Police problems..(uk)

Police problems..(uk)

Post by JohnX Fos » Sat, 07 Feb 1998 04:00:00

Text item:

I've read with interest the discussion on police problems, and the
legality of riding unicycles in public. Probably most of us, at one time
or another, have come across situations where we were asked to stop
riding for vague or non-existant reasons.

Perhaps the IUF should have a policy on this, to give people a basis for
legal, practical and setting-a-good-example public unicycling. If we
did, it would probably look something like this:

Whenever you ride in public places, you are probably subject to three or
more layers of laws; national, regional and local. For example in the US
that would mean federal, state and local. This means that what you've
heard or read from people in other places does not necessarily apply to
where you are riding.

The police officer or security person is the first line of defense for
public safety. That is their job, and they are trying to do it well. Let
us remember that upon first seeing a unicyclist, the non-riding public
sees something akin to a high stack of champagne glasses; ready to come
tumbling down at any second. Even though most of us don't fall down that
often, even after watching for 10 minutes, it still looks like we will
to the uneducated observer.

The officer is usually trying to prevent these falls from involving the
innocent people or property around you. I will note here that many of
the people reading this newsgroup are not real stable riders, and they
probably shouldn't be riding near strangers if possible, especially if
learning to do new tricks.

To preserve public safety, the officer often wants to remove you from
his or her area of influence. If you're gone, so is the risk. Then he or
she has to think of a reason to remove you. This decision is often based
on the assumption that you are doing something illegal, whether you are
or not.

Let's face it. Though unicycles, or vehicles with 'one or more wheels'
(as in California Vehicle Code) are sometimes mentioned in law, usually
they are not. This leaves us in a legal gray area, where the officer is
usually more right than we are.

Usually the law has to be looked up, quite carefully, before a
determination can be made as to what's legal, what isn't and what's in
that big gray area. This has to happen later, after the confrontation
with the officer. If this happens in court, the court should then have
no reason to change or specify laws to exclude unicycles from where they
once roamed. An argumentative or scofflaw unicyclist could cause such a
change (it was reported as happening in ON ONE WHEEL in the early 80's).

It is most likely that if laws are changed, the effort to do so will
only occur to present the potential liability of allowing unicycles to
ride around in public areas. For this reason and others, a good general
approach should be to avoid legal entanglements.

Find out what the law is in your area, and perhaps even carry a copy of
the various statutes with you when you ride. If you're going to show it
to an officer, make sure you do it with a smile.

See yourself from the officer's point of view. Here's a strange person
(who else would ride one of those things) zig zagging through the crowd,
possibly flailing arms and looking like he's about to knock over small
children. First of all, if you're in that situation, you probably
shouldn't be there. But then again you might be riding in a straight
line on an empty pavement (sidewalk).

You represent all unicyclists in the world to the people around you.
Your behavior will be remembered by people, because it's not very often
you see unicycles riding around in public (most places). In all
situations, be polite to the officer and obey, unless their requests are
way out of line. This will serve you and other unicyclists well in the
future, when the same officer meets others.

If you refuse to comply, or continue to ride when asked not to, you may
be subject to fines or other hassles. It's perfectly acceptable to go to
court, especially if you want to find out the real legal situation, but
be nice about it.

In legal situations, treat your unicycle like a bicycle. In most cases,
it makes the most sense to follow the rules for bikes rather than for
pedestrians or other types of vehicles. In most informal situations, if
a determination is made it is usually along those lines. It gives you a
legal "place", a compartment the officer can put you in so he knows what
to do with you.

Following the bike rules also raises your respect level to the officers,
because now they know you have guidelines to follow, and you're not just
free to careen all over the place and wreak havoc. They're happy. Now
it's up to you to follow the rules yourself, and ride where you're
supposed to.

1. Ride responsibly. If your skills aren't solid, stay
   away from people and property!
2. Be nice. Do as the officer asks, or politely engage in
   a discussion of what you think is appropriate.
3. When in doubt, follow the rules for bikes.

I realize this does not cover every situation, and leaves open problem
areas. We are a lot slower than bikes, so we don't mix well in a crowded
bike lane. We also don't have fenders, brakes, the other wheel, or
windshield wipers. Many areas require such things for legal bicycling.

And airlines are totally exempt from this policy! As far as the airlines
are concerned, I have never transported a bicycle, or any other type of
cycle. Usually all I have with me is 'circus equipment'.

Stay on top,
John Foss, IUF Director

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Re: Police problems..(uk)

Date:    2/3/98 3:40 PM

Too late now, but to send you a caution they have to have reason for it -
did you ask them at the time what that was ?

The short answer - to avoid my witterings - is - I dunno. However:

According to the faq  - which may or may not be correct - in the highway
code, a cycle is a bicycle, tricycle or cycle having >=4 wheels.
However, this assumes a bicycle has 2 wheels !
Assuming there's nothing in the Highway Code, the definition in The Concise
Oxford English Dictionary is that a bicycle is a "two-wheeled, pedal-driven
road vehicle" (think I got that right..). Still doesn't seem to fit. Does
this put a
a uni in the same class as a skateboard/snakeboard/rollerblades?  Which
are you more likely to be complained to about - using the road or the
- I suspect the road in the case of skate stuff anyway.

However, if it says anywhere that one shouldn't cycle on the pavement -
in the same dictionary a cycle is a " bicycle, tricycle, or similar
Sounds pretty close to a uni.

I suspect you've just been unlucky - a few nights ago I passed some police
standing around, who didn't say a thing, while a few months back, just
to wheel my uni. across the road (no kerb practice...), a passing policeman
asked if I could ride it, so I gave him a quick demo...don't think he was
to nick me either......

Perhaps the bloke in question was taking the mickey or just being arsy
not exactly unheard of...) - so maybe your caution won't ever get sent.
It'd certainly be interesting to see what it says on it if it does.

BTW, the police are supposed to be clamping down on errant cyclists -
especially cycling on pavements, without lights, or jumping lights. I
think I heard something about spot-fines coming in, for that matter -
another reason to find out the legal position !


> I just got stopped by the police for riding my uni on the pavement. They
> told me am getting a caution sent in the post to my address.

> Anyone know the law on unicyle classification in the UK and wheather it
> applies to me..

> Ewan.

> PS. I just can't believe it...

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Subject: Re: Police problems..(uk)
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Police problems..(uk)

Post by Julian Orbac » Sun, 08 Feb 1998 04:00:00


> In legal situations, treat your unicycle like a bicycle. In most cases,
> it makes the most sense to follow the rules for bikes rather than for
> pedestrians or other types of vehicles.

From what I have understand of the unicyclist's attitude (me included), we
want the best of both worlds.  We want to be treated like a bike when it
comes to being allowed to ride on the road, bike-paths (or British
bridle-ways, whatever they are :-))  But, we want to be treated like
pedestrians when it comes to compulsory bike-helmets, riding on the

My recent police story demonstrates my point:  Two weeks ago, I was riding
with a friend - who is a bit of a maniac on one wheel. We needed to get
across a reasonably busy road.  He just rode straight into traffic to get
across. I played it safe and responsible: I rode along the footpath to a
nearby T-intersection, crossed at the pedestrian crossing on green, and
waited, on my unicycle, for the green to cross the next road.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of bored cops also waiting at the

"Excuse me mate, do you you have a helmet" said the male, pulling out a

I politely explained that, under New South Wales law, a unicycle was not a
bike, and I didn't have to wear one.  (I am actually not sure about this -
I am basing it on a post to rec.sport.unicycling about 3 years ago, but I
tried to sound like I knew what I was talking about.)

When I said "It's not a bike."  he asked "What is it?"  I explained it was
a unicycle, a toy vehicle under NSW law - it is treated like a skateboard.

"In that case, you can't ride it on the footpath."

(In the end, he didn't booked me (perhaps because I sounded so incredulous
that he would do so) and we agreed I should walk it the 10 metres to the
nearby bike-path, which I was (apparently) allowed to ride on.)

> 1. Ride responsibly. If your skills aren't solid, stay
>   away from people and property!

I agree - unicyclists are, in a small way, ambassadors for us all.
 Unicyclists can endanger themselves, but shouldn't endanger others.
However, I don't think me (or the IUF) having this attitude is going to do
much good. The danger element and the show-off element is an integral part
of unicycling. I am tempted to go so far as saying "responsible riders may
be good ambassadors, but they are not very representative" - however that's
probably unfair.

Also, there is always going to be a conflict between the differences in
perceived danger between the rider and the passers-by.
(Another story: I once was riding along a wide footpath, and I saw, in the
mid-distance and old man (walking in a slightly tipsy way, studying the
form guide) coming towards me.  I tried to size up which side he was going
to be on, so I could ride on the other side. However, he was going
everywhere, and I couldn't do it safely, so I dismounted (gracefully) about
4 feet in front of him, and walked around him.  He got quite irate at me,
calling out what he would do to me if I ran into him - a bit strong given
he was the one bouncing off things, while I was the one watching him, and
playing it safe.)

> 2. Be nice. Do as the officer asks, or politely engage in
>   a discussion of what you think is appropriate.

This is just common-sense in dealing with authority. It is worth mentioning
- the officer is probably a little unsure about their legal position. So
don't push it, but try to keep them on your side, and re-assured.

> 3. When in doubt, follow the rules for bikes.

See above.  I actually think it is more appropriate to say "follow the
rules for skaters (skateboards, roller-skates or inline-skates)"  They,
too, travel faster than pedestrians but much slower than cars, and have a
perceived high-risk of falling.