Unicycles, the law, and thou

Firstly- I’ll be damned if mendocino chardonnay doesn’t go swimmingly with frozen potato blintzes! Who’d 'a thunk?

Secondly- Isn’t presidents day great? a day off to goof off in the rain. Now if we can only get a president who is worthy of the holiday( if the economy is in the tank…bomb Iraq!)

Thirdly- Has anyone had an actual run in with the law whilst MUNIing? I ask because the laws regarding unicycles in oregon aren’t crystal clear. Is a unicycle considererd a bicycle by law where you live and can you ride where bicycles are prohibited? There is certainly a fundamental difference between uni and bi, but will a judge see it the same way? I have communicated with a lawyer from the BTA (bicycle transportation alliance) here in stumptown, but all he said was that there has never been a case on the books regarding a unicycle disobeying bicycle laws. He advised that I take the safe route (cringe) and obey ALL bicycle laws. using the urban model as an example, The way I see it, This just can’t happen. A uni is simply NOT a bicycle. We cannot keep up with the flow of traffic in an urban environment, therefore, we cannot ride in the street. Paradoxically, we ride faster than pedestrians, there fore we cannot ride on the sidewalk. In the parks, does a unicycle create more damage to muddy trails than the boot of a hiker? Personally, I think not! So…If anyone has had any experience with the local law/ magistrate/ posse/ lynching mob, PLEASE SHARE!!

Mmmmm…potato blintzes.

Re: Unicycles, the law, and thou

Although I can’t personally address the main topic of this post, I can suggest you do a search on it in the forum, because there’s been lots written on it.

But more importantly, are you actually eating those blintzes frozen?

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

I always thought it would be cool to set presidence for a “No Unicycling” sign, hasn’t happened yet though.

On three occations I’ve had police or security guards tell me “No biking allowed” to which I had to respond (with as little attitude as possible), “It’s not a bike, it’s a unicycle.” On two of the instances (one a police officer, one a security guard) they got really upset and I had to apologize over and over. I’m not the kind of guy that enjoys pissing off cops, or anyone for that matter. The other case (a police officer) said, “Well, you got me there.” And after politely admonishing me to be safe, let me continue on my merry way.

I do think we are prime for some unicycle legislation, whether good or bad. Just wait for someone to really hurt themselves while grinding on public property.

John Foss turned me onto this subject some time ago. It seems each state has it’s own set of definitions of a vehicle, or bicycle, etc. Most states have online laws and definitions. You have to look up the exact legal description of a bicycle in your state to be sure if a unicycle is legally a bicycle. In Tx, it must be a 2 wheeled (with both wheels larger than 12 inches) vehicle… I think in California it is… one or more wheels, chain driven, non-motorized… which means a giraffe is legally a bicycle, but a muni is not…

A muni does as much damage to a wet trail as a bicycle. Most trails incur the most damage when wet -by anything (I just completed some IMBA training), and should be avoided until dry.

As John Childs I and also had this discussion, I have to agree with him. It’s not as important to win the legal battle as it is to remain able to ride where you want. I’d suggest you do what makes sence, and hope the enforcement officials or judge will agree with you -regardless of what is legal.

Re: Unicycles, the law, and thou

In article <jerryg.j18zn@timelimit.unicyclist.com>,
jerryg <jerryg.j18zn@timelimit.unicyclist.com> wrote:
)A muni does as much damage to a wet trail as a bicycle.

Or in other words, about the same amount as someone walking, and far
less than a horse or a cow.

I think that a unicycle can do more damage than a hiking boot, but less than a normal bicycle. On a bicycle, you can build up a lot of speed, then slam on the breaks and chew up a lot of earth You can also spin the back wheel and throw mud, whereas on a uni you will just fall over.

