Move over e-bikes, electric unicycles are gaining ground on the streets of Vancouver |  CBC News

Move over e-bikes, electric unicycles are gaining ground on the streets of Vancouver | CBC News

A few years ago, all Tom Bramble wanted was to solve his commute problem in Vancouver.

A bike ride to his downtown office made a lot of sense, but the odds on his bike still locking it up at the end of the workday weren’t good.

“I was worried about buying a bike and having it stolen after being chained to a lamppost or missing parts,” he said. “So I started exploring options and found electric unicycles.”

Electric unicycles – EUCs for short – are compact, rechargeable, battery-powered, one-wheeled devices that are small enough to carry and keep on a desk. Unlike an e-scooter or e-bike, there are no handlebars. The rider stands astride the wheel on the swinging footrest and makes it move and steer by subtly shifting her body weight, Segway-style.

“It seemed like an elegant solution to my problem,” Bramble said. “It’s a bag that can take you hundreds of kilometers for just a few cents. It’s so much fun.”

EUCs, short for electric unicycles, are getting more and more popular

Tom Bramble and Tony Davis show off their electric unicycles

Tony Davis was also an early adopter of the EUC, although at 73, not typical for riders who tend to skew younger. A retired taxi company delivery manager bought a “Wheel” six years ago and has updated it several times since then. He says the ride feels free.

“I absolutely love it,” Davis said. “I just stand on it. I don’t have to pedal. It has one wheel. So if I go to a store or restaurant, I take it with me.”

Whistler road trip not recommended

Last fall, Davis took his new EUC engine on a test drive across the sea to Sky Highway, covering 110 kilometers from Horseshoe Bay to Whistler on a single charge. Although he was unharmed, it is not an adventure he might recommend to others.

“About halfway through, I thought that was really stupid,” he laughed. “The scary part was the cars; it got too close to you. And then it’s past the corrugated part warning drivers about the bike lane, but [the bumps] It extends into the bike lane…so that wasn’t great. “

EUCs are not street legal but are allowed on bike routes in Vancouver under a regional pilot program looking at unlocking bases for e-scooters and other small mobility devices.

High-end electric unicyles have a battery range of 150 kilometers per charge and can reach a top speed of more than 60 kilometers per hour. The model shown repeats for $4,495. (Gotway Monster Pro / Vancouver Electric Unicycles)

Bramble ended up turning his Eureka moment all those years into a side hustle, launching online store Vancouver Electric Unicycles in 2016.

In the first year, he sold only 15 units. Now, with growing awareness about decarbonization and e-mobility, it transfers “several hundreds” of blanket use certificates annually.

“My friends were laughing at me”

“When I started selling it, my friends were mostly laughing at me,” he said. “But I think [EUCs] They started turning around. Especially with the Corona virus, people are starting to look for alternative means of transportation. They want something greener.”

Prices range from about $600 to several thousand dollars, and full safety gear is recommended. The battery range is between 50 and 150 kilometers per charge, depending on the model. Some advanced units are capable of exceeding 60 kilometers per hour.

Of course, it is not recommended to ride this fast. Davis says he rarely travels more than 20 kilometers per hour, and always wears protective gear, including a helmet and rear-view mirror strapped to his wrist.

Like every fine mobility device, there is a learning curve to mastering an electric unicycle and newcomers should be prepared for exercise before venturing into the city streets.

“I would say most people can learn to ride within two hours, at most half a day,” Bramble said. “It feels risky at first, but it gets easier.” “Once you get used to walking, you feel very slow.”

2022-06-06 13:00:00

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