.S. To expand on the timing thing. It is not just about timing with when I expect traffic lights to change. There are a lot of crossing points where pedestrians automatically have the right of way (so-called “zebra crossings”). As a cyclist I have no rights over cars when crossing one of these points unless I dismount. Obviously I would like to avoid that but if I see that a nearby pedestrian is heading to cross at one of these points, I can slow down or speed up so that I hit the crossing point exactly as they do. Now the car has to stop, not because of me but because of the pedestrian who is crossing at the same time as me. :slight_smile:

Yeah that is also another great tip that can work really well in certain areas, particularly if you know them well.

You can even combine that with timing (and luck). For example there are three obvious points where I can cross a particular road I need to cross every day. I aim for the first, if they timing is no good, I just go further to the second and try my luck there. I rarely need to go to the third, and rarer still have to dismount because it is not possible at any of the three points.

Reading this, the thought popped into my head “Unicycling is an edge case!”

For anybody who thinks that erratic kids and dogs are to blame… this is why they aren’t! Excellent post.

All 3 posts very well said @ruari, and applies universally.

A different commuting tip I’ve realised in my neighbourhood. Its easier for me to go through an intersection with a roundabout than a non roundabout intersection. Because with a roundabout, I primarily only need to concentrate on traffic to my right at the intersection on approaching, then keep a lookout for approaching vehicles while on the roundabout, fairly normal stuff, it’s pretty easy. (In Aus we drive on the left side of the street).

For a roundabout, there might be a bank up of traffic ahead, that’s easy to deal with, (go slower on approach).

There maybe a few vehicles to the right side wanting to go through, depends on the day. Visibility isn’t great, so usually I can’t immediately know how many there are to the right side. I can (some of the time) go slow enough to let a couple of vehicles make their way through before I have to dismount though.

If I have to dismount… it’s ok. And on the bright side being forced to go slowly at the intersections over time my slow riding skills will improve, and if I have to dismount… well, it’s more mounting practice :slight_smile:
But I really find a roundabout is better than an equivalent non roundabout intersection for riding. A non roundabout intersection where you are on the side road, you have to look right, left, and straight ahead for traffic. Ie. Traffic coming from all directions before you enter the intersection. This is not as simple as just looking the 1 way for a roundabout intersection.

I’m lucky the streets I ride to get to and from my train station are pretty quiet, people friendly. I also use a zebra crossing too on my way there.

Side note. I also go over a couple of smallish “speed” bumps on this route, I believe they are bad street repairs after people dug up the road and laid cables under the street. I didn’t like them initially because I was afraid they’d make me UPD but with more time I’ve come to enjoy them… btw they have never actually caused me to UPD thus far but my butt can be lifted off the seat while riding over them.

Anyway, more experience with speed bumps I consider good for me since I will encounter them, and being able to deal with a mix of terrain is a good thing anyway for improving riding skills. I’m not going full muni just yet, but bit by bit…

I had to look that up.
Zebra Crossing - pedestrian crossing (primarily British English) or crosswalk (American English) is a place designated for pedestrians to cross a road, street or avenue.

I wondered if you Americans would get it. That is why I included a link in my original reply.