From last mile to door-to-door commuting

“Do you get to work on them?” “How would you brake on those?” “Are they even safe?” – These and all other questions are thrown at us, the wheel riders.

 A wheel rider’s guide to urban surfing

“Do you dare to get to work on them?” “How would you brake on those?” “Are they even safe?” – These and all other weird questions are thrown at us, the wheel riders, when we simply want to make our way out of the tube. For a person who rides an electric wheel to work for about 4 months already, these questions are just a gentle reminder of how bizarre the wheel commuting sounded in the beginning.

It all started with a big bang. Not with the gracious fall but the realisation that electric unicycles are far more than just a toy. The idea of commuting started buzzing in my head just a week after starting to use the wheel, so the lack of skills and practice was still on the board. Other than that, nothing could stop me from trying it on lively streets of Central and South London.

Trips and ticks

Probably, the most important things to make sure to handle before rushing to the pavements of any city or town are sharp turns and unexpected dismount control. With such heavy traffic on both the road and pavement peak hours can be a nervous time to get through if your riding skills are mediocre. The best advice given to me was to avoid speeding over 6 mph if riding an average pathway so that both the rider and pedestrians would have a moment to react. This way, you can exclude quite a lot of annoying factors that can randomly interrupt your fabulous journey.

Many people tend to ask where are you officially allowed to ride in London. What can be said with confidence is, however annoying it might be from time to time, you shouldn’t use electric unicycles on the automotive roads or bike tracks, inside the tube or any rail stations, shopping malls or any private property without the owner’s consent.

Human factor is a huge thing when it comes to urban commuting: you should always keep in mind that the society takes time to adapt to any type of transport, but especially the one that disrupts a simple walk on a pavement. As progressive as the London community is, a random pedestrian would rarely expect something to run over him/her from the corner of a footway or exiting a high street shop for that matter, not to mention the huge amount of people who use their smartphones and headphones on the go.  Slowing down at the sharp corners wouldn’t extensively prolong your commute but can save from hassle and bad emotions. What could help even more is choosing quieter and less crowded streets for your trip, which would minimise the unnecessary efforts.

Now, to curbs. The likeliest case if you live in such a cycle-friendly and disability-friendly city as London is you won’t need to worry about jumping on and off curbs, simply because of the amount of ramps on and off the road. However, a generic ability to control your jumps and ride off the curbs would make your trip way more agile, so it might be a good idea to practice that in a safe environment. Another smart note related to that is not trying anything new on the streets that you haven’t practiced before. What I personally like telling new enthusiasts is that the falls don’t typically happen when you’re learning, but when you start feeling overly confident.

Last mile or door to door?

The personal experience of commuting got me locked in the perception that even for a 10 minute trip it is better to hop on a train or use underground. So for more than a month I used to carry the EUC up the station and down the station to enjoy few minutes of the train journey. After the latest tube strike I realised that riding the wheel all the way would add up just 5 extra minutes to my daily routine, BUT will get me through two beautiful parks, save up £5 a day (which soon turns into £100 a month) and make me totally independent of the train system.

When the question to take the train in between your rides pops up, you should first ask yourself how long it might take. The suitable way to estimate the travel time might be using any popular mapping service to see an estimated walking time from point A to point B and divide it by around 2.5 (3 if you are a proud owner of Ninebot One E). More than that, the same mapping service could offer voice navigation, which would make your first ride even more convenient. Another seemingly obvious thing that I missed a few times is that the battery charge should be at full before any trip of more than half an hour. Thus, if you are considering door to door commuting, make sure to find a spare plug at your workspace to keep your wheel well-fed.

There is a range of top-tier wheels that keep your commuting process safe and pleasant: Ninebot One E/E+, Inmotion V3/V3c, King Song and Solowheel to name a few, the leading one surely being Ninebot One due to perfectly sufficient sustainable speed. The comparative analysis will be coming up soon.

The end of the beginning

One old lady mentioned to me recently: “That’s a nice car you have!” If you think about this phrase, electric wheels are giving the community something that cars used to give a while ago (before it got too crowded). That is the ability to be independent of other forms of transport and enjoy the simple feeling of riding on your own time to time, although on a smaller scale. More than that, it gives you some nice moments of solitude that get you to clear your mind before or after working hours. If you are living and working at the very spot of two tube or rail stations connected with a single route, you might be one lucky person. Otherwise, a cosy electric wheel might be waiting for you somewhere to save your day as well as it saves mine.

Written by Vladislav Onopko