Forum: Don't ban hoverboards and unicycles

A man riding a hoverboard in the business district of Guanghzou, China.
A man riding a hoverboard in the business district of Guanghzou, China.PHOTO: REUTERS

Following the recent ban of e-scooters on footpaths, it was also announced that hoverboards and unicycles would be progressively banned from footpaths in the first quarter of next year (Future of PMDs, Nov 10).

I hope the authorities can reconsider the eventual ban as the design of hoverboards and unicycles makes them safer than other types of personal mobility devices (PMDs) for use on footpaths alongside pedestrians.

E-scooter and even bicycle riders tend not to slow down as much to avoid a loss of balance and the hassle of putting their foot on the ground.

This increases the tendency to be more impatient when negotiating congested or narrow paths.

On the other hand, hoverboards and unicycles are self-balancing devices which allow the riders to travel very slowly and patiently, even at walking speed, without the hassle of getting off the device.

Stopping a hoverboard or unicycle is achieved with a lean-back body motion, and there is no handlebar for the rider to brace himself against in the event of a sudden stop. This prevents the rider from travelling too fast and also forces him to anticipate stops more readily.

This is unlike e-scooters and bicycles, where the brakes give the riders the perception that they can come to a near-instant stop even when travelling at high speed.

Some e-scooter and bicycle riders ring their bells incessantly from afar without slowing down, expecting to have the right of way.

Hoverboards and unicycles do not have handlebars for bells to be installed. If your path is blocked by pedestrians, you are more likely to ask to be excused, making the path-sharing experience more pleasant.

Hoverboards and unicycles are also much more compact to take on board public transport, making them the most suitable PMDs for last-mile journeys.

I hope the authorities will consider these points before making a final decision on banning these types of PMDs from footpaths.

Mckeena Neo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2019, with the headline 'Don't ban hoverboards and unicycles'. Print Edition | Subscribe