Unicycling on "no bicycles allowed" trails

I know this question has probably been mentioned before, but with all my searching, I couldn’t find the proper wording to get a proper answer!!

I’m traveling across the states in my car over the next 2 months, and find it hard to resist from the temptation of riding on “no bicycles allowed” trails.

First off, I don’t imagine a unicycle doing a lot of damage to a trail, just because I travel as slow as a runner, and don’t have any real brakes. I wouldn’t want to cause erosion though. What’s your thoughts on this?

Second, if I say… decided to ride on one of those trails, do you think I could be prosecuted? I understand that I’m sure certain areas might have codes that group unicycles with bicycles, as man propelled vehicles. (Is anyone aware of any, or ever got a ticket for this??)

For instance, I’m in Arlington, TX, and here is the code:


yes, but if the sign only says “no bicycles”, then youre in the clear. if it said “no man-powered vehicles”, then you’d be in trouble. i say go for it. the cop will have a laugh anyway.

depending on where you are, the law will include bkes and unicycles under bcycles or unicycle will be seperate, say coming under tr*cycles and or childrens toys.

there are quite a few threads about it.
here is a reply from an expert… linkage

but that is rather old now and your location does play a part.
I know here in Tassie they have become rather unicycle savvy and we are bungled in with b*kes. Where as a few years ago a unicycle was considered a toy therefor it could be ridden anywhere (under adult supervision…)

I always say it is much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. I did the same thing you are doing and traveled for 2 months muniing on the west coast. Rode lots of no bike trails and only got caught a few times. As long as you are nice to the rangers and say sorry and that you didn’t know then it shouldn’t be a problem. The key is being nice and acting dumb and innocent. If you are rude or an a-hole then expect a ticket. There is always a chance of getting the odd crabby ranger that could give you one anyways. Found one of these while riding down into the grand canyon. Guess it was on a much grander scale as it was the grand canyon so he gave me a $125 ticket. Well worth it in my opinion to ride down into the canyon on a uni!

In Texas unicycles aren’t bikes ;).

Stay off those trails.

Bicycle user groups work hard to keep acces on trails and people poaching them does not help. Does the hiker care if you have one wheel or two? no.

It just makes us look bad and sets the Mtn Bike community (Of which you are part of, believe it or not) back when they try to get access to future trails.

If you want access to trails in the future do not poach the “no bike” trails now.

Those are most likely wilderness areas and there is a reason bikes are not allowed, please respect the rules.

Thank you.


When the sign says “no bicycles” they really mean no wheeled traffic, or most likely they mean “foot traffic only.” While you may not be technically violating the rules because you’re on a unicycle, you are definitely violating the spirit of the rule/law. Like Bondo says, bicyclist groups work very hard to gain access to trails and those priviledges can be lost very quickly if folks bypass the rules, so I say stay off the trails. While you personally may get away with it, your actions could indirectly effect the trail use for others than follow. As far as “trail impact” goes, I can testify that a unicycle does indeed as much damage (if not more) than a bicycle, especially on wet or muddy trails. Think about it your distributing your entire weight in one spot rather than over two spots (bicycle) so while it’s only one track it will tend to be deeper (I’ve seen this myself). So the trail impact arguement doesn’t work, trust me. So I say respect the rules and find other places to ride, should be a lot of opportunities out there. One alternative is to find some 4x4 roads, these should abound out in the countryside, quite often a 4x4 road can be every bit as rough as a trail (sometimes even more so!) and always quite legal to ride, no questions.

Good luck and happy touring!

This is quite a funny discussion.

In this country (England), the wording is always “no cycles” but up until recently, the highway code defined a cycle as “two or more wheeled vehicle, powered by a rider”.

Plus, if a sign does happen to say “no bicycles” I would argue it is being too specific, and in the case of a unicycle, the sign is not clear whether it is excluding or including them. In this country, that defence would be enough.

To pedestrians/walkers, there is a huge difference between a bike and a unicycle: a bike is large and cumbersome; a unicycle is small and nimble (most of the time) and entertaining.

Absolutely yes. You may be able to defend the ticket (or possible arrest), but it will cost you time and money, and then it will be on your criminal record forever, even if you win, which won’t help you at all if you ever have further law enforcement contact.

But more important are the comments above about not pushing it because you’ll just give us, and mountain bikers by association, a bad reputation. Regardless of the technical definition of “bicycle” in a particular jurisdiction, the best course, both for yourself and our community in general, is to treat “no bicycle” signs as including unicycles.

but even if you have a criminal record, it would still be a good story. tresspassing on one wheel


Ain’t that right, Jamey? :smiley:
Jamey tested the waters at the Grand Canyon and has the ticket to prove/commemorate it. What he left out of his post above was the part where a bunch of us told him not to do it, right here on these forums. In the end, he got to ride on the Bright Angel Trail and we didn’t. :wink:

But is that the end of it? Those trails are heavily used/patrolled and strictly enforced. No real effect there. But what about your local trails? Keep riding unicycles on the illegal ones and it will make an impression among non-cyclist trail users (and rangers). A negative one. Anyone who does that on my local trails is affecting me. And the other unicyclists I invite to come up and ride here.

