Simplifying a Design Doesn’t Always Make It Better

By WIRED Staff

BA: Yeah, and I think that that's kind of the main obstacle these things have to overcome, is the learning curve with being able to stand up on them because it does take time to balance on them. I've ridden a couple. The first time I was on a one wheel, I fell immediately and cracked my tailbone on the pavement.

LG: Oh no.

MC: Oh no.

BA: I'm OK. But yeah, so that was like oh OK, these really can hurt you. If you go on the one-wheeled subreddit, it just seems like there's a ton of posts on there that are about people nosediving and falling, and it's kind of like a rite of passage, I guess, not to make it sound like it's any more dangerous than a bicycle is because you can crash on a bicycle or an electric scooter or whatever, but there is just an extra step that you have to take. It's not as easy as jumping on a scooter and just going. You have to learn how to balance on this thing because you've got more directions that you can fall over in.

LG: Now, recognizing that each city has its own rules and regulations, what are typically the rules around using these things? Can you use the bike lane? Are you supposed to go where scooters go? How does that work?

BA: It's sort of a free for all right now, at least as far as I understand. I mean, I think they have the same level of regulation as like electric scooters do. They don't have a dedicated lane. Some people ride them in the bike lane. Some people ride them on the sidewalk. The reason I wanted to write this story is because there's a guy who rides past me on an electric unicycle every single day on my way to work, and I have to jump out of his way. The way our cities are designed, they're not really designed for these kinds of personal vehicles. There are car lanes. There are bike lanes and everything, but there aren't electric personal vehicle lanes yet.

MC: I think that those are coming honestly with the growth of micromobility in general, not only just more bicycles on the street, as people start to make the move towards bicycles because they care about the environment, but also with things like bike share, scooter share, and the rise of these devices, we're going to have to redesign the city streets. And anybody who is redesigning a street in 2020 is going to have to take these things into account. So you talk to urban designers, you talked to urban planners, and they will all tell you that yeah, bike lanes as they are now generally suck. We have good bike lane designs. There are cities in Europe, in European countries, that are really stepping up and making more accessible designs for bicycles necessarily. I don't know if they're addressing the scooter influx or the one-wheeled device influx, but I mean, this is something that we're going to have to start thinking about now because there's only ever going to be more of these.

BA: Right. And I don't think they're making regulations specifically for one wheels, but they fall into that category, these electric vehicles. Our own Alex Davies wrote a piece called "Save the Scooters, Redesign the Streets, and Save San Francisco" about how these scooters get dumped into the city, and some people see them as a menace, but electric vehicles really, these small ones, are really the way that people are going to get around because cities are getting more and more congested. It's really one of the only options we have other than just walking everywhere, which I don't entirely recommend because I walked to work today, and my pants are still soaked because it's pouring rain out there. So yeah, I definitely see the appeal of these things.