Electric unicycles are growing in popularity in Edmonton, but for them to join e-bikes and e-scooters as commuting alternatives, issues around their regulation need to be addressed, riders say.
Also known as EUCs, or simply "wheels," the battery-powered unicycles can reach speeds of 40 kilometres per hour.
Terry O'Neill, founder of YEGWheel Riders — a local electric-unicycle club of 24 members — said there are at least 500 EUC riders in the province and he himself has taught around 200 people how to ride.
"I started riding myself a little over five years ago to solve a commuting problem," O'Neill told Edmonton AM on Wednesday. "I started the group originally because I didn't want people around Edmonton to think I was such an oddity."
When he started the group, three or four people would get together for rides, but that has grown to between 10 and 20 riders meeting once a week at the Ritchie Community League rink, he said.
Electric unicycles range from $1,200 for 10-inch to 14-inch wheels to $4,000 for 20-inch wheels. Unicycles with the larger wheels can attain speeds of 70 km/h.
But where the unicycles fall when it comes to regulation is a grey area, riders say.
Chase Bell, who has been riding an EUC since the summer, said he was fined for operating a motor vehicle without registration while riding his wheel on Aug. 20.
"Which of course makes no sense at all because it's not possible to register an electric unicycle," he said.
Bell says when there were only a small number of EUC riders in the city, it was easy to ride under the radar, but as more and more people show interest, their legality will become an issue.
According to the City of Edmonton, electric unicycles are currently not covered under the Alberta Traffic Safety Act.
"The city would need further direction from the province in order to allow and regulate such vehicles," Derek Logan, communications advisor, wrote in an email.
Edmonton police say an electric unicycle falls under the traffic act as a prohibited miniature vehicle, meaning they are prohibited from being operated on roadways or sidewalks.
"EPS members could ticket them if they came across someone riding one of these on city streets, sidewalks, etc.," Scott Pattison, EPS media relations, told CBC in an email.
O'Neill says the wheel community has been working with the province on regulations, but it's taking time.
In the meantime, members of YEGWheel Riders continue to ride.
Some have even sold their vehicles, making EUC their primary transport.
"I can get to work a lot faster on the unicycle than I can in a car with no traffic getting downtown," said Kenny Dickie.
"I got one for the kids. They were six and eight when they started riding it. It feels super safe when they're on it as well. And it's a great family activity."