Ah, but some of you are not on your local trails, you’re traveling. One-time only visits? To you maybe. Any damage you do will be left to local riders (if any) to deal with.

I can’t say that I’ve never ridden on a “no bikes” trail. In fact, the great “Quote of the Day from Non-Riders” thread started from a ride where I wasn’t supposed to be. And yes, I wasn’t supposed to be there. Long as we try to fit into the “other” category and avoid all rules (and responsibilities), we will also never have any trail rights, or trail community.

Trails do not make themselves, and they don’t self-maintain. The trails in my area get lots of maintenance and improvements by local mountain bike, hiker and equestrian groups (volunteers). That’s what keeps them great places to ride/walk. So I am a member of FATRAC, my local mountain biking organization. As a group, FATRAC has the power to get trails opened (often by helping build and fund them). That’s a much better place to be than a poacher.

Also I am a member of the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, a pavement-cycling group with even more political clout. They fight for bike lanes/paths/access etc. By “playing with the bikes” I get to share in that.

Sure, we’d love to ride on some of those hiker/horsie-only trails. But I’ve chosen to look at the bigger picture, and be an advocate for more of them that are legal for me to ride on.

Or I can always friggin’ hike… Not. :slight_smile:

I generally feel that a sign that says “no bicycling” is put there for 1 of 2 reasons:

  1. They don’t want anything faster than foot traffic (for safety reasons), or
  2. They don’t want wheels tearing up the path’s surface

A unicycle violates either case. Trying to argue your way out of it on a technicality for a matter of personal convenience is petty, IMHO.

FWIW, where I live there are plenty of nice paths that I would love to ride if only I were allowed.

hey johnfoss, what trails are you refering to that prohibit cycling? hopefully not the trails that run between the river and the bike trail, becasue i ride there when i walk(ride) my dogs.

A sign that says “no bicycling” is generally put there for exactly one reason:

  1. “We were here first.”

Mountain biking is newer to trail systems than hiking, dog walking, or horse riding is. The other user groups don’t like the fact that “someone else” is using “their” trails (ignoring the fact that bikers may also be hikers or equestrians). In places where mountain biking was prevalent before it was well-organized, the problem is worse. In Marin County, the home of mountain biking, there’s virtually no legal singletrack, and there are highly established anti-bike user groups with lots of money and time to fight any effort to increase bike access to trails.

Mountain bike groups have fought this dynamic for many years, and have tried a number of different tactics. One has been to commission scientific studies of the impacts of mountain biking. It turns out that the trail impact of bikes is similar in magnitude to the trail impact of hikers, and both of those have far less impact than equestrians. Another has been to build a network of volunteers who help with trail construction and maintenance. In any locale where mountain biking is allowed, mountain bikers provide the vast majority of the volunteer labor required to maintain those trails. So as a general rule, mountain bike trails are in better shape than hiker-only or hiker/equestrian trails.

But in many districts, those efforts have gotten bikers nowhere. Opponents fall back on the “trail conflict” issue; that bikes allegedly cause problems for hikers, dogs, and equestrians. Nowhere has it been shown that bike/hiker conflicts are any more significant than hiker/equestrian conflicts or hiker/dog conflicts. Everyone would like to have the trails to themselves, but that’s not the reality. One tactic IMBA has suggested (and implemented in a few places) is alternating-day access; bikes can use the trails on even days, people who don’t want to be with bikes can use them on odd days. In most districts this has been rejected: why? “We were here first.”

This has resulted in a situation where, in a place like the East Bay, surveys show that over 20% of park users are bikers (and less than 5% are equestrians), yet bikes are banned from 80-90% of the trails.

The system is inequitable and stacked against bikes. Playing nice (and in fact, contributing more to trail upkeep than any other user group) has gotten bikers nowhere for 25 years. So many of them poach trails which should be open to bikes, but aren’t.

Poaching trails is an offense at a level similar to walking an off-leash dog in a park where they’re supposed to be on leash. Only an asshole will give you a hard time about it, but you’d better be sure you’re not causing problems for anyone else. Don’t do it when trails are busy, be respectful of other users, and don’t give people an excuse to complain about you.

