Arrested Developments (not me!)
My brother forwarded me a link in some newspaper about a unicyclist who is suing the city over two summonses he'd recently received for unicycling.
Several of us have been pulled over for unicycling, and in rare cases, riders have been given summonses. None of those summonses has stuck. I've been pulled over a couple times, but the officers never gave me a ticket. My friend Joe Merrill once got ticketed, but when he went to court, the judge dismissed the ticket immediately.
There are two laws on the books in NYC that touch on this subject. One, cited below, defines a 'bicycle' as having two or three wheels. The other law has to do with wheel diameter; apparently if it is taller than 26", it shouldn't be ridden on the sidewalk.
Kyle Peterson was riding a small-wheel unicycle when he got ticketed -- twice -- but he decided to fight back with a lawsuit of his own. The problem is that his suit made the news, and I've always advocated that unicyclists NOT draw attention to ourselves. After all, it wouldn't be hard for the city government to simply change the law. That could really put the kibosh on many riders like my brother and me.
Here is an article from a Brooklyn paper called The Brooklyn Paper:
This wheel’s on fire — Cyclones’ unicyclist sues city for $3M over wrongful tickets
By Andy Campbell
The Brooklyn Paper
Unicycle legend Kyle Peterson got two tickets for riding his one-wheeler on the sidewalk. Now, he’s fighting back with a $3-million lawsuit.
Call it a uni-bombshell.
The Brooklyn Cyclones’ juggling unicycle-riding vendor Kyle Peterson is suing the NYPD for $3 million after cops ticketed him twice for riding his one-wheeled wonder on a Classon Avenue sidewalk — even though it’s legal to do because the law doesn’t consider the unicycle a bicycle.
But the precedent-setting uni-lawsuit — which Peterson’s attorney filed on Nov. 15 — isn’t about the money, revenge or even Peterson himself. It’s about ending unnecessary summonses against unicyclists forever.
“And if you were to sue for $5,000, it would have no effect on future illegal summonses,” said Peterson’s lawyer, Paul Hale. “The only way to stop the city’s blatant and illegal activity is by going for the pocketbook.”
The one-wheeled drama started on Dec. 4, 2007, when Peterson was riding home near Madison Avenue at 3 am, according to court documents. Two plainclothes detectives stopped him in an unmarked car, detained him “for approximately 30 minutes in the dead of winter,” allegedly taunted him by singing circus music, then ticketed him for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk.
Apparently, the cops didn’t realize that city law defines a bike as a two- or three-wheeled riding apparatus. As such, Peterson’s case was quickly dismissed at a hearing.
But on Nov. 2, cops again ticketed Peterson on Classon Avenue after they noticed him unicycling on the sidewalk.
“I told the cops that I’d been through this before and that unicycling on the sidewalk is completely legal,” Peterson said on Monday.
But Peterson’s educational outreach blew up in his face — with no other way to summons him, the cops wrote him up for disorderly conduct instead, court papers show.
Peterson is retaining a lawyer for that case, too, and says the “bogus” charge will likely be dismissed as well. But he’s had enough with the summonses — not only because the unicycle is his main mode of transportation, but also because riding on a small, slow, one-wheeled vehicle in the street isn’t safe....
Peterson (whose surname might actually be 'Petersen') made the mistake of correcting the officer who was writing the original summons for bicycling. This meant that he essentially forced the cop to give him a different (and more serious) ticket. Even though the 'disorderly conduct' charge will also be thrown out, the risk is that it won't, in which case he'll have a crime on his record, which is worse than the ticket.
There were many problems with the situation. For one thing, Peterson was not doing anything illegal OR wrong. After all, he wasn't endangering anyone at the time. So the cops were wrong to give him a ticket. But if Peterson indirectly gets the law changed so that unicycling on the sidewalk is outlawed, then he will have done a great disservice to unicyclists all over The City.