Lawsuit nothing to laugh at as circus performer files $3 million suit over summons for unicycling
By John Marzulli
for Daily News
Published: November 19, 2010
Kyle Peterson, a trained acrobat who has performed in the Big Apple Circus, was pulled over at 3 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2007, on Classon Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant by NYPD officers in plainclothes, he claims in legal papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Peterson, 26, contends he was legally riding his unicycle on the sidewalk—and it appears the New York City administrative code backs him up.
The cops asked him to hand over identification, and he was detained "for approximately 30 minutes in the dead of winter while the summons was written," the complaint says.
Whether the cops read the section that prohibits bicycle riding on the sidewalk is unknown—but maybe they should.
The code defines a bicycle as a "two- or three-wheeled device" propelled by human power—that's at least one wheel more than a unicycle has, the suit says.
Peterson claims the cops also taunted him for riding the unicycle and at one point "began singing circus music" at him, the suit says.
The summons was promptly dismissed. Peterson is demanding $3 million in damages for the violation of his constitutional rights.
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said, "For beleaguered pedestrians, they prefer circus acts off the sidewalk and under a tent."
But the cops might be wising up: Peterson recently was busted again while riding on the sidewalk—and given a disorderly conduct ticket.
Former city Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Sam Schwartz sided with the cops, even if the letter of the law is not on their side.
"I cannot condone unicycling, bicycling or tricycling by adults on the sidewalk," said Schwartz, who writes the Gridlock Sam column for the Daily News. "Unicycling—even by an expert—on the sidewalk is particularly dangerous."
Peterson could not be reached. In an interview with The News in August, he bragged about his expertise on the single wheelie.
"I do a lot of variety: spinning plates, cigar box juggling and ball juggling while on the bike," he said. "I'm really known for doing the jump rope on the unicycle."
Fortunately, he's not texting or talking on his cell phone.
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