I am debating what is a more considerate, legal and safe place to
unicycle in a city–the sidewalk or the street? I ride a 24" uni and I
am definitely faster than a pedestrian, but slower than an average
bike. I know unicycles are technically not considered bicycles (per
California Vehicle Code, for example), and that would suggest I ride
on the sidewalk. That is mostly what I do and I do try to be as
considerate as I can. Most pedestrians take my riding on the sidewalk
with indifference or good humor (even during busy times in downtown
San Francisco). However, there is always the occasional pedestrian
(often of the kind that has his/her nose stuck in a blueberry/ipod/
etc., but sometimes just someone running to catch a bus or an older
person) that gets spooked by me either due to my speed or my unusual/
non-pedestrian movements or just my height. This makes me feel bad as
I am not interested in alienating pedestrians or imposing in any way.
I sometimes ride in the street as well, but then I am substantially
slower than traffic and seems wrong to take up a whole lane, but if I
do not take up a lane I don’t feel that safe. There is also the
question of is it legal (per the CVC). My query is mostly about riding
in an urban, heavy-traffic (street and sidewalk) environment, and the
question is mostly about 24", maybe 26", unicycles (20" is pretty much
pedestrian speed, over 26" – much closer to a bike so probably
belongs in the street). I am not interested in switching to a
different size uni because 24" seems to give me the optimal balance
between speed and ability to fit on public transportation/car trunk.
So, where do you ride? Have you been ticketed for riding on the
sidewalk? on the street? Any other thoughts?
In Nova Scotia we were vehicles and had to obey all the road rules. In Nelson it really depends on the uni. if it is a 19" then sidewalks for sure. 36" I will usually go on the roads and obey traffic laws(signaling etc.) because I can keep up with most of the cars booting around. On a 26" I will go either, if the sidewalks are too busy then i just go on the roads. I have rode by cops and never had a problem but I usually dismount if i see one coming and I am riding on the sidewalk just in case.
I’ve ridden a 36 and geared 29er on the sidewalks and streets of San Francisco. I think a 24 should typically stay on the sidewalk, otherwise you’ll be in the way of much faster bicyclists.
If you’re concerned about spooking people, I would just give verbal cues that you’re there, like “Hi!” or “Pardon me.” If they’re not paying attention and/or have headphones on, it’s their own fault.
I’ve ridden on both sidewalks and the street. According to SC state law, I am a pedestrian. I mainly ride in the street, though. For me, its easier to ride in the street than it is on the sidewalks. I’ve ridden past police on the yellow line, they look, and keep going. They can write me a ticket for public endangerment, but the vehicles tend to give me wide berth. I ride on the single white on the sides of the street, unless some clown decides to stop on that line, interrupting my flow. Only then will I go inbetween the two lanes, or even hop up on teh sidewalk if there are no walkers, to continue forth.
I honestly, in SC, the police would be dumbfounded to write me a ticket for riding my unicycle “illegally”, since its not really a pedestrian or a bicycle. I know I fall under pedestrian laws, but I can say probably 90% of the police around here don’t know that.
I’ve spooked people before. I try to ride around them, making some kind of noise to let them know I’m coming. Usually, its the kids say “MOM! LOOK!!!” that clues them in. But I do have, from time to time, people walking right out in front of me without looking. Fortunate for them I am looking and can evase into traffic before there’s a collision.
A simple ‘excuse me’ can go a long way.