Electric bicycles took off here in the early 2000s. A convenient and relevant mode of transport in Singapore's hot climate, they nevertheless became controversial as some riders used high-speed /modified models or rode recklessly.
Subsequently, the Land Transport Authority regulated their use.
Those experiences seem to have led to similar misperceptions about the electric unicycle (Balancing Act, SundayLife!, Jan 4). For example, many people assume that the electric unicycle is capable of similar high speeds.
Some also assume that they will be a hindrance on walkways and public transport and will pose a danger to other road users and pedestrians.
As someone who has been using an electric unicycle for more than two months and who is also familiar with bicycles, inline skating, ice skating and other similar sport activities, I feel that these misconceptions must be debunked.
There are few unicycle models that are capable of reaching high speeds. Most are limited to 14 to 16kmh. The unicycle's top speed is further affected by the weight of the rider and factors such as its battery life.
Thus an adult rider would likely travel at a lower speed. This is on a par with, or even slower than, the typical speed of a bicycle.
As for dangerous modifications, contemporary modifications are for aesthetic or practical purposes such as a trolley handle to push the vehicle around, a stand to park it as well as lights for travelling safely at night.
An electric unicycle is also much smaller than a bicycle and most other forms of motorised vehicles and would easily fall within the size limit allowed in MRT trains for portable bicycles.
The space taken up by a rider on a walkway is also not much larger than your typical pedestrian, kick-scooter or pram.
Lastly, I would like to tackle the perception that an electric unicycle is dangerous to its user and other pedestrians. It is designed for riders to fall safely: The rider can simply jump off and run a few paces before coming to a stop.
Compare this to a bicycle, whose rider would likely tumble over with the bike in a mishap.
Certain manufacturers also include safety features such as buzzing alerts when certain speeds are reached and speed limiters. I also read online that a manufacturer is implementing smart algorithms to tune or lower the top speed in response to dwindling battery reserves and other parameters.
Admittedly, the vehicle requires users to be sufficiently trained and experienced before it can be used in the appropriate environments. But this is no different from modes of transport such as the bicycle.
So I do not see why the electric unicycle should be treated like an unwanted child. The authorities should take a closer look at it or perhaps even experience it themselves.
I bought an electric unicycle 11/2 months ago for leisure purposes. However, I soon discovered its potential and usefulness for short daily trips.
Driving out to nearby shops for food and grocery items used to be my only option until I got my unicycle. Now, I find myself more willing to head out to the neighbourhood.