As for the laws, you also need to be careful of local laws. I live in Bloomington Indiana. There is a special law on the books here prohibiting riding unicycles on the street. The police used the law to give tickets to people involved in Critical Mass rides. The idea of Critical Mass was to get so many bicycle riders together, that they could block traffic and raise consciousness about the alternative to cars. Since the city couldn’t outlaw the bicyclists, they chose to outlaw the few unicyclists who participated in Critical Mass. I have never been stopped on my unicycle, but it makes me nervous everytime I ride by a policeman on my unicycle.

In Australia(or at least nsw), Unicycles are deemed the same as skateboards and scooters, and my friends and I have been stopped riding at night as these vehicles are supposedly not allowed to be used after dusk :).
Thats the only time weve been stopped…

it would be real easy to drop the bi and have ‘no cycling permitted’ signs al over the place

be careful not to piss of anybody.

If i’m on the trail, and see a person with a dog, I’ll take the 5 seconds out of my busy schedule, and hop off while they pass.

Trials. I don’t do trials on things that will cause damage, or on something that is near where people are standing, things like that.

Ontario law groups uni’s in with bikes, but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna ride my uni on the road if there is a not-too-busy sidewalk right beside me. Drivers are morons, and the pedestrians you pass (very slowly) don’t look at you as a cyclist.

It’s the little things, that seen the wrong way, by the right people, that will become big things.

Look how fast after scooters/rollerblades gor popular that they put up signs specifically for them.

Re: Unicycles, the law, and thou

In article <amosbatto.j1ddy@timelimit.unicyclist.com>,
amosbatto <amosbatto.j1ddy@timelimit.unicyclist.com> wrote:
)I think that a unicycle can do more damage than a hiking boot, but less
)than a normal bicycle.

That depends where the boot is placed. Hikers take shortcuts more
often than cyclists, creating new wear patterns. If you’ve ever hiked
on difficult trails (too difficult to cycle), especially muddy ones,
you’ll see extra paths created by hikers around every mudhole and

In the UK everything just gets clumped together in the form of “cycles”. This means that us unicyclists have to stay off of the pavement (sidewalk) at all times (unless your wheel is less than X" in diameter, I can’t remember exactly what X is but it is too small to affect many uni’s).

The only time I’ve been told off was when some of us went MUni-ing in a large park nearby with hills, rocks and forests (the perfect MUni terrain), we were told that we had to stick to the concrete path (actually tarmac) running through the middle of the park. And did we stick to it?? :smiley: The lure of the winding paths through the little forests and over the hills (ah, what fun it was) was too great.

BTW, what are potato blintzes


I am going to have to disagree with you on that one, according to the Australian Road Rules (Australia is trying to implement a National set of road rules) a Bicycle is defined as:

bicycle means a vehicle with 1 or more wheels that is built to be propelled by human power through a belt, chain or gears (whether or not it has an auxiliary motor), and:
a) includes a pedicab, penny-farthing, scooter, tricycle and unicycle; but
b) does not include a wheelchair, wheeled recreational device, wheeled toy, or any vehicle with an auxiliary motor capable of generating a power output over 200 watts (whether or not the motor is operating).

This is taken from the dictionary listing of the Australia Road Rules (http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/rulesregulations/downloads/dictnry.pdf )

I am not sure how well this could stand up in court as a standard Unicycle is not driven through “a belt, chain or gears” though Harpers hub would fit the last category.

This means that you are only allowed to ride on the footpath if you are under 12, or accompanying a child under the age of 12 (Section 15 of the Australian Road Rules deals with bicycles - http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/rulesregulations/downloads/p15.pdf ). Also to ride a bike legally you must wear a helmet, have at least one effective brake and “a bell, horn, or similar warning device in working order”

This means that if I (age 24) ride my uni on the footpath I am usually braking 4 laws, no helmet, on the footpath, no brake and no bell. Each offence carries a $45 fine, so I can easily get done for $180 AUD. I have riden past police while in this suitation a few times and they don’t even bat an eyelid (unless to notice that I am on a Uni). I suspect that most police won’t care unless I am doing something stupid or being a risk to pedestrians.

