fear of unicycles

when riding on the pavement I find that occasionaly someone will cringe against a fence as I pass by. I also wonder if the hostile looks we sometimes recieve are due to people considering us irresponsible and putting pedestrians in danger.
I feel that this is understandable; whilst I know I can ride safely past someone, that is because I know how stable a unicycle is when ridden properly.
Someone with no experience of unicycling is understandably concerned that either unicycles are inherently unstable (backed up by seeing entertainers doing the classic/cliched ‘I’m on a giraffe and I’m going to fall off’ routine)or that you may not be good at riding.
I know that a lot of my friends have commented that a unicyclist always looks quite wobbly, even when they are in complete control.
Anyway, the reason I’m posting this is that I can’t think of a single thing to do to alleviate this misunderstanding (apart from the obvious dismounting in situations where there’s obvious dangers like randomly running children); has anyone got any ideas?

Re: fear of unicycles

I experience this on occasion. Usually I make a snap judgement about the person looking fearful. If they’re someone I don’t think will care what I do as long as I get by and out of their way quickly, that is what I’ll do.

If it’s someone who looks vaguely curious, I’ll pass them at a safe distance and then stop and idle and perhaps pedal a revolution or two backwards, idle around 180 degrees to face them and explain that I’m in complete control and that experienced riders are no more likely to run into people than bicyclists (this last bit may not work in urban areas with lots of bike messengers. :slight_smile: )

I think, if you’re up to it, there is some value in educating people, particularly in your own neighborhood where you’ll be riding frequently, that unicycling is safe. Even more so if you’re hoping to form any kind of group where there will be lots of riders around.

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

I’ve experienced people a few times who, when faced with me coming the other way, just freeze until I’ve gone past. I generally try to keep a good distance from other people, but even more so in this instance.

I find it quite a good way to show off a bit… you could edge your way down the path, or you can wait for a bigger gap with a fancy standstill, or a sidehop out of the way.

I’d love to be able to remember what it must have been like before I became a unicyclist…


Re: fear of unicycles

On Mon, 12 May 2003, onewheeldave wrote:

> Anyway, the reason I’m posting this is that I can’t think of a single
> thing to do to alleviate this misunderstanding (apart from the obvious
> dismounting in situations where there’s obvious dangers like randomly
> running children); has anyone got any ideas?

Eye-contact and a reassuring smile?



I almost always dismount in those cases. If there’s room, I’ll walk past, otherwise I’ll move out of the way to let them pass. A momentary delay is better than an undeserved bad reputation.

Pedestrians and hikers should have the right-of-way. If they’re yielding to you, even if you think there’s plenty of room, then that’s not right.

if someone yeids to me first, I go. Lots of times it seems like they are yeilding because they want to watch me, not becuase they are scared 9so it seems) I always smile and say thanks, or G’day and tip my helmet visor.

This has been in a thread before, but if I see someone coming and there is nothing else fro me to ride on, I’ll ride on the side in a perfectly straight line for a very long distance so they know I am in control. If the person is elderly, or they have kids or a dog, I’ll either dismount, or stillstand+ hop in place on the side until they pass.

The only bad looks I’ve gotten is by cars (well, the drivers)who pull in blindly onto the sidestreet or soemthing, not aware of anything around them until they have to slam on their brakes. I don’t comment to them because ‘technically’ I am in the wrong as a cyclist on the sidewalk, but they would’ve done the exact same thing had I been on the road.

I have yet to hear any complaints though, and people are quite vocal about their dislikes so I think I am still in the clear.

My non-unicycling partner suggested that I am a great deal more stable and confident on my unicycle then I appear to someone who doesn’t know me or the sport. With that knowledge, I usually make a point of yielding on sidewalks and pathways if people look concerned or unsteady themselves.

I find people’s reactions so fascinating. When riding in central Vancouver, people are constantly commenting, asking questions and displaying interest and enthusiasm in my unicycle and progress. In south Surrey where my parents live (a large car-centric suburb to the south), the most common reaction of walking and bicycling adults is to avert their eyes and pretend I am not there (which is fine too…whatever). Of course, kids and their parents are curious in both cities…

  • andrea

fear of unicycles

Speaking on behalf of the other “mean” unicyclist and myself, I’d recommend that when you spy one of these cringing fence-clingers, you should wobble just a little bit more than usual, while saying


Whoa - oh - oh - oh!

Whoa - aaa - ooooh!"

As you ride past them, glance up at them on their perch on the fence and remark,

“Just be grateful I’m not driving a car!” ,


“Don’t you dare ask about my other wheel!”

This is what we “mean” unicyclists refer to as “aversion therapy”.


Great words from Unibabyguy (and a very cute avatar as well). Those are the basic rules of the trail, and they can be applied by a polite person anywhere.

On the trail, many people will step off to the sides, and I find they usually want to watch us ride past. But not always. I most cases I’ll use my judgement. When there are small children (unpredictable as to how they’ll move), I’ll usually dismount and walk. And definitely when I encounter horses. The defense mechanism for horses from predators is to run away, so they are naturally skittish of unusual things like unicycles. The riders always appreciate that I dismount and walk (or even just stop) until they are past.

But people who are truly chicken of us are more often encountered on the street. Give them as much space as possible. If you’re on the sidewalk, jump down into the street. If you don’t have room to give them a wide berth, dismount and walk.

Also, when I see pedestrians are scared of me, I’ll do my best to ride straight and smooth, showing as much competence as possible. I realize to them I may still look like I should fall at any moment, but at the same time I’m showing them that unicycles work.

Some pedestrians may actually have experienced beginning unicyclists with wheels shooting out from under them. They may have “had a bad experience.” So give them room. People have a right to be fearful of the world around them. I don’t feel a need to add to theirs, or make unicyclists look bad to them.

Re: fear of unicycles

I often encounter MTB’ers on the local trails. They tend to veer off
the trail into the grassy bumpy verge for me, apparently thinking that
I should stay on the smoother trail or I would fall off. I usually
respond by veering at least as much off as they do (to the opposite
side :-)).

Klaas Bil - Newsgroup Addict

All US Presidents have worn glasses. Some just didn’t like being seen wearing them in public.