Give the unicycle a chance here

Give the unicycle a chance here

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.

Eugene Teo

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.

It is a joy not to be overly concerned about parking and I now visit places such as parks and community centres, which I would not usually explore.

It is a pity that there are strict regulations preventing wider usage of such transportation. I agree that they should not be used on roads, but I urge the authorities to review their use in park connectors.

Cyclists and inline skaters generally travel at a much faster speed than the unicycle, which clocks at most 18kmh.

I rode my unicycle to work once when my car was sent for servicing and it took me only five minutes longer to reach my office due to the usual peak-hour traffic.

It goes to show that when used appropriately and responsibly, electric unicycles can be a solution to problems resulting from Singapore's growing car population.

Frederick Lum

I disagree with the comments by National Parks Board's director of parks Kartini Omar that motorised electric vehicles can reach high speeds and are therefore not allowed in parks.

Bicycles can reach higher speeds than most electric vehicles, whose speeds are usually capped at 20 to 25kmh. A cyclist on a mountain bike can easily hit 20kmh quickly. For conventional bicycles, speeds of 35 to 40kmh are the norm.

It is time the authorities review the rules and policies.

Kris Chen

What signal is Singapore sending? Is it a place that is innovative, forward-looking and open to new, green technologies, especially those that offer an alternative mode of transportation? Or is it a country that is over-regulated and adopts a heavy-handed, top-down approach?

Any conventional bicycle is as fast or faster than an electric unicycle. How many pedestrians are mowed down by cyclists in park connectors here?

Martin Heck

Danger to pedestrians

No, rules should not be liberalised to allow greater use of electric unicycles.

Similarly, motorised bicycles and scooters should be barred from park connectors, pedestrian walkways, pavements and void decks. Riding these vehicles require balancing and some skills.

I once saw a unicyclist nearly knock down a pedestrian when he tried to overtake the pedestrian and lost his balance.

All riders of these motorised vehicles, and cyclists, should pass the Highway Code before being allowed on the roads.

Anthony Kok

This article was first published on Jan 10, 2015.
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