In relation to the National set of Road Rules, not all states are using them, so there are some local differences. Tasmania considers Unicycles as a “wheeled recational device” which is the same as scooters/rollerblades etc. This means that you can’t ride them on any road with a dividing line. Because of this the Tasmania Tour had to apply for an excemption to be able to do the tour legally, this was granted without any problems.

Generally I use common sense regarding these rules, I usually ride my 20" on the footpath, giving way to pedestrians. If however I am using the Coker then I usually ride on the road, unless I can use the footpath because it is empty (or nearly so).

I think that covers Australia.

James (jimmy)

Re: Unicycles, the law, and thou

“jimmy” <jimmy.j2f4c@timelimit.unicyclist.com> wrote in message
> Generally I use common sense regarding these rules, I usually ride my
> 20" on the footpath, giving way to pedestrians. If however I am using
> the Coker then I usually ride on the road, unless I can use the footpath
> because it is empty (or nearly so).
Seems the way to go, as long as you are doing no harm, and endangering no
pedestrians, I suspect here in the UK most coppers would just grin as you
pass by.
This will certainly apply to the smaller wheeled uni’s, but how they might
react to a coker I am not quite so sure of.


Re: Unicycles, the law, and thou

In general, I agree with the lawyer. As past president of the International Unicycling Federation and Unicycling Society of America, this advice comes from the “role model” part of my unicycling persona. Rules for bicycles are clearly understood, and have known permissions and prohibitions. If you think and act as a bicyclist, you have legal grounds to stand on.

If you choose to challenge your local (or state or federal) laws, you must be prepared to make a case for yourself, and spend bunches of time in court. and possibly lose many times before you win.

This doesn’t mean not to try it. Perhaps unicycles deserve their own legal niche. But when we get one, we’ll be obligated to stay within it. For the most part, I’m happy with being part of a rare activity that lives in the gray area.

On mountain trails, the bike rules make sense for unicycles. Our amount of trail impact is roughly the same as a bike. I would contend that they tend to have less impact than bikes, but we do still have the power to spin our wheels, lock 'em up on downhills, and many of us use very fat tires. So why not be a bike and be protected by the rights of the bicyclists.

On the street it’s another story. Regular unicycles are too slow to be a safe part of motor vehicle traffic flow. But if you’re on a Coker or some other fast unicycle, you fit in there. I’m not aware of people on slow unicycles being hassled for riding on the sidewalk or otherwise out of the way of motor traffic. I don’t see this as a problem at the present time.

When riding with lots of pedestrians, hopefully we are using common sense and not being a danger to them. Sometimes you just have to get off and walk. If you want to be a good citizen that is.

Over the years I’ve ridden through all sorts of pedestrian traffic, from crowded Manhattan sidewalks to spacious Tiananmen Square. If you’re riding dangerously around people, you should have the choice of riding with the traffic, or walking. I’m fine with that choice.

I did my first-ever stint of jury duty today. Does that count? I only waited, and was not called into a courtroom. BTW, I was also in Portland this weekend, witnessing the rain you speak of. Sorry, didn’t have a unicycle!

Ah, this seems like the perfect time to point everybody to my fast-sinking thread, which has sunk to page two of the forum, never to be seen again.

I compiled an annotated list of threads about safety and legal issues regarding riding unicycles on the street. A lot has been said over the years on this topic. A lot of amazingly good advice has been offered, not surprisingly, by John Foss.

Please check out my compilation of threads – Street riding - safety and legal issues. But please do NOT reply to those old threads!

uni57 (Dave)


Here in British Columbia it seems the police dont actually care if your wheel is more than 20" (The legal size here) and if you are riding on the sidewalk. The same goes with bicycles, I’ve ridden by police without my helmet, comming off the sidewalk with my 24" wheels. Maybe it has to be an Officer Bylaw to give you a warning or fine, they have them in Ontario but I havent really seen any here in B.C. This is Canada so maybe it will be diff. in America or down under. Just wanted to say.

