Commuting in traffic techniques

I agree, a rear-view mirror is very helpful. The one I prefer and the one I have been using for the last year is the one made by Bike Peddler.

Another extremely helpful accessory for traffic is the Delta Airzound.
I don’t use the horn all that often, however, when I don’t get eye contact with a driver when crossing an intersection, it helps to give it a tap. I always keep it pumped up. If you decide to use this horn, be careful, this horn is extremely loud. I only use this horn on pedestrians if they are a good distance away.

OK, but how often are you riding at a “good clip” on a unicycle compared to a bike or car? OK maybe if you are on a geared 36, but most of us don’t have one. And even on one, my take is that you are much more likely to UPD on one than a bike, and then get run over. I’ll take my chances on the sidewalk thanks (if there is one).

A bike is different. a) you are less likely to fall–yes even if you are an experienced unicyclist, and b) you can keep up with traffic better than on a uni.

Unfortunately being on the sidewalk over here is flat-out illegal unless you’re walking :smiley: I’d rather take my chances on the road than chance being pulled over by the police every time I leave my house…

I’m probably just going to get a small bell or something and go slower where cars are most. In my area, I have a feeling if I use that horn, if the cars won’t kill me, the pedestrians will. That stuff scares me to death. So loud. I like my quiet rides and not be noticed by everyone around me in a 4 block radius.

Yeah I think we sometimes forget that we’re spread out all over the world and rules are different. I’m with kahunacohen in a sense. I’m going to do street but if it gets too tricky out there, I’m going to slow it down and go into the sidewalk if there’s not a lot of pedestrians. Sometimes there’s just not enough road space out there and I don’t want to have 5 cars with drivers grumbling behind me.

One thing I’m weary about when going on the sidewalk are people coming out of buildings and sharp blind corners around buildings. There was one time where a bicyclist zoomed right past the corner, good thing I slowed down before getting to it or we would have collided.

I’m currently looking around for a cyclocomputer for distance and speed if anyone can recommend it for commuting. Otherwise I’ll just search up on some threads as usual, only issue is that they seemed a bit old.

I wonder how many use this and this.
Both are especially that last one is useful for unicyclists;
but I especially like the last one;
I commute in the dark evenings in downtown Amsterdam, with many faster bicyclists - who overtake you, and return to their position too fast (and -very annoying, but unintended- force you to slowdown). So for unicyclists in areas with many cyclepaths I recommend one, but projected to the front.

commuting with traffic video


You just blew one of my theories out of the water. I said maybe unicyclists can’t commute in the Netherlands because they would be too disadvantaged by everyone else. I am Very Glad you wrote, now I know it is possible. I wonder what your experience is commuting by unicycle. I would LOVE to come to the Netherlands if I ever become a good enough unicyclist to see the bike culture there.

Before coming on line I had written up a couple of links and questions I had:
Links to 36" bunny hopping.
Left turning in a 5 lane road
Tractor trailers
Commuting hazards

I’ve come across a couple of videos demonstrating bunny hoping in them with the ’36 uni. So it can be done.

I still ponder how even a pro would navigate stopping at a 5 lane street intersection to left turn across traffic. Only options I can think of are being able to idle, bunny hop, wear neon bright clothing and have your air horn on the ready. I thought about riding up to the head of the stopped cars at the light, but no promise they would see you when it was clear to execute the turn. The best option I can think of at the moment is to either take an alternate route so you simply don’t have to turn at busy intersections, or mark that trip off as not able to be done on a uni at that time.

B. Additionally I viewed a video from the Netherlands where they pointed out tractor trailers turning have a HUGE blind spot where cyclists and even cars can’t be seen. While European biking countries have the most enlightened auto drivers this is one area where serious accidents happen. Any strategy suggestions here?

