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NYC to Fight Unicyclist Who Sued to Ride on Sidewalk

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on March 22, 2011 9:46 AM

How many of you are afraid of being knocked over by an errant unicyclist?

Don't worry--no need to be alarmed. New York City is concerned enough for all of us, vowing to take on Kyle Peterson, the man currently suing the city for $3 million for its repeated refusal to allow him to unicycle on the sidewalk.

As if a grown man unicycling in the middle of Manhattan isn't silly enough, the lawsuit is all about wheels. Yes, wheels.

In 2007, Kyle Peterson, a circus unicyclist, was cited for riding his cycle on the sidewalk. It was 3 a.m. in a quiet area of town. Despite being dismissed, this citation, along with one late last year, has enraged Peterson.

The law prohibits a person from riding a "two-or-three-wheeled device" on sidewalks. Showing favoritism towards small children, Gothamist reports that the law exempts those devices that are meant to be ridden by a child on the sidewalk. It, however, makes no mention of unicycles.

Without getting bogged down in the Big Wheels v. Unicycle debate (Big Wheels all the way!), it seems that the law's failure to mention one-wheeled "devices"--even as an exemption--is an indication that legislators don't consider unicyclists to be of particular danger.

City attorneys contend otherwise, telling the Daily News that unicyclists travel at great speeds, making them dangerous to pedestrians. They also contend that Kyle Peterson violated the "spirit of the law" even if he only had one wheel.

Unfortunately for the city, the "spirit of the law" is an amorphous concept that takes second seat in statutory interpretation. It is generally only called upon when the plain meaning of a statute is in question, which doesn't seem to be the case here.

This blogger thinks the city lawyers know this, but are letting their collective fear of clowns cloud their judgment.

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