I recently got a summons in NYC for unicycling on the sidewalk.

The ticket described it as “bicycle (unicycle)” on sidewalk.

New York State Traffic laws define bicycle “Every two- or three-wheeled device upon which a person or persons may ride, propelled by human power through a belt, a chain or gears, with such wheels in a tandem or tricycle, except that it shall not include such a device having solid tires and intended for use only on a sidewalk by pre-teenage children”.

So I pleaded “not guilty” and have a court date set for April 1. How symbolic.

A lawyer-unicyclist friend pointed out that " in criminal law, it is well established that the law must be strictly interpreted, and criminal conduct cannot be implied, nor can the Executive or Judicial branches of government expand the express language of a criminal statute so as to include conduct not expressly prohibited therein.

So this seems to clearly indicate that unicycles are not subject to bicycle law. What laws apply to them, I’m not sure. What am I then? A pedestrian?

People often mention that the cops have a monthly quota of tickets and summons in order to bring in revenue for the city. This happened on Jan 30…

I was very civil while the cop wrote the summons. But as he finished I smiled and said, “Boy, you guys must be having a slow day today…” The cop was not pleased and tried to intimidate me. I just walked away. Should have kept my damn mouth shut…

In any case, if the cop doesn’t show up for the trial the case will be dismissed. If he does show up, I’m determined to fight it. If anyone has any pointers for me, please give a holler!



Sorry – I have no suggestions. But good luck. And PLEASE keep us posted here in this thread. I hereby bestow upon you full resurrection privileges – please wake this thread up in six weeks and let us know everything that happened.

Meanwhile, this thread is getting added to my index of threads about Street riding - safety and legal issues. Otherwise known as “the most heavily advertised thread that nobody seems to care about.” Your legal woes should liven it up a bit. (see what a caring person I am?) Thanks, and good luck!

uni57 (Dave)


the 1st thing the judge is going to ask you is "dont you know riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is an infraction?

then your going to say its a unicycle and only has one wheel.

the judge will then say “its still a bike and you should know better”

be ready for somthing like that.the law seems to call anything with a seat and wheels (or wheel) a bike.

most likely the judge is not going to indulge in an arguement over what a bike is.he will probobly offer to cut the fine in half and then ask you if you wish to pay the fine or get another court date.

to get off on this totaly,it will probobly take 3 or 4 court appearances.

there is a small chance that the judge will see your point and dissmiss it,but dont expect to have alot of time argueing your case if he doesnt.make your case quick and to the point.

I didnt do any back up searches on that info I posted - I just went off what the police officers who have pulled us up at night in town gave as the reason we couldnt ride them.

On a side note, should we have to use lights and reflectors if riding at night?

Re: Unicycles, the law, and thou

Naomi wrote:
> Seems the way to go, as long as you are doing no harm, and endangering no
> pedestrians, I suspect here in the UK most coppers would just grin as you
> pass by.
> This will certainly apply to the smaller wheeled uni’s, but how they might
> react to a coker I am not quite so sure of.

I have Cokered on the pavement (sidewalk) past a policeman without
incident. I made sure I was going slowly at the time though. :wink:

I’ve also been passed by many policecars while Cokering in the road.
Again without incident. I did get their attention one night when riding
home at 3am but I think they were just parking up to double check what
they thought they’d seen. :slight_smile:

I have a copy of a letter from a Traffic Management Officer saying that
unicycles should be ridden in the road (with lights if dark, no need for
brakes because of the fixed wheel) which I can refer to if stopped in
the road and, er, neglect to mention if stopped on the pavement.


Fujitsu Telecom Europe Ltd,| o
Solihull Parkway, | In the land of the pedestrian, /|
Birmingham Business Park, | the one-wheeled man is king. <<
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