C. In an imaginary world I’d love a list of skills that I can progressively develop, to be safe on rural unpaved roads, including loose gravel, rural paved roads, back streets, side streets, suburbs, city streets, downtown heavy traffic, rush hour traffic, backed up traffic…

D. What are possible hazards in commuting one might unexpectedly face like: pot holes, oil slicks, ice, speed bumps, unobservant auto drivers, evil auto drivers, etc…

E. Bicycles are legally allowed the lane of road in most states on common streets and roads. Not that people accept or are aware of that. Do unicyclists have rights=responsibilities to be on the road? Are unicycles delegated to proscribed areas and not in the presence of traffic or pedestrians? OR are we seen as pedestrians? Or… we were never really thought about? Or is it better if we don’t bring up the topic and try to stay under the radar as long as we can?

A. There are some multi lane streets here in Krakow that I’m afraid to cross on a bike and I’m not trying to do it on an uni. Luckily on most of these streets bikes are allowed on pavements, so I use it happily. On a bike I use both streets and pavements- it depends on my route .
B. This happened recently to some bikers in UK. Generally being on the uni does not make your situation vs truck much worse compared to bikers. Generally try not to pass on the side of trucks that might turn. And usually they don’t turn unexpectadly with their mass, so be cautious and it should be OK.
C. In real world we need to ride :slight_smile: You have your own list anyway.
D. Nice list. Add rubbish, pedestrians crossing, dogs from me.
E. It changes much from country to country. There were some topics already here on this. In most places it is not strictly defined and it is better to stay in the grey area in my opinion. I personally try to ride my 26er as bike, while on my 20er I keep more to pavements, but I don’t “travel” on it much.

I’ve never seen a 5-lane road, that sounds terrifying! It’s bad enough crossing traffic on one lane. If the road is particularly busy, right now I just jump off, get on the pavement and cross the road as a pedestrian, then mount when safe. Plenty of bikers round heredo it by just indicating to the cars behind them then making the turn when there’s a gap though, which I suppose is the ‘proper’ way :smiley:

That big string of cyclists being killed was in the city of London, which is FAR more dangerous a place to *cycle than where I live (I’m not quite in the sticks but I’m not far away) However your advice still works no matter the vehicle :slight_smile:

Dogs are the WORST, however I rarely encounter them on-road. I’d remove ‘speed bumps’ from the list of hazards as they’re far easier to handle and more predictable than potholes, and instead add ‘anything that requires you to stop’. You said pedestrians crossing, but I’d also include traffic lights whether they’re pelican crossings or just
E. It changes much from country to country. There were some topics already here on this. In most places it is not strictly defined and it is better to stay in the grey area in my opinion. I personally try to ride my 26er as bike, while on my 20er I keep more to pavements, but I don’t “travel” on it much.

On your last point vookash - This whole thread was written under the assumption that you are ‘being a bike’, but I agree that with my smaller wheel I tend to stick to pavements as though I’m a skateboard :smiley:

And as I said earlier, over here bikes are road vehicles when it comes to the highway code, and as such are illegal to ride on the pavements, though if there was an emergency like a crazy driver trying to ram you the court would usually understand :slight_smile:

Yeah, ‘unicycle’ isnt strictly defined as a vehicle in the highway code here, but rather than stay in the grey area I try to stay in the ‘bike’ area, and just be a bit more respectful of cars about it - If there’s a right turn that causes me to cross busy traffic, I’ll usually dismount, get on the pavement and cross on-foot, rather than standing in the middle of the road waiting for a gap.

I actually have no idea about the rules here in MD as far as sidewalks, and I frankly don’t care. Nobody’s ever pulled me over and I’d rather get pulled over than be hurt or dead.

Of course there are advantages of being on the road, esp visibility. However I maintain my position that sidewalk is safer generally on a unicycle with the caveat that you must be especially careful about driveways and the like.

I’ve heard that unicycles often are not considered bicycles and are considered pedestrians, but have never researched the law here in MD.

I understand that every place is different, but this is my take.

