Road-riding safety

I am about to dig into serious training for the Tour Dad Yoop.

In the past two months in my area there have been two road fatalities, one bicycle, on pedestrian. Suffice it to say I am spooked.

I would appreciate it if any more expereinced road riders would share safety percautions they make to make uni-riding on roads safer. Anything would be helpful from picking roads, timing, attire and gear.

Thanks so much.

You should be spooked. I remember driving by a nuclear power plant in Connecticut that was having hugely public safety problems, with investigations, a whistle-blower, the works. It was quitting time. The feeling I got from the drivers was one of head-down desperation, and it was a creepy dangerous feeling. The point here is that there exist space/time-local psychological environments that are highly dangerous, and there might be something like that in your area. Avoid that kind of thing if at all possible.

Secondly, the rush hours are similar, though not as extreme. Drivers are late or tired, the roads have more cars on them, the air is worse, often in the morning there is dew, at both times the lighting can be weird.

Riding style: practice being a car or touring bike for a while - straight riding, on the shoulder if possible, give all signals, don’t wobble, give clear indications of your intent, ride single file if that is relevant. Be aware of vision problems drivers might have - are they staring into the sun through an icy window? If so, they are trying to stay on the road, adjust the radio, defrost the glass with one hand, and drink coffee with the other, and won’t even see you.

Put a hugely bright flasher on the back of your uni and use it all the time. This by itself will gain you at least two more feet of clearance and 20 mph slower when cars pass you. I experimented with this last summer doing the Alps Tour Training. Those two feet are huge. Before I put on the flasher I was having cars pass within inches. At the light-challenged times of day the flasher will make an even bigger difference.

Wear a riding jacket or vest or safety vest, depending on the weather. Make sure it is a bright color and has a decent amount of reflective fabric on it. However, the flasher will be much more effective.

Get a local road map/atlas and make some xerox copies. Then drive around one day and highlight all the roads that have a decent shoulder. Highlight blind curves and hills. Maybe even mark where the accidents were. Take down some mileages. Then go back and construct some routes that follow the good stuff and avoid the bad stuff. The point here is not to be afraid of the bad stuff; eventually you will have to ride everything. The point here is a) to give yourself and the community time to acclimate to your presence, and b) to play the averages, as it were. You’ll be spending a lot of time riding, often quite tired and/or groggy, and why not make those times as risk-free as possible?

Finally, if you lose it on a busy road, there is a very good chance your uni will get run over, and a smaller one that you will too. In questionable circumstances, such as a hill too steep for good balance, or a section that is really torn up, just get off and walk. There’s no shame in that, and it may help you to finish your ride on the uni, and not in an ambulance.

Best to you in your training, Blake!

I haven’t got too much experiene of road uni-ing, but one good tip from cycling on the road is not to hug the kerb.

If you stay about 1 metre away from the kerb you will be more visible, and traffic is less likely to try to squeeze past you when they don’t really have room to do so.

It’s also a good idea to stay well out into the road when passing parked cars, getting doored is a serious risk if you are too close.

As for attire, wearing a helmet and cycling gloves would probably be a good idea, they don’t provide much protection but will probably help if you have a high-speed UPD.

One last tip would be to treat drivers and pedestrians as if they are all morons, that way you are less likely to be caught out when you come across a real moron!

You’ve got the main important thing which is that you’re worried.

Like people said, don’t ride right in the side of the road, come out a bit from the kerb. This is just the most fantastic piece of advice ever.

If you UPD/fall ever, don’t ride on big roads until you have that sorted. On scarier roads, ride slower than flat out and you can avoid there being any chance of a UPD(*). If you want to push your flat out speed, find smaller, less driven roads to do it on, don’t push yourself too hard anywhere where falling off might get you in the way of a car, or dead in some other way.

Be like a vehicle, ie. ride with the traffic, use hand signals, look behind you before turning. Basically pretend you’re a bike and don’t do anything unpredictable.

