Unicycle Commuters in the Netherlands

A friend in the region where I live has an impact of public policy and has actually featured unicyclists in some of their promotions to increase cycle commuting. The question came up, how many people who unicycle in the Netherlands have actually tried to commute on a unicycle. While there are many people around the world who have commuted by uni, I have seen only two Dutch people over the years mention it. I don’t know if they are even still riding.

Hi Ben,

I am Dutch and live about 7km from work. In summer I’ve gone to work a few times by unicycle. I’ve taken the 26, 29 and 32. It is quite busy where I live and especially at one crossing it is important to ride a uni that is easy to mount and. I mostly ride the 29". In winter when it is dark and cold I prefer to stay in bed as long as possible and take the car to work. I haven’t touched a normal bike since I learn uni-ing ^_^.
Also the day I take my uni depends on if I have to bring my laptop. I hardly ever have nasty falls, but it is a work laptop and it is irresponsible to take it to work by uni.
Coming summer I will certainly ride again.

In many areas of the Netherlands I’ve seen lots of parking structures for bicycles. Do you park your unicycle with the bikes or is there space inside your workspace to store your unicycle? At stoplights in heavily trafficked areas, do you think idling or bunny hopping or a combination would be easiest? Is blending in with other cyclists possible or do you stand out and it is necessary for them to make special accommodation for you? Thank you for sharing so far about your experience. Sounds exciting. It also sounds like you are considerate of conditions and responsibilities, which I think are good things.

Even though the Netherlands are known for riding bikes, unicyclists are scarce here. There aren’t even any unicycle clubs. I’ve live in Denmark for 8 years and there there are various unicycle clubs. When I ride to work, I used to keep the uni at my desk, as in my mind they don’t take up any space, but last time I was requested by the supervisor to place my uni either outside with the bikes of the other colleagues or inside in the warehouse area, which is a locked place.

I must say I can’t idle and bunny hopping is too tiring at that particular crossing as it takes a long time for the traffic light to turn red. Also I don’t think idling will be appreciated as it does take some space and the bicycle path is packed with cyclists when I go to work.

Because there are so few unicyclists, I will always stand out and can expect the remark that “I lost the other wheel”. But I don’t care. I like unicycling very much and I won’t let other peep’s opinions stop me. The first time I rode to work though I had my one hand on the seat and the other in the air. I tend to keep my left hand in the hair, but I’ve now learned to also keep that one on the seat. Anyways that first time there was an old lady who was complaining, because she couldn’t overtake me with my hand out like that and I was going to slowly. Also many of the old folks ride electrical bicycles, which go much faster than normal bikes. They are a bit dangerous.
I think I’m lucky that nobody nudged me while I was riding to see how stable I am, which ur not really on uni. I suppose adolescents might try that out to show off to their friends.

Hi Ben, I’m not in the Netherlands, but rather in Munich, Germany, so not sure if you’re just trying to answer the specific question regarding unicycling in the Netherlands, or more generally interested in unicycling in dense cities on crowded bike paths… in case the latter, I’ll try:

I park just the same as my bike, locking to the bike rack if there’s any space and if not, then to whatever pole or secure structure is around. I worry less about my uni than my bikes, as I figure people can’t just ride off on it, would look more conspicuous and ae generally less interested as would be harder to hawk it.

First, one doesn’t bunny hop on a uni but simply hop, as bunny-hopping requires two wheels (sorry for being nitt-picky). Hopping works well if you just have to wait a short while at an intersection to let a car pass or something, but after about 10 seconds it gets tiring (rider-dependent of course). Hopping for an entire light cycle is usually much too long to be pleasant. Idiling is great but you need to be so proficient that you can do it with ease or else you might fly off and hit someone. When I was less experienced I just jumped off and remounted. Now I generally idle if the light is less than 30 seconds, and dismount-remount for longer lights. I’ve never had a problem with the back-and-forth space you need at a light to idle as most cyclists coming up from behind see what you’re doing and I don’t need much space anyway.

The hand out for balance does seem to bother most cyclists or at least give the impression that you’re about to fall spectacularly at any moment and sometimes cyclists won’t pass for a long time even if I’m waving them to pass. (On a side note when I first learned to ride and really was about to bail at any moment the caution was thoroughly justified: how should a cycle determine if the unicyclist ahead has been riding for 8+ years or just started last week? The typical cyclist has zero experience to draw on.)

No, most cyclists treat a uni like they would a drunk cyclist as they have no idea that you’re going to do because they just don’t have much experience with unicyclists and each unicyclist is different. Thus, most cyclists pass with a wide berth or wait longer to pass then if I were on a bike. I try to move to the side and let faster bikes pass when possible. So yes, when it’s really crowded the unicycle does make it a little more difficult. It also depends on the wheel size/speed. On the 36 I ride just about the average speed so blend in well. On the 29+ I’m slower but not so different. Anything smaller and the speed difference is so hight it’s like having a pedestrian on the path and I move out of the way as soon as a bike comes up from the back. That being said in about 6 years of commuting 3-5 days/week I’ve never had a bad experience from bicyclists (from car drivers about a third as much negative experience compared to when on a bicycle as cars also give you more space).

I love commuting on the unicycle but in reality a bike if better in almost every way (faster, easier, less chance of falling, easier to transport heavy loads) and the only real advantage is that’s it’s smaller and easier to do a combi-commute and take on public transit or throw in a car trunk or taxi (well ok, the biggest plus is that it’s more fun). But concerning commuting policies and facilities the unicycle is just like a bike.

Hmmm… your answers are very helpful. Thank you both. So it sounds like there may be more unicycle commuters in both Germany and Denmark. Do you know of others there who commute by unicycle? Everything you’ve said about hopping and idling makes sense. I might guess some people might wish you were not using space to idle, while others would not find it significant… Free mounting should also be okay, if the cyclists around you are tolerant…that though might not be a guarantee… Currently bicyclists are few enough in numbers here that the few daring unicyclists here are a curious novelty. My friend and I pondered how that might change and how to best manage possible concerns in the future.