This reporter is scooting through Brooklyn!
Having used a motorized scooter only once before (with somewhat unsuccessful results), I was skeptical about my ability to handle Unagi Scooters’ new electric two-wheeler — but my overly-demanding editor pushed me to give it a shot.
The company launched a subscription service in the Five Boroughs in March, allowing New Yorkers to get a scooter for $49 per month, which they keep in their possession throughout the duration of their rental.
Unagi graciously provided me with a scooter to test out for a month, and I’ve been cruising through Brooklyn ever since.
The fun began when my E500 dual-motor scooter arrived in a large package in the mail, which was easy enough to unbox. Setup was also a breeze, taking just minutes to get the two-wheeler in driving shape.