Sections

This wheel’s on fire — Cyclones’ unicyclist sues city for $3M over wrongful tickets

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

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.

Then again, if anyone could be secure on a one-wheeled vehicle, it is Kyle Peterson. For several years, the rolling legend has entertained crowds at MCU (formerly Keyspan) Park in Coney Island by juggling while bouncing on his pedal-powered vehicle. Now, Peterson is as much a symbol of the Cyclones as Sandy the Seagull or Wally Backman kicking dirt on an umpire’s shoes.

Cops with the 78 Precinct — which issued both summonses — did not return calls by our wheelie strict deadline.

Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

Cat from UWS says:
Quoting the article: "But the [...] lawsuit [...] 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.'

A frivolous lawsuit far exceeding the average person's sense of fairness in compensation ($3 Million? -- for THIS?!) will not inhibit the police. If anything, it will cast enough light on the law's current ambiguity, and cause someone to close the gap and change the law to explicitly include unicycles. Concurrently, this will attract (and by the looks of numerous comments to this story on other sites, has already attracted) extremely negative attention for unicyclists and Kyle himself, precisely because of the excessive (obscene) size of the lawsuit, and out of the public's general ignorance about riding unicycles slowly on sidewalks.

Full disclosure: I ride unicycle in the city, a lot. I am respectful of pedestrians, but will occasionally (e.g. if there are very few or none) ride on the sidewalk -- but slowly and as far from them as possible. Since the general crackdown on bicycling infractions over the last few years, I have been mindful that cycling on the sidewalk is very much frowned upon. It may be "legal" but that doesn't make me completely entitled to do so on that basis alone. One has to judge a situation, and also respect the wishes of others, even those who are not perfectly well informed. I firmly believe Kyle was within his rights to ride on that desolate sidewalk, and that the cops totally overreacted, to fulfill a quota. They were wrong. But this pathetic lawsuit, and the whining reasons I've seen linked to it, are an embarrassment to all unicyclists, and a sure call to some lawmaker to ensure this simple loophole (one wheel vs. two) is eradicated.
Nov. 24, 2010, 1:50 am
Stacey from Downtown says:
The lawsuit is about money. He's pissed about his ticket and thinks he can get rich quick. Gimme a break.
Nov. 24, 2010, 6:19 am
M from Greenwich Village says:
I realize this isn't the basis for law/ticketing, but I see people on bikes doing dangerous and illegal things so often that it seems ridiculous to ticket someone for riding a unicycle on the sidewalk.
Start with the bicyclists who go through red lights or go the wrong way on one way streets.
Nov. 24, 2010, 6:43 am
Dave from Clinton Hill says:
You know the cops are just busting this guys chops for no reason other than they feel like it. I'd much rather see them giving tickets for things that affect our quality of life, people talking on their cell phones or texting while driving, double parkers, people who run red lights be it in a car, truck or bicycle, etc etc
Nov. 24, 2010, 11:17 am
joey from clinton hills says:
yeah, I've seen this guy ride around near my house (before I knew about this lawsuit.) This guy should stick to performing outside Phish concerts...I'm not interested in his onanistic display nor his "how dare you" frivolous lawsuit.
Nov. 24, 2010, 11:31 am
Dave from Clinton Hill says:
LoL!!!
Nov. 24, 2010, 11:52 am
anon from Greenpoint says:
wow.. 3 Million dollars? Really, guy? How absurd! I certainly hope he loses. Such a frivolous lawsuit..
Nov. 24, 2010, 12:46 pm
Bob from Hibbing says:
"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."

Bob did This Wheel's on Fire last night at Terminal 5!

This person should not ride his unicycle on the sidewalk. The simple solution is to expand the law to include 1 wheeled vehicles which is what a unicycle is.

Then he can learn that "live outside the law you must be honest"
Nov. 24, 2010, 12:55 pm
Joe from Carroll Gardens says:
What a dork, I wish someone just knocked him over. Why must people insist on this "Look at me I'm different, I ride a unicycle attitude?" What a DB.
Nov. 24, 2010, 3:52 pm
Amy from Flatbush says:
look at the facts people. He was riding his unicycle at 3am in the morning, no one is really out at that time so of course he was practicing caution and not just obnoxiously riding on the sidewalk with people. This lawsuit isn't about the money it's about the fact that cops in this city think that they can do whatever they want to whomever they want. I'm sure every single one of us knows someone who has gotten stopped or ticketed by the cops on a bogus complaint and you know what your friend or even you yourself did about that situation NOTHING. Kyle is taking a stand against the unjust actions and mind set of cops who think they can do anything. He is making them think twice about stopping not just unicylcers but anyone else for whatever reason they want. Kyle is making a change to the system of corrupt policing. HIP HIP HOORAY FOR KYLE PETERSON someone who isn't afraid to stand up to the police.
Nov. 25, 2010, 8:32 am
al pankin from downtown says:
no matter what is written...he's an idiot,,just a plain fact
Nov. 26, 2010, 8:36 am
squatch from bed-stuy says:
this idiot need to realize that sidewalks are for pedestrians and wheeled conveyances, no matter HOW MANY wheels do not belong on the sidewalk. i hope that the number-of-wheels loophole is closed and dangerous idiots like this guy are heavily ticketed for endangering people who are trying to walk.

i have no sympathy for this guy.
Nov. 27, 2010, 8:08 am
David K from San Diego,CA says:
I am a street performer, actor, entertainer, entrepreneur. Over the years associates have been given tickets by the police for various interpretations of the law. Fighting the law as a ticket has always been an error because the legal battle is about breaking the law not changing the law. Sadly I can see his point of being the squeaky wheel on this issue. Forcing the municipality to actually make a decision and making the public aware about that fight.

Our challenge as entertainers is that we are such a minority in the system, we have no real majority voice. In other words the amount of people that we have entertained is not the same as the amount of entertainers.

I hope that this is really not a frivolous law suit and that this really is about making a change to a bad interpretation of the law. The reality is that no one would be having this conversation if he was just fighting a $50 ticket.
Dec. 1, 2010, 12:53 am
fulvio from Psm says:
I also ride a unicycle ( I daily go and come back from work with it ) and I may assure that a unicyclist who rides well his vehicle and carefully is not a risk for people walking. I agree that it's a strange vehicle but it gives you a chance to exercise while moving and it's a little bit faster than walking (~10 mph). Municipalities should understand the potential of such vehicles and promote them.
Dec. 24, 2010, 1:34 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.