The amount of times I’ve nearly crashed into a pedestrian while riding on the pavement, and we’ve both turned the corner at the same time… Yeah, I’d rather not run over a kid or an old lady and end up hurting someone! Round where I live, there’s a fair few schools around, and so at certain times, the pavements are PACKED. The pavements are relatively busy even at off-peak times, so yeah… I think on balance even for my own personal safety, roads are safer :smiley:

I have the same but I think you can still make it work, not saying YOU should, but if the law lets you, you can make it work.

I’ve ridden on the sidewalk and I also had a few times where I almost hit someone as well. But a bit of experience and carefulness helps that and of course it depends on how busy and/or how big the sidewalk is. Sometimes the road can be pretty dangerous and I’ve even seen bicyclist try to avoid it by going into the sidewalk for a bit, even to get some breathing room from the chaos in the street.

I don’t think you should be so afraid of going into the sidewalk as long as you slow way down and be cautious and courteous to the pedestrians, who are the #1 priority on the sidewalk even if you might be considered one as well with the unicycle.

As for me, I’m going to try to go in the street the majority of the time, but if there’s a bunch of cars behind me waiting for me, I’m going to be nice about it and find a quiet sidewalk to go into or if it is crowded there, find a pole near the sidewalk and hold onto that and let the cars through.

I still envy that video in the video section of those guys in Manhattan, I wonder how long it takes to ride a 36er and get that good at maneuvering around stuff. The high level skills are a blast to watch. I wonder if the handlebars at the front of the unicycle would impede on your maneuverability much?

Beside the system, the people create situations, so identical situations in Germany or Switzerland (even better diciplined and educated drivers) would all look different in the end.
Here it’s liberal, so in cycling (and the rest of the traffic) you can do whatever you like, as long you don’t bother rights of others (or else you will receive feedback / pressure). Even if you’re about to -or created- a conflict; simply communicate clear with essential eye-contact. If you didn’t create damage and admit your wrong, can be simply one word, then usually you’re appreciated, especially as unicyclist.

For years I tried to get fined by the police (to fight a previous penalty that was not based on any law), but even with cops right behind me, crossing red light is tolerated. Till date I never was able to provocate one, probably because I never intend to obstruct rights of others.

Here is an example of stressed morning peak traffic, except for the bicyclists that do not respect the pedestrian crossing, there aren’t any issues or risks, but just a lot of own responsibility. From a different perspective: a green light never guarantees you wont be hit by a car or truck.

For unicyclists it hardly differs, except the speed difference in case you use a 20". Also I have to mention I’m basicly always in city traffic. But one other annoying thing are non-handsfree callers who (except have stupid half dialogs), keep riding close behind you as overtaking is too much handling during a call (but riding too close behind seems not a problem to them). I will freeze myself for those, and then usually they start riding fast again.
I few situations you have to ride defensive, taking your place and space towards other cyclists, which is actually social and respectful towards others - including aggresive riders.

At only very rare occasions I will put my bicycle track experience in place; meaning bumping and pushing and pulling. Last month a cyclist was overtaking me, and very sudden another one tried to overtake her on the right (besides stupid that’s simply illegal) - meaning jumping in the tight space meant for me. In stead of doing a break he forced me to, I pulled him back, and while riding, told him that was an idiotic action. I’m still surprised I could pull so firm on such a speed. They guy silently agreed, and waited a while to escape from this scene quickly.

One important thing to know: by law unicyclists are pedestrians; but riding fast in pedestrian space will result in people who will claim the opposite. So you will be tolerated on the cycle path (or lane), but it’s actually not your space.

Be welcome, but for now, look at some informative videos:

As my jobs are spread all over the country I recognize pretty much every single location, and have been there myself on unicycle.

Below video is somewhat the same, but focused on the history.
It made me realize the culture is only just a little bit older than I am:

One shorter video explains how “we” build a safe junction:

I now realize in how luxery situation I am.

Like John said; “The car always wins”. It’s not entirely true, and in many courts it’s here certainly NOT true. So don’t be scared - but don’t be stupid to learn the painful truth from experience. When in doubt, make sure you have space to escape, or (literaly) wave away your right of way, but followed by signals you’re about to take your right of way. Both way communications is the key.