Don’t overtake buses/lorries on the wrong side. Buses particularly, cos they pull in at stops.

Obviously if it’s dark wear lights. As well as that, reflective car trim tape can be put on a unicycle, this is fantastically shiny in car head lights, my unicycles are all covered in it.

I always wear a helmet and gloves/wristguards when training. Not because I’m worried about a car hitting me, more because it makes you look more like a bike person, so more like you’ve got a right to be on the road. They’re also useful if you’re speed training, in case you have a bad crash. I wear a reflective top in winter, mainly cos it’s windproof, but it helps be seen when riding at dusk or early in the morning.

The good news is that people give you way more room on a unicycle than on a bike, and really do notice you. They’re also much less likely to be aggressive towards you.


  • I’ve had several daily commutes over the years and have never fallen off on a major road.

In most states, uni’s are not considered vehicles and as such it is illegal to ride them in traffic.

In a nearby city which I commute in daily, a unicycle is == a pedestrian. So it must be operated as such.


That makes sense for a small unicycle. A coker, it just makes much more sense to pretend it’s a bike and use the roads. No-one will know the law anyway.


I’ve recently started using a helmet mounted mirror.

Also, make sure you’ve made eye contact with the driver of a vehicle entering from a side street, even if you have the right of way.

All good advice here. As a road bicyclist with many years of riding experience, I’ve found the worst hazard to be aggressive drivers. You know, the ones who think life on the road amounts to little more than an ongoing turf battle. I’ve experienced extreme road rage from drivers who feel that I’m infinging on their turf with my bike and my faggy spandex shorts. Some of them truly hate me even though we’ve never met. This whole turf thing is very real in their (tiny, little) minds. Yes, in the interest of safety, it’s best to push out into their turf and force them to pass only when safe by not hugging the curb though this only p*sses them off more. However, in my old age, I’ve become increasingly more cautious and I only ride on roads that have a full 8 foot wide emergency lane. This clearly is out of the turf range of the aggressive pea-brains out there and is typically much safer. Very rarely will an inattentive driver drift over into this lane. I’m fortunate in that I live in an area with roads that have emergency lanes so I’ve got plenty of riding opportunities. One other factor that’s already been mentioned in this thread is that I’ve noticed that people are generally more curious and more accepting of unicycles than they are of bicycles so this helps. People tend to more readily notice the unusual and consequently pay more attention.

Hey Everyone,
Thanks, I am getting a much better picture of the mindset and habits this will take to do safely.

Keep the suggestions coming!

Never mind whether the law is theoretically for or against you being there on a unicycle. If you have an accident, the onus will be on you as the “odd one out” to prove you were not being reckless or dangerous riding on the road on one wheel.

I have done a fair amount of road riding on the Coker and on the 700c. I treat it with great respect. I am very selective about which roads I will ride, and I often dismount for junctions. There is too much to go wrong to allow pride to get in the way.

(I spent many years dealing with motor accident claims, and I’ve read a lot of police, medical and Coroner’s reports.)

If you choose to ride on the road, then look like you ought to be there. Dress like a road cyclist, act like a cyclist. You will generally be treated like a road cyclist. I’ve done some good road rides, and I hope to do more.

And be assured that you will still get some abuse, and even attempts to knock you off, or make you fall off.

Never underestimate the power of other people’s stupidity.

I don’t ride my coker on the road much, but I did alot of riding when I was living upstate and when I ride now I avoid all road with painted lines, if I have to ride them for a bit that is one thing but for the most part I take to the back country roads where I don’t have to see traffic. I don’t know if you have enough small roads in your area to do that, but it’s all I do now. As for riding in a city, pretty much anything goes.

Sort of. Or it’s not illegal to ride them in traffic if they have no legal status at all, which is often the case. But has been mentioned already, the law doesn’t mean a damn thing when you weight 200lbs and a car + driver weighs 2000. That’s a small car. The laws of physics dictate that you must be very defensive, or stay away from motorized traffic. end of story.

