fines for unicycling?

Thanks Rob, I didn’t realise that the Highway Code now recognises us. I’m pretty sure it hadn’t been updated when I got the fine (about 3 years ago) though as none of my googling turned up anything. As far as a small unicycle goes, it’ll be the same as a very young child riding a bike - it is illegal. Of course, a copper would be foolish to fine a 5 year old for riding on the path, but would be legally entitled to.

It was the Home Office Minister Paul Boateng that suggested that fixed penalty notices for cycling on the path are not not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. So, as far as that goes, I’m sure I would have been ok in court.


It is strange that you didn’t know you were being cited. Usually you have to sign an acknowledgment that you are being cited and they give you a copy of it.

If it’s just a citation you might be able to do a trial by written statement. When this happens you pay the fine they send you a form, you write a letter explaining your side, the officer who issued the ticket writes a letter, a judge reads them and then decides if you were guilty or not.

You should take that option. Admit in your letter that you were riding without a helmet, but didn’t realize that the bicycle helmet law applied to unicycles. Since your case is unusual that judge will probably look up the wording of the law and make a decision as to whether the law applies or not so don’t try to tell him how to do his job by citing or explaining the law yourself.

Explain the small wheel and that you move at close to a walking speed, but will consider wearing a helmet in the future as a safety concern.

Chances are the judge will give you a break and you’ll get your money back and the citation taken off your record.

Always write the letter. I had a ticket reversed once for an illegal u-turn that I had made, but the officer never submitted a letter and I was declared not guilty. The chance of that happening makes it always worth the effort of writing a letter.

I’m not going to get into the debate, but I’ll just point out that both the source data and your conclusions here are complete bunk.

Seriously? By falling down. What are you riding Trials on? Curbs? Stairs? Benches? Big rocks? All you have to do is lose your footing and land “funny” on any of those things, or even flat ground, and there’s the potential of a brain injury. Still don’t get it? Look up YouTube videos of “skateboard crash” and similar. Lots of horrific examples, though arm and leg stuff outnumbers the head stuff because skateboarders seem to almost never wear any protection at all…

So there are two parts to this, and a discussion about where it’s legal to ride, which doesn’t seem to be a part of your issue. First part is were you in violation of the law by not wearing helmets. Seems that, by your admission you don’t know, and even if you knew “the basics” of your local helmet law(s), it still probably wouldn’t tell you if they applied to you on a unicycle. So it’s probably a legal gray area.

Second part is whether you “should” wear a helmet. IMHO, for Trials the answer is always. For riding along a flat footpath with no cars, the danger level is pretty minimal and you only need to if you find out it’s the law. Best way to carry your helmet on the way to the Trials area and back? On your head of course. How many kids on BMX bikes have I seen cruising down the street with a helmet dangling from their handlebar? Now how’s that going to look if they get hit by a truck?

On to the court stuff. After years of reading about these issues here, my take on all of it is that even if you know the law, in many cases it comes down to interpretation anyway because “a unicycle” is many things. From a 16" with a beginner small child riding it, to a 36" Schlumpf going 30 kph, one law isn’t going to apply uniformly. So that means a judge can make a decision, without changing legal precedent, that can save you the fine, if you’re willing to do the court date (or letter if that’s possible in your area).

Knowing “the law” for your area can be tricky at best. In my country, there’s federal (National), state, possibly county, and town or city (local) laws, which might not be consistent with each other. The larger area’s laws generally take precedence, and the local laws are usually used to fill in gaps, or cover situations specific to the area. Some cities (or states) have bike helmet laws in the US, but it’s not consistent everywhere. Usually it’s for everyone under age 18, but then we still don’t know how that would apply to riding a unicycle.

So you stand a chance of a good outcome if you can get in front of the judge. Now, wear a helmet for Trials, hopefully with an understanding of why it’s a good idea. Not because you’re going to fall on your head one in 10,000 times, but because it might happen once. :slight_smile:

According to Italian law any vehicle must have at least two wheels. Unicycles are not allowed on roads, pavements, or any other public area where there are pedestrians (not even a park). Theoretically you could only ride in your own garden. That’s the same for skates and skateboards, that are explicitly forbidden by law.

In some states of Australia unicycles are regarded as wheeled toys, in other states as bicycles. Best bet it to take a few minutes, as all the info is available online.

In South Australia unicycles are regarded as bicycles:

bicycle means a vehicle with 1 or more wheels that is built to be propelled by human power
through a belt, chain or gears (whether or not it has an auxiliary motor), and:
(a) includes a pedicab, penny-farthing, scooter, tricycle and unicycle;


It is illegal to ride a bicycle on the footpath in South Australia (unless you are under 12 years of age or carrying and complying with a certificate issued by a doctor).

All cyclists and passengers must wear a helmet approved by Standards Australia. Your helmet must be correctly positioned and securely fastened


I do agree though it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to ride a trials uni in a bicycle lane on the road, but oh well… guess the guy was having a bad day and happened to know how the law applies to unicycles. Hopefully uni guys aren’t making a problem for themselves in SA by how/where they ride.

Look on the bright side, you probably could have been busted for other things.

yes but it says through a belt,chain and human power unicycles are propelled by human power but no drivetrain as such and yes i could have been busted for other things but thankfully i didnt do anything else wrong well on the other bright side it would of been funnier if we were dressed as chickens.

hey everyone, i was the one who got the $80 fine too. altho i haven’t checked the mail for the fine yet, but i’m expecting one. i would really like to see what the law exactly says hear in Australia.

haha last time the cops talked to me they gave me 2 dollars.

It’s makes it clear enough that in SA unicycles are regarded as bikes, along with scooters etc…

(a) includes a pedicab, penny-farthing, scooter, tricycle and unicycle;

Crosseyed, the law for each state in Australia re unicycles is easy enough to find - visit the government/traffic web site for the state, look for where they define what is regarded as a bike vs a wheeled toy.

I just find it weird that there is a law that states that unicycles can’t be used on footpaths. Does that mean running on footpaths are also illegal, cause to me. It’s pretty much the same concept somewhat. :thinking:

I was talking to a work collegue about people using technicalities to get out of speeding fines when he told me that if he gets a speeding fine he just pays it (providing it is a minor offence) because “even if i could get off, I was doing the wrong thing, and even if I wasn’t then, i bet I have at some point that I didn’t get caught.” Since then I have just paid them too.

Lunicycle has shown you the law so I dont think you have a case any way.

Twice, while riding bike trials I have slipped my front wheel off objects and smashed my helmet. Both times I believe I would have been at least concussed. One of them I believe i would have at least lost my eye, or worse, on the rock I hit. Both times I was balancing and barely moving at all. I always wear my helmet when i ride trials on my uni, even though I have never hit my head. Personally I believe that the days of not wearing helmets for “extreme” sports are over. I think people take me seriously as an athelete if I am wearing a helmet but without it they will always think of me as a clown.

As a final note, I realised a little while ago, (while I was being held up by semingly unnecessary speed zones) that you dont have to agree with the law, but you do have to abide by it, or pay the penalty.


A while ago a local policewoman took it upon herself to rid New Plymouth of unicycles from the streets as they are much too dangerous- she saw me and Ben hopping up some steps at Puke Ariki. She warned me there has to be something wrong with what we are doing, and eventually phoned me to tell me I can’t ride my skateboard on the footpath, and that my unicycle is a skateboard. I told her she must be kidding with me and a unicycle is not a skateboard and continued to ride on the footpath (often the safest place to ride).

I was riding with my tramping pack on, on my way to borrow a car to go to the Juggling festival and hopping up the Post Office steps when Toni stopped me and unlawfully confiscated my unicycle under the local skateboard bylaw. I had to pay the fine at the council to get my “skateboard” back because I couldn’t go to Iwitahi without it (it was a $4000 Wilder)! When I returned from the juggling festival I endeavored to stay off the footpath in order not to have my unicycle impounded cos the fee doubles each time, but I accidentally got caught riding from a shop door to the road across the footpath, and another Police officer followed suit and confiscated my unicycle.

This time I refused to pay the fine and it took me at least a month and a half of pestering the council and the Police before I got any luck. I had even contacted the local Mayor who told me he pays his fines when he gets caught on the footpath on his bike. Finally Fiona Prestige helped me out and convinced the council to look into the legal definition of skateboard in the bylaw, and found that a unicycle is not a skateboard!

I got my unicycle back and the money I had paid for the fine the first time back. This was several years ago, maybe 2003… fast forwards to 2007…

I got caught riding my unicycle through a red light when I deemed it to be safe but a police officer was across the road and did a U-turn charging me with driving a vehicle through a red light. I went to court and got off the $150 ticket because I only rode through when it was safe and didn’t endanger anyone and unicycle didn’t seem to fit the land transport definition of vehicle. I quoted the precedent of the case of Morley Vs the Police in 1996 where Sugra Morley won a case in the Christchurch high court after being fined unfairly for misperceptions about the danger of his unicycle. (Sugra is registered for UniconXV!!!)

Recently in 2009 they seem to have redefined Unicycle as a Wheeled Recreational Device, making it a vehicle.

But they don’t seem to have reworded the definition of Vehicle, and a unicycle is not similar to the other wheeled recreational devices mentioned in the definition. A unicycle doesn’t have wheels, it has a wheel! I think the safest place, for kids especially is on the footpath, which is why it is cool that the local council bylaw now prohibiting skateboarding in the CBD specificly excludes unicycles!

So Toni Haggart, the one who unlawfully confiscated my unicycle years ago, she phones me up the other day and tells me “Rowan get off the footpath on your unicycle, you are not allowed to ride there!” I am fed up with being harrassed by her and I have lodged a complaint with the Police Complaints Authority.

I have a court case coming up on the 6th of July where I am contesting two tickets given to me on my unicycle. One for making a prohibited right turn and one for going through a red light. I am fairly confident that because I am allowed on the footpath that the rules for a pedestrian are slightly different from motor vehicles, and I have considered unicycling to be a pedestrian mode of transport for a while.

So good luck in getting off your fines. Don’t allow the police to be an intimidation agency!!! And if there are unfair laws in your area then stand up against them and don’t pay the unfair fines! The Police will often count on you just paying and not questioning their made up charges when they are unsure of the law. I’m looking forwards to round two in court!

Wow Rowan, a great story! Mi vision of your town is that there’s a (bored) cop around every corner, waiting to give tickets for the slightest infraction of laws-to-annoy-people. :slight_smile: Either that, or you’re a daily sight in the main part of town so people see you a lot and know your patterns.

I envision a children’s book illustration of the difference: Skateboards have four little tiny wheels and a big flat thing on top. Unicycles have one very big wheel and a seat on top. And pedals. And no board. HA! That’s hilarious.

As an American, I’m still a little fuzzy on this whole footpath thing. Is it the same as what we call a sidewalk, and what the Brits call a pavement? In my case, a sidewalk is intended for pedestrians. The reason for keeping wheeled vehicles off of it is about speed and ability to stop. Even a jogger/runner can stop pretty easily whereas an inattentive cyclist cannot, and will do more damage if they hit an old lady. Small children with tricycles, training wheels and similar wheeled toys are allowed there, while bicycles belong on the roadway. That leaves a middle area for things like casual bicyclists (slow) and small-wheeled unicycles. Sometimes in urban areas, where things are more crowded and enforcement is more likely, they don’t have a good place to belong.

My philosophy about all this is that unicycles, if we want to be protected by the law, must eventually be recognized by the law. Otherwise we’ll get screwed from both directions. On the one hand we can get cited no mater where we ride, and on the other hand there may be no liability if a motorist hits us (while riding anywhere) because we aren’t recognized as legal “vehicles” anywhere.

So when in doubt, my recommendation is to “be a bicycle”. I know, I know, this isn’t popular because it’s not always convenient. But it works legally. If you end up in court over some infraction and you say you were following the laws for bicycles because unicycles don’t have an obvious fit anywhere else, I’d guess most judges would agree with you and you will then be treated as a “recognized” member of the traffic flow or whatever. If your goal is to just ride wherever you want, you’re going to have problems.

Anyway, best of luck with your upcoming court date, and thanks for sharing your continuing saga of being a unicyclist in New Zealand (as many of us will be at the end of the year!).

I ride on the road pretty often but when there is too much slant or camber on the edge of the road I will use the sidewalk. Sidewalks are usually nice and flat. I hope I don’t get hassled for it. I always where gear and I don’t go very fast. I’ve been passed by a lot of police and CHP. They usually wave or ignore me.

If you live in Italy is it even worth having a unicycle if you can’t ride on the road or sidewalks? I used to have a mountain board but got kicked off of every trail I tried to ride so I sold it :angry: .

I hope not. I would have to approach it as “Where am I allowed to ride?” and not accept “nowhere” as an answer. It’s likely to only be an issue in crowded areas but I don’t know anything about Italy so we’ll have to wait and hear from the folks there.

I have only seen those a couple of times. I remember seeing a couple with those at one of our early MUni Weekends at Northstar. They were the most padded people I’ve ever seen for any sport. Sounds like it still hasn’t caught on. Are they really not legal on the trails you’ve taken them? I imagine there’s a lot of falling involved on trails, and that’s coming from a unicyclist…

Are you sure about that? I don’t recall ever seeing a definition in the HC of a pedal cycle, and from a quick look now I can’t see one. I went carefully through the current version several times in draft form, during the consultation phase (I was involved in the campaign to get the wording regarding cycle facilities changed).

Regardless, the HC is not a statement of law, but rather a manual giving guidance on the law (some of it inaccurate, as I have discovered when reading some of the corresponding legislation).

You will tend to find that any Statutory Instrument or Act of Parliament that includes cycling legislation will include a definition of a cycle, relevant to that Act or SI only. The rules aren’t all covered in a single Act or SI. I’ve read at least one SI that includes unicycles in its definition, I’ve read others that don’t.


Absolutely. And as long as we aren’t recognized we shouldn’t play both sides of the fence to our advantage. Regardless of what size wheel I’m riding, I follow the rules of a bicyclist which works in my town as bicycles are allowed on most sidewalks (a bit restricted in parts of the downtown area… and understandably so). However, if I see a sign that says “no skateboarders” I take this to mean that unicyclists shouldn’t be hanging around this area doing tricks and such. Ride through like a bike safely and get out of the way.

I wonder if unicyclist would be included in laws protecting bicyclists/ cyclists. For example, in this article I read this morning.

So does this mean that unicyclists are allowed to ride on the road, without helmets, but not at all on the footpath? The LTSA website doesn’t mention much about where you can use a WRD, at least not that I could find.

I thought I was sure…
I wonder where I got that idea from then - sorry for posting misinformation if I’m wrong :o

I’ve definitely seen that definition somewhere, and wherever it was it definitely did get changed to include unicycles. Perhaps it wasn’t in the Highway Code though.