Re[2]: Police problems..(uk)

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I’ve read with interest the discussion on police problems, and the legality of
riding unicycles in public. Probably most of us, at one time or another, have
come across situations where we were asked to stop riding for vague or
non-existant reasons.

Perhaps the IUF should have a policy on this, to give people a basis for legal,
practical and setting-a-good-example public unicycling. If we did, it would
probably look something like this:

PART I - LAYERS: Whenever you ride in public places, you are probably subject
to three or more layers of laws; national, regional and local. For example in
the US that would mean federal, state and local. This means that what you’ve
heard or read from people in other places does not necessarily apply to where
you are riding.

PART II - OFFICERS: The police officer or security person is the first line of
defense for public safety. That is their job, and they are trying to do it well.
Let us remember that upon first seeing a unicyclist, the non-riding public sees
something akin to a high stack of champagne glasses; ready to come tumbling down
at any second. Even though most of us don’t fall down that often, even after
watching for 10 minutes, it still looks like we will to the uneducated observer.

The officer is usually trying to prevent these falls from involving the innocent
people or property around you. I will note here that many of the people reading
this newsgroup are not real stable riders, and they probably shouldn’t be riding
near strangers if possible, especially if learning to do new tricks.

To preserve public safety, the officer often wants to remove you from his or her
area of influence. If you’re gone, so is the risk. Then he or she has to think
of a reason to remove you. This decision is often based on the assumption that
you are doing something illegal, whether you are or not.

PART III - THE LAW: Let’s face it. Though unicycles, or vehicles with ‘one or
more wheels’ (as in California Vehicle Code) are sometimes mentioned in law,
usually they are not. This leaves us in a legal gray area, where the officer is
usually more right than we are.

Usually the law has to be looked up, quite carefully, before a determination can
be made as to what’s legal, what isn’t and what’s in that big gray area. This
has to happen later, after the confrontation with the officer. If this happens
in court, the court should then have no reason to change or specify laws to
exclude unicycles from where they once roamed. An argumentative or scofflaw
unicyclist could cause such a change (it was reported as happening in ON ONE
WHEEL in the early 80’s).

It is most likely that if laws are changed, the effort to do so will only occur
to present the potential liability of allowing unicycles to ride around in
public areas. For this reason and others, a good general approach should be to
avoid legal entanglements.

Find out what the law is in your area, and perhaps even carry a copy of the
various statutes with you when you ride. If you’re going to show it to an
officer, make sure you do it with a smile.

PART IV - THE CRAZY UNICYCLIST See yourself from the officer’s point of view.
Here’s a strange person (who else would ride one of those things) zig zagging
through the crowd, possibly flailing arms and looking like he’s about to knock
over small children. First of all, if you’re in that situation, you probably
shouldn’t be there. But then again you might be riding in a straight line on an
empty pavement (sidewalk).

You represent all unicyclists in the world to the people around you. Your
behavior will be remembered by people, because it’s not very often you see
unicycles riding around in public (most places). In all situations, be polite
to the officer and obey, unless their requests are way out of line. This will
serve you and other unicyclists well in the future, when the same officer
meets others.

If you refuse to comply, or continue to ride when asked not to, you may be
subject to fines or other hassles. It’s perfectly acceptable to go to
court, especially if you want to find out the real legal situation, but be
nice about it.

PART V - SUGGESTED POLICY: In legal situations, treat your unicycle like a
bicycle. In most cases, it makes the most sense to follow the rules for bikes
rather than for pedestrians or other types of vehicles. In most informal
situations, if a determination is made it is usually along those lines. It gives
you a legal “place”, a compartment the officer can put you in so he knows what
to do with you.

Following the bike rules also raises your respect level to the officers, because
now they know you have guidelines to follow, and you’re not just free to careen
all over the place and wreak havoc. They’re happy. Now it’s up to you to follow
the rules yourself, and ride where you’re supposed to.


  1. Ride responsibly. If your skills aren’t solid, stay away from people
    and property!
  2. Be nice. Do as the officer asks, or politely engage in a discussion of what
    you think is appropriate.
  3. When in doubt, follow the rules for bikes.

DISCLAIMER: I realize this does not cover every situation, and leaves open
problem areas. We are a lot slower than bikes, so we don’t mix well in a crowded
bike lane. We also don’t have fenders, brakes, the other wheel, or windshield
wipers. Many areas require such things for legal bicycling.

And airlines are totally exempt from this policy! As far as the airlines are
concerned, I have never transported a bicycle, or any other type of cycle.
Usually all I have with me is ‘circus equipment’.

Stay on top, John Foss, IUF Director

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Police problems…(uk) Author:
at SMTPGATE Date: 2/3/98 3:40 PM

Too late now, but to send you a caution they have to have reason for it - did
you ask them at the time what that was ?

The short answer - to avoid my witterings - is - I dunno. However:

According to the faq - which may or may not be correct - in the highway code, a
cycle is a bicycle, tricycle or cycle having >=4 wheels. However, this assumes a
bicycle has 2 wheels ! Assuming there’s nothing in the Highway Code, the
definition in The Concise Oxford English Dictionary is that a bicycle is a
“two-wheeled, pedal-driven road vehicle” (think I got that right…). Still
doesn’t seem to fit. Does this put a a uni in the same class as a
skateboard/snakeboard/rollerblades? Which are you more likely to be complained
to about - using the road or the pavement

  • I suspect the road in the case of skate stuff anyway.

However, if it says anywhere that one shouldn’t cycle on the pavement - in the
same dictionary a cycle is a " bicycle, tricycle, or similar machine". Sounds
pretty close to a uni.

I suspect you’ve just been unlucky - a few nights ago I passed some police
standing around, who didn’t say a thing, while a few months back, just about to
wheel my uni. across the road (no kerb practice…), a passing policeman asked
if I could ride it, so I gave him a quick demo…don’t think he was trying to
nick me either…

Perhaps the bloke in question was taking the mickey or just being arsy (both not
exactly unheard of…) - so maybe your caution won’t ever get sent. It’d
certainly be interesting to see what it says on it if it does.

BTW, the police are supposed to be clamping down on errant cyclists - especially
cycling on pavements, without lights, or jumping lights. I think I heard
something about spot-fines coming in, for that matter - another reason to find
out the legal position !


Ewan. <> wrote in article <>…
> I just got stopped by the police for riding my uni on the pavement. They told
> me am getting a caution sent in the post to my address.
> Anyone know the law on unicyle classification in the UK and wheather it
> applies to me…
> Ewan.
> PS. I just can’t believe it…

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3Dlabs Ltd Date: 3 Feb 1998 19:35:26 GMT Subject: Re: Police problems…(uk)
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