In related news, Mike Vandeman, a long-time Bay Area anti-mountain-bike nut, who started stalking me after he ran into a group of us on the trails (he figured out where I work and showed up at my office twice to complain to my boss that he’d seen me riding a unicycle on the trails), was recently arrested for two counts of assault and one of vandalism, after he hit a mountain biker with a saw and punctured the tire of another one. His trial is set for tomorrow.

Don’t look for logic in opposition to cycles on trails; there isn’t any. If 100% of the cycle population started following 100% of the rules starting tomorrow, nothing at all would change. It’s about ownership and politics.

The troglodytes are losing political power as they die off, and as more schools develop mountain biking programs for kids. That puts parents in the position of being advocates for their kids, which increases the political pull of the mountain bikes. Maybe 20 years from now we’ll have more realistic regulations; if we do, it will not have anything to do with whether people poached trails in 2010.

Bottom line: If you poach trails, don’t be an idiot about it.

Unicyclist rights and reputation are just too important to me, I suppose. :wink:

Instead, I’ve been trying to get a speeding ticket while blowing past roadie pace lines on my recumbent. Alas, I have not yet coordinated my effort with a cooperative member of the law enforcement community. :roll_eyes:

I disagree. This may often be the case, but not always.

I live in Copenhagen and bikes are allowed nearly everywhere here (Copenhagen is the last place on earth to harbor any resentment against bikes – I think something like ~25% of people here commute on a daily basis by bike). I have noticed that in a fair number of city parks, though, bikes are not allowed on the paths. I really do think this is for safety more than anything; the paths are narrow, and sometimes have a sharp drop-off on one side. No one wants some unsuspecting pedestrian to have an unfortunate run-in with something going an order of magnitude faster than they are. That being said, I do see a fair number of bikes on some of the “pedestrian only paths” – which does peeve me – but I also see a fair number of pedestrians on “bike” paths. It does make me wonder what the point is in the end, anyway.

I haven’t ridden here enough yet to investigate much in the way of mountain bike trails (we only moved a few months ago and I’m training for a marathon – unfortunately it cuts into my unicycling :(), so I can’t say if there’s a high number of “hiking-only” trails outside of the city.

I agree with you about the horses causing the most damage though – I think one of these days those huge craters their hooves leave are going to be the death of me.

I agree that the best idea is to consider the intent of the rule. If the rule makers were trying to ensure the safety of small children, pets, etc on a given path, we need to respect that. Occasionally such rules are needlessly stringent if applied to unicycles, and in those cases, I ride guilt-free.

My favorite example: NYC’s Central Park has a wonderful bike loop, but there are tons of walking paths. Some of those paths have clear signs that say “No Bicycling.” If I’m riding my uni at a safe clip, I’m neither endangering people and pets, nor am I going to hurt the paved road. But one time, as I was just about to reach the end of the path that leads out of the park, I passed a cop. He said (in a nice voice), “There’s no biking in the park.” I replied, “Thanks; if I see anyone on a bike, I’ll let them know” and kept going :sunglasses: . I guess he and I both got a laugh out of that one.

Good points by everyone that has posted. My opinion on why they usually ban bikes is due to safety which has to do with bikers being able to fly down trails. Unicycle are much much slower and more like hikers in my opinion. That is why I choose to sometimes where no bike signs are posted. If they were smart and wanted to include unicycles then it’s pretty simple to state no cycles. I don’t believe for a second that unicycles do any more damage to trails than hikers or horses. They are stomping on the ground while unicyclers have a smooth motion. I would really like to see a study showing the effects of unicycling vs hiking and horses but probably won’t happen anytime soon.

Also if you are kind and polite to anyone you meet on the trail and even dismount they are not very likely to report you and give unicyclists a bad name. I don’t regret riding in the grand canyon and almost framed the ticket because I thought it is a great story and funny I got it.

I started to respond to this last night with a similar spirit of the law vs letter of the law reasoning and decided not to post expecting a bunch of flak for saying to stay off the trail. I’m a little surprised, and little happy, to see how many here feel like I do.

Tholub, you captured a lot of what I wanted to say about competing special interests for resources, maturity etc. Your dog walking analogy was a good one.

In NC I used to walk my dog off leash on a trail. But as soon as I heard/saw someone coming I would have my dog sit next to me and stand to the side of the trail and let the others go by. No one every said anything because my dog was clearly under my control. (it helps to have a well trained dog)

I think it’s the same with Uni. If you go bombing down some run and scare the bejeebies out of someone, when they see a ranger they are going to say something about it. If you say ‘on your left (or right)’ and go by at a nice controlled pace, say hi, thanks for letting me by, then I think your average shmoe is not going to get his knickers in a twist.

But with all that said, im on the side of staying off those trails if in doubt. There a plenty of MTB web sites for finding trails for wheels.

Everything else has pretty much been said.