I ride on the sidewalk here in Seattle when I ride my 24 muni where the bike lane runs out and the bicycles merge with traffic. On my 36er I stay on the street, but also use more flashing lights on it than I do on my muni because it’s just to big to ride on the sidewalk. My routes differ for my commute depending on what Uni I ride. The 36er stays home on wet days mostly. I should have my custom 29er ready next week that I pieced together with my commute in mind and I expect a learning curve as I start riding it. I will adjust my route to remain as safe as possible.
As for riding on the sidewalk here, bikes are legally able to go from street to sidewalk as they choose. Not sure I agree with the way some riders interpret this, as I occasionally encounter a bike rider being a dumbass and whipping through pedestrians like they are escaping the police.
I choose to slow down and cruise at a walking speed among my two footed friends out of courtesy and safety. When I have room, I can go around them and go a little faster. This has given me a chance to work at my slow riding skills and allows for a comfortable interaction with people. I always try to remember that they are most likely not familiar with how a unicycle operates and may not be sure of what they should do around me. I always give them the right away, even if it means I dismount.
It’s hard to blend in with the crowd when you are the only guy on a uni in the downtown area, so I try to practice an abundance of patience and civility. Now I have a lot of people who are used to me riding and they no longer stare or consider me a menace along my route. I have a lot of people I see all the time and we greet each other and wish the best for each others day. All in all, my Uni commute has given me a wonderful way to enjoy this amazing place I live. Ride safe kids.

Thanks for posting those videos, Leo, I was not aware of the cycling environment in the Netherlands. I’m envious!
One thing that struck me is that no one in the videos is wearing a bicycle helmet. I think that is indicative of the relative safety they feel when riding. Again, I wish that were the case here.

Bike Culture


Thank you very much for sharing these videos. Ideas like these give hope to the world. This is very little exaggeration. In regards to the unicycle in the Netherlands, would it be possible for someone to make a short video of you riding in Dutch traffic among bicycles?


I’m to ask LAB anything, what should I ask?

A contact with the League of American Bicyclists asked me, as a unicyclist, (which I’m not yet) what information or concern do I have about unicycling commuting?

Because everyone else here IS familiar with unicycles, can you give me guidance on what I might say?

I had to actually look up what the LAB actually does now:
Advocates for bike infrastructure to congress (including funding for lanes, etc.)
Partners with the industry and government to help plan/research/increase bike usage. (Including the Highway and Traffic Administrations.)
Developed Smart Cycling curriculum for teaching in schools.
Encouragement for tax breaks to businesses and bikers who commute. (did you know that?)
Oh yes, they still can offer liability insurance for bike clubs and instructors.

I’m not sure what a contact like that can answer, as my concerns are mostly to do with the technical aspect of uni-riding (And so unless he is a unicyclist himself he probably won’t know!) plus I’m in the UK not America, so probably anything he says won’t even apply to me :smiley:

That being said! I’d be tempted to question him about the legalities. It’s a question that comes up far too often on these forums and there are never any real clear answers, whether UK or US. I’ll step back and allow those in the US (And therefore those who the LAB actually apply to) to chip in though :smiley:

I just ago saw an amazing one I had to add: World’s First Suspended Bicycle Roundabout.
It’s must have been a big investment, but the old situation was horrible, and the new situation… a perfect long term solution!

I work for a local TV station here in the Seattle area and we produce a local Magazine show that airs nightly. They called me looking to do a part of a story about unusual commutes and they knew that I rode my unicycle through downtown. Unfortunatly, a herniated disc has shelved the unicycle riding for the time being. The person doing this story is an old friend who I connected with Kris Holm, and he did a wonderful profile of him around the same time Vancouver was hosting the winter Olympics.
My question here is, would anyone living in the seattle/Tacoma area be interested in helping promote our sport by discussing unicycle commuting with him? PM me and I can put you in touch with him. Thanks Kids