Alternative urban mobility is a quickly growing market, and there’s a good reason why it’s still growing. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), about 120,000 people are added to Asia’s urban population — every single day.
As our cities experience inward migration of people from all over the world, coupled with the current world population trajectory, they become more congested – easily evident from the state of our strained public transport systems. According to a ‘future urban mobility’ study, current trends show that more people will opt for private motorised transport, leading to 6.2 billion private motorised trips per day around the cities of the world.
As a result, transport-related greenhouse gas emissions are projected to spike 30% from 2005 levels.
Singapore has one of the best public transport systems in the world, less the recent hiccups in the MRT system. The Arthur D. Little Urban Mobility Index in 2014 ranks Singapore 6th in the world, the only other Asian country in the top 10 of the list being Hong Kong at the first spot.
It is already possible to get around island-wide reliably with public offerings. In 2013, the government announced plans to further make 8 in 10 households less than 10 minutes from a MRT station. However, these mega infrastructural projects take time and I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little impatient. Singapore feels like one huge construction site right now, albeit one with an exciting future.
For now, however, getting around feels like a small ordeal that we have to deal with daily. And that’s why alternatives like the electric kickscooter, among other things, are slowly gaining popularity.
Putting It to the Test
Recently, I decided to test my sister’s electric kickscooter (“e-kick”, as I like to call it) mainly for usability and reliability.
This was bought on the Chinese e-commerce site, Taobao. If you live in Singapore, you can also find retailers and distributors such as the Zoom, which is slightly pricier but comes with 1-year warranty.
Anyway, I had a meet up with the Vulcan Post team at Holland Village, and I was coming from Choa Chu Kang.
With a bag in sling, I took off at 6pm for the 7pm dinner. At the beginning, it was difficult to get used to moving at 10km/h on the small contraption, but with 5 minutes of practice, I quickly got the hang of it.
Soon I was travelling at its top speed of 20km/h, wheezing past people at bus stops who couldn’t help but notice how fast I was moving. Noticing their gaze, I imagined them thinking to themselves, “that thing must be electric, otherwise this guy must have Superman legs!” That’s the kind of things that linger in my head.
Of course, life is not all guns and roses. Apart from becoming the subject of wonder and ridicule, I did face a few problems of my own.
First, I hadn’t realised prior to setting off that half the journey would be on a stretch of construction for the new Downtown MRT Line. That meant mercilessly bumpy and uneven pavements, most of which were too narrow to fit 2 persons side-by-side. I manoeuvred skilfully through the terrain feeling a sense of accomplishment (and numbness in my hands). At times, though, I got off to push the e-kick up impossibly steep slopes and to disappear into the zinc walls along construction sites, in hope of not becoming side-roadkill colliding with oncoming cyclists and baby pram pushers.
I did okay.
Second, the lack of proper suspension got to me 3/4 way into the journey. My knees were taking a small beating by then, and my feet felt a bit sore from standing on the small platform. For the remaining journey, I employed other muscles in my body. Right foot forward instead of the left. A little squat during straight stretches to simulate sitting (and to stretch my quickly tightening arse). Even riding with one hand to shake off the numbness.
Third, nobody responded to my built-in horn. When I tested it at home initially, it woke my dogs up and it’s fair to say, they got their revenge giving me no peace.
Out there, however, it was a massive disappointment.
Drowned out by the noise of cars (I rode mostly next to the road), I had to rely on my voice, which clearly outperformed the horn. At least Singaporeans generally respond well to polite requests to get the hell out of the way.
In the end, I arrived at the crowded shophouses of Holland Village in one piece. Without breaking sweat. Yes, the journey did take an hour and a half instead of one, but I was satisfied, with a victory grin on my face. And it turns out, my feet weren’t sore after a cheeseburger.
Beauty of ‘Indie Mobility’?
Along the solo journey through main streets and small roads, I had time to think.
With an attentive mind (otherwise I’d fall), I noticed many things that I hadn’t during typical car rides. There was that occasion where I discovered a quiet and picturesque street I never knew existed, which was used by the migrant workers to do their grocery runs after work. Then, there was that moment where I smelled the forest dew – just a whiff that was enough to rekindle memories of my Army days training in the jungles of Asia.
Best of all, I smiled and received smiles along the way. Perhaps it was just my luck.
There’s something about travelling on an e-kick that is… I’m not sure, whimsical? It’s liberating to know that I get to control my pace of travelling not needing to squeeze with cars or stopping at too many traffic lights.
For fear of romanticising, I will stop here and leave you to ponder. Having used an e-kick on numerous occasions over the past month, I believe we may be close to the next big thing in alternative urban mobility. As with all new technologies, it will take time to iron out kinks and for society to accept and adapt; but we may already be on the verge of something.
## This is an opinion post. If you’re looking for a product review, I’m already working on it. You can subscribe to our mailing list to make sure you get updates.
The last problem I faced on my way to Holland Village sounds like a rant. And hence, it’s here at the bottom. During the journey, I bumped into a tanned young man. He made me feel like a sloth. This guy, outfitted in full marathon gear, appeared like a normal running enthusiast, maybe a cross-country sprinter.
We first bumped into each other at a traffic junction by some cruel twist of fate. When the green came on, he ran off and I was left stuck behind him for about 2km. But here’s the thing: I couldn’t catch up with him that whole time! One could endlessly blame the difficult terrain for this embarrassment, but I thought I’d man up and concede defeat. He outran my e-kick for 2km on crooked slopes. Ego bruised, I mustered what’s left of me to yell “Nice stamina, man!” to the young man, and wheezed past him.
Nobody said the e-kick was supposed to make you feel manly.
Also read: Cycling will never be the same again, here’s why: Invisible Helmet