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Unicyclists rally for their rights • Brooklyn Paper

Unicyclists rally for their rights

Cycle of fun: Skilled unicyclists like Shaun Sim, of Singapore, use the one-wheeled devices to do tricks.
By Steve Solomonson

Riding a unicycle isn’t all fun and games.

Brooklyn Unicycle Day may have seemed like a light-hearted celebration of all things one-wheeled, but unicyclists’ rights are always on event organizer Keith Nelson’s mind.

“I’ve seen cops harassing unicyclists and not knowing the law,” said Nelson, a unicycling activist and founder of the Bindlestiff Family Circus. “They’ve been harassed for riding in the bike lane or on the sidewalk. There’s nothing defining where they can be.”

But on Aug. 31, unicycles were everywhere.

The third annual fest — which is partly a recreational ride and partly a rally intended to increase the visibility of the often-mocked method of transportation — began with a procession of one-wheelers across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Then the pedal-pushers navigated 13 long miles across the borough to Brooklyn’s most iconic wheel: Deno’s Wonder Wheel in Coney Island.

Once at the foot of the famed Ferris wheel, the unicyclists showed their skills, from circus-oriented theatrics to skateboarding-influenced tricks.

There’s no official unicycle lobby, so Nelson is hoping that the attention from his ride and the New York City Unicyclist Festival on Governor’s Island last weekend will help more Brooklynites discover the joy of commuting on one wheel.

“It’s a great mode of transportation,” said Nelson.

“And they’re designing them to go longer distances now — they’ve got 29- and 36-inch wheels now and people are going 25 or 30 miles on them.”

Considering that bicyclists are still struggling to secure their rights on the road, true unicycle equality is probably a long way off, even the most dedicated riders admit.

“I suppose if there were hoards of unicyclers all over the city, the city would have to figure out what to do with us.” said circus performer Viveca Gardiner, who has been riding a unicycle on and off since she was a child. “Right now, we’re excluded.”

Wheel and wheel: Unicycle enthusiast Conner Grimes showed off his tricks in front of Brooklyn’s most famous singular wheel — the Wonder Wheel in Coney Island.
By Steve Solomonson

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