Great advice from U-turn and others. I think the two most important things, above all, are:

  1. Being visible. Lights, always bright clothing, always minimum of a helmet. It helps to have reflective tape on the back of it as well. If it’s even a little bit dark, use a flashing tail light and a headlight. These can be mounted on you rather than the unicycle if that’s more convenient. I wore a blinker on the back of my buttbag (or belt), and a headlight on my helmet. Reflectors on the pedals can be very helpful as well, as in darker conditions drivers can see from far off that you’re a cyclist.

Along with being visible, I highly recommend riding a Coker if you have it. Being up high makes you more visible, and also makes you larger. People will take you more seriously on a Coker. Smaller wheels still have the appearance of “circus,” and may make some drivers wonder what you’re doing on “their” road. The Coker looks more like it belongs on the road with cars.

  1. Ride smart. If you aren’t a very solid, straight, and comfortable rider, you’re not ready to ride along busy roads yet. Always have an escape route. If you have parked cars on one side and traffic whizzing by on the other, you’ve got a problem. Always leave room for opening car doors. I worked for a driving school for years, and it amazed me to see all the people who open their door, then look back to see what’s about to take it off (or catapult over).

Talk to road cyclists. The rules are exactly the same for them. Read books, articles or web sites about cycling in traffic. Remember you have a right to use that road. But at the same time, drivers have a right to be oblivious. This is not a legal right; call it a “natural” one. They weigh more, so they’re always going to win.

Some roads I will never ride on. Stick to roads where you feel relatively safe. As you gain more experience, you may become more comfortable on more trafficked roads. Just don’t ride on roads the road bikers won’t ride on.

Use a mirror. I have a glasses-mounted mirror that I rely on when riding with traffic. I keep a pair of cheap sunglasses with the mirror mounted so I don’t have to set it up each time. I got this one:
I don’t like riding along the road without my mirror!

Lastly, don’t forget the obvious. If you don’t know which side of the street to ride on, stay off until you’ve learned this and other basic facts.

Get a mirror that attaches to sunglasses and then it is a lot easier to see what’s coming and that allows you to brace for a large truck coming because they can knock you off if you aren’t expecting it. has a lot of tips for avoiding problems.

I think most of it’s been said. Most of my road riding experience is on a bike, but I don’t find people treat me much differently on a unicycle - apart from getting more abuse from idiots. Keeping away from the kerb is generally a good thing. If it’s not safe for people to pass you, don’t leave enough room for them to think they can “just squeeze through”. Make sure you make it very obvious to people what you’re going to do, don’t be vague. Never believe any signal given by drivers and assume they’re all idiots, then you won’t be caught out by the ones who are. Ride consistently and legally - there’s nothing that winds people up more (and encourages aggressive attitudes) than cyclists jumping up and down kerbs, riding through red lights and such.
Personally I don’t feel that happy on fast roads on a unicycle - it just feels too slow and unstable in crosswinds. But I do regularly ride something like 7 miles a day on the road when I’m using the unicycle for commuting (I can’t do the whole route off-road) and I’m getting used to it.
Be safe.


I think the biggest part of road safety is doing our part to share the road and showing unicyclists in a positive light. That being said this was in our local paper on Monday.

A letter to the editor.

Drivers are ‘jealous’

 I have endured lots of abuse while cycling thousands of miles on Jacksonville roads.

 Clearly, many people in cars hate me.  And they have good reason:  jealousy.  

 Why are so many drivers jealous of me?

 Cycling keeps me thin.  I can eat stacks of syrup-laden pancakes every morning and drink all the beer I want at night without getting chubby.  Seventy percent of people in Duval County don't get any regular vigorous exercise.

 Cycling makes medication unnecessary.  My blood pressure and heart rate stay low.  

 My spirits stay high, because regular exercise is as effective as medication for mild to moderate depression.  No medication means no side effects.

 Cycling is fast.  My 15-mile commute across town during rush hour only takes 50 minutes.  It takes at least half an hour by car.

