Mountain Unicycle Brake Requirement

One of a local open space districts near where I live have rules on the book specifically requiring (not just recommending) unicycles to be equipped with a brake. I heard someone actually got stopped by a ranger. From reading the rules, it’s obvious that they had substituted every occurrence of the word “bicycle” with the phrase “bicycles and unicycles”. So basically they are literally treating unicycles as bicycles including brake requirement.

I run a local unicycle group. This district offers some awesome trails for muni with many open space preserves to choose from. Although I personally have a muni equipped with brake, most of the riders in our group don’t. That means I cannot organize rides on any of those preserves.

I’m contemplating to petition the District to change that rule but I’d like to hear from this forum some pros and cons for requiring brake and whether you support the rule imposed by this district. I know more and more munis are now sold with a brake so I’m not sure if my position will hold up in the near future.

How does it define brake?

I think it could be argued that a rider can use his legs to brake and therefore meets the requirement.

Personally, I think you should go ahead with the petition. I think a lot of people would argue that brakes are not necessary on a muni, but some would argue that they are. No muni riders other than me in my local club use brakes. In short, muni riders should have the freedom to make their own decisions about that. It’s ridiculous to compare a muni to a bicycle. The differences are more than just the number of wheels. In situations like this where your safety decisions really only effect you, it should be your choice and your choice alone.

This rule is probably intended to ensure that riders can safely control their speed, and stop quickly when necessary. As long as it is framed in a way that emphasizes the inherent qualities of a unicycle to control speed, and stop quickly I don’t think you should have any problem having this changed. Also, it is worth noting that even for MUnicyclists that insist on brakes most wouldn’t consider them the primary brake, but a secondary brake to the natural resistance offered by your legs/pedals.

in short, I agree with Killian.


I wonder if they realize unicycles are a fixed cycle and therefore often don’t require a brake. Many non unicyclists don’t distinguish a difference between a unicycle and a bicycle other than one has a single wheel and one has two wheels.

Would a fixed gear bike without brakes be considered safe on off road trails?

Municycling- it may be good to try to have discussions before petitions. If the muni group is willing to volunteer with maintaining the trails, it will be much easier to make the point.

As it stands, arguing a uni is fixed and needs no brake opens the gate for fixed gear offroad bikes without. Likely terms will need defined better.

Argue that unicyclists are a very rare breed who do only good. There is like 1 unicyclist for every 100,000 fixie + mountain bike riders.

Over here in the UK our road laws require all cycles to be equipped with ‘one brake per wheel’ - however, a fixed direct drive wheel (ie. one with the cranks bolted directly to the wheel, NOT driven by a chain) doesn’t require a brake, and most fixie bike riders get away with just a front brake too. So I think that definition fits well and benefits those who don’t want/need a brake on their Muni!

It’s not that fixie riders get away with only a front brake - the direct drive of a fixie means they’re not required to have a rear brake. As you say, a pedal cycle with cranks operating directly on the wheel without a chain doesn’t require any brakes. Interestingly that part of the law also requires an absence of gears, so strictly speaking a brakeless Schlumpf (which is what mine is currently) isn’t road legal - at least not in high gear, I suspect in the remarkable circumstances that it ever came up in court a clever lawyer could successfully argue it is road legal in low gear.

That’s the thing, fixie bikes aren’t operating directly on the wheel without a chain, as they have a chain (Which I thought was part of the law, but having read your link it doesn’t seem to be!)

Not a recommended question for your situation; the bikes are geared up; it’s harder to stop one, especially downhill, if it’s built up speed. Stick to the argument that your brakes are operated directly through your feet.

I very much agree. If confronted on your “brakeless one-wheeled bicycles” simply indicate that the fixed-gear nature of your wheels allows your braking to happen through the pedals. Every unicycle has the brake built in. The hard thing with a unicycle is keeping it going, not stopping it.

Non-unicyclists don’t need technical information. Unless they are cyclists, they usually just need it explained that it’s a fixed gear (and/or what that means). And always offer to be trail stewards, help with trail work, etc. It’s very rewarding!

I’ve been riding trails with no brakes since 1981. I’m about to take delivery of my first Muni with a brake, but not because some park says I need it to be safe! You didn’t mention where your park is; knowing that might help us offer more specific suggestions.

It sounds like a bureaucrat once saw a unicycle so the rule got modified to include unicycles just so they could be regulated without any understanding of what they were regulating. Cracking the bureaucratic nut can be difficult. Any of you have a tricycle?

Yes, regarding and agreeing with John Foss’ comments, think of a bike with a coaster brake. You pedal backwards to stop it. In that regard, you already have a brake on your uni as the pedals control the speed and braking. It could be that the rule doesn’t need to be changed, but the interpretation of the rule does. It could be easier to have the interpretation changed rather than the rule itself.

The park is called Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. It has preserves in the San Francisco Bay Area (from San Mateo to Santa Cruz Mountains).

“502.5 Mechanical Operation. No person shall operate a bicycle, unicycle or similar device on District Lands that does not have properly functioning brakes, drive train, seat and steering.”

Steering…Have them define that for a Uni. Does it need to be something mechanical? Unfortunately it looks like ultimate and BC wheels are definitely out.