Personal Electric Vehicles (PEVs) have taken over streets in the New River Valley. The now ubiquitous scooter, Onewheel™ and e-skateboard have found their way across college campuses and all over town. But let’s face it, hill is a four-letter word, and there is no shame in wanting a little boost of juice to help navigate the area’s inclines.
Plus, in a tight economy, it is much easier to maintain a small PEV than an entire 4-wheel sedan. If your scooter gets a flat, it’s a cheap and easy fix. Users can cover between 35 and 40 miles on average on one full charge, and scooters tend to last up to 3 years with proper maintenance. The eco/beginner mode helps users get a feel for the ride, how and when to speed up and slow down. Most e-scooters have a “governor” or limiter type of setting to input a max speed, for safety reasons.
The Virginia Tech campus participated in a “micro-mobility” study, which gave students and faculty access to orange e-scooters, allowing them to cruise campus while conducting research. The study concluded in May of 2022, and many students purchased their own scooters after realizing how campus-friendly they could be.
In addition to these scooters growing in popularity, Onewheels™ are also gaining ground. According to Wikipedia, “Onewheel™ is a self-balancing single wheel electric board-sport, recreational personal transporter.”
Anne Pagano, a former Blacksburg resident who actually grew up with the wife of the Onewheel™ company’s founder, remembers first discovering Onewheel through a Kickstarter campaign.
“When it finally arrived, it was love at first ride. They have come so far in 10 years. Battery life and max speed both far surpass our original models, but even back then, they were so fun to ride and a really super useful tool,” Pagano states. “I used to push our daughters in their double stroller through giant festivals, like the GoPro Games in Vail, Colo., on my Onewheel™. It made getting to our RV and back to events way faster than walking. It really gives the feeling of surfing or snowboarding on land. “
“People have come so far now and can do crazy tricks,” she continues. “There are also a few big events where hundreds of Onewheelers gather for a weekend of racing, riding and spending time together.”
Though experts continue to push the limits of Onewheel™ use, they are easy enough to ride that even young kids can enjoy them. They make the Pint model, which is a little smaller, and a little slower, and perfect for kids.
Alternating between lifting the nose of the Onewheel™ by pressing the back foot down and keeping the board level by pushing forward on the nose, allows the user to adjust speed in bursts. If the user starts to descend a very steep hill or ride with a low battery, the Onewheel™ will “push back.” In a push back situation, the nose of the board will lift to slow the rider down.
The Onewheel™ is street legal. However, these devices are still relatively new, so many state and local laws do not define their allowable use. Much like electric skateboards, Onewheels™ tend to follow general scooter laws. The PEV laws for Virginia state that the user does not need to obtain a license but cannot exceed 20 mph and must be at least 14 years old or supervised by an adult. Like bikes, Virginia state law does not require a helmet be worn while on an e-scooter. Users would certainly be wise to wear one, especially when cruising along next to SUVs, trucks and motorists who may fail to see them coming.
Lastly, e-skateboards provide a quick and easy way for people to get around, and a handheld remote makes controlling speed a breeze. Make sure to ride with a full charge to really maximize your speed uphill.
If you want to stick to the basics and spend less dough, grab an “old-school” skateboard and hit the streets. Daniel Johnson, owner of Greenhouse Boardshop in Blacksburg, and loves everything about skating and skate culture. Greenhouse has been a steady fixture downtown since 1984 and continues to be the go-to board shop for kids, college students and others. Daniel loves hosting local skateboarding competitions to raise money for skatepark maintenance and to keep this awesome sport thriving. A new skatepark just opened at Bisset Park in Radford, and there are plans to improve the Blacksburg skate park as well.
When it comes to getting around, “there are basically two types of skateboards, trick boards and longboards,” Daniel explains. “The main difference between the two, other than size, is the softness of the wheels. Longboard wheels use a much softer urethane compound that allows them to roll over cracks and smaller rocks easily. The softer urethane grips the pavement so that the board doesn’t slide out under the rider’s feet. Longboards also have a wider wheelbase (meaning the front wheels are further away from the back wheels). This allows the rider to push only a few times and coast much further than a smaller trick board.” Thus, the longboard is the ideal choice for transportation.
The future is looking bright for micro-mobility, whether you have one wheel, two wheels, or four.
Text by Emily K. Alberts
Emily Kathleen Alberts’ son took up skateboarding during the pandemic and has never looked back.