 Cycling is driving.  My 20-pound bike has the same right to the road as a 6,000-pound truck.  This means I can ride in the center of the lane, if I'm going the same speed as traffic, or if there's not enough room for both of us to safely share.

 Cycling saves money.  AAA says the real cost of driving (gas, wear and tear, etc) is 52 cents a mile.  Traffic congestion in Jacksonville costs the average driver $573 per year in extra gas and lost time.

 Every time I ride to work, I save myself $15.  Buying a bike was like giving myself a raise.  

 No wonder they hate me!"

David Jordan

I don’t know who David Jordan is, but this is a different take on why cars have such difficulty sharing the road. And I thought it was a territorial thing. :wink:

Well, if his 20-pound bike has as much right to the road as a 6,0000-pound truck I think there is room for my 12 pound AX Torker. :slight_smile:

Ride safely guys… and share the road whether you are walking, bicycling, unicycling, or driving.

never really taken my uni out on the road but ive done plenty of road bike racing.

Heres probably the best piece of advice i can give from my perspective. When riding keep as far left or right (depends which country) as you can do safely. Also as others have mentioned it is better to be 1m out from the kerb then right next to it.

Finally there will almost definately be some youth who will either throw bottles or the like at you, beep their horn or yell abusive language out at you so be prepared for that. Dont let it discourage you but chances are it will happen.


  • Rear view mirror on glasses eliminates having to turn your head to see what's coming behind you. (Huge impact on safety)
  • Use a GPS or map program to plan most of your ride on secondary roads.
  • Ride earlier in the morning when traffic is light.
  • Ride defensively.
  • Keep identification with you in case you do get hit and can't communicate.
  • Ride with traffic, not against.
  • Never assume the other driver sees you.
  • Keep a loud horn or whistle handy to alert motorists of your presence. [/LIST]
  • When approaching a traffic island I always look over my shoulder first (I know there is a car behind because I’m listening), a lot of drivers suddenly decide to brake rather than to cut through the closing gap. If I used a mirror I’d lose this benefit.

    mostly watch out for morons and give way, even if you have the right of way.oh and watch out for gusts of wind coming out of side streets as you go past them. at traffic lights sit in the middle of your lane, not the side.havent unied on roads yet but in the 6 months when i used to bike around a lot the handfull of times i nearly, and one time did, get totalled by vehicles were:

    on a dual carriagway in a city with no central reserve (a normal 4 lane city road) a lorry overtook me and then slowed down to let a vehicle turn across the road infront of it into a side street. i realised what was happening at the last minute at the same time that both drivers realised.

    an ambulance going through a red light with the flashing lights but without the siren - i couldnt see very well because i was riding into rain.

    at night a taxi pulled out infront of me and i went into the side of it. worked out pretty well, i wasnt hurt, got a free ride to where i was going and £50 for the piece of junk bike that i got for free.

    on said piece of junk bike the brakes were almost useless in the rain or on wet roads - i forgot this one time when the sun was out but the road was still wet and i came up behind some traffic. there was just enough room to go up the inside of the cars and along the kerb so i could slow down enough to bail off onto the pavement. guessing you dont have brakes on your uni.

    several times padestrians stepped out infront of me.

    a NED tried to push me off my bike

    a ned kicked me as i went past

    takeaway thrown at me from an overtaking car - now this one was fun because it was late at night so i was perfectly happy to go through red lights to catch the bastard - a mad cyclist is much faster than a car in a city.he got a green light, realised i was close behind and floored it away - i wanted to kick some lights out and ride off down a footpath. would have caught him if i was on my mountain bike. :angry:


    As i found out today, do not ware a bulky backpack if going faster than you can fun. This has nothing to do with traffic or the chance of getting hit but UPDs. A backpack will prevent you from rolling properly if you fall. sliding does much more damage than rolling.

    On the other hand a small backpack like a camelpack won’t prevent you from rolling an can protect your spine.