Last week, the Colbert Report ran a very funny bit about a New York unicyclist’s fight for his right to ride on the sidewalk. In the video, they list four states with laws on the books singling out unicyclists, and Washington is one of them.
“But wait,” I thought, “if I can ride my bicycle on the sidewalk, why can’t someone ride a unicycle?” So I looked into it. It would appear Colbert’s well-known distaste for “books” and “facts” also applies to Washington state law books.
Turns out, there is no mention of unicycles in Washington State law. The law misquoted in the episode (WAC 352-32-075) does not use the word unicycle, but unicycles would likely fall under its definition of “nonmotorized cycles.” However, the law merely states that you can’t ride a bike (or, by definition, unicycle) on state park trails unless they say so. So mountain unicyclists need to stick to mountain bike trails, it seems.
But what about the rest of the state? Seattle law also fails to mention unicyclists specifically. Considering you can bike on the sidewalks here, you can surely ride a unicycle. However, bicycle laws (and common sense) state you must yield to pedestrians.
The question for Washington unicyclists seems less about whether they can behave as pedestrians (it appears they can) and more about whether they can access the added privileges given to bicyclists. For example, can you legally ride a unicycle on the street?
Washington state law defines a bicycle as “every device propelled solely by human power upon which a person or persons may ride, having two tandem wheels either of which is sixteen inches or more in diameter, or three wheels, any one of which is more than twenty inches in diameter.” Therefore, the road rights available to cyclists would not appear to apply to unicyclists. Tell that to this guy, though.
So rest easy, Washington state members of the Colbert Nation who also ride unicycles. It does not appear our state is out to get you. And as for you long-distance unicyclists… let’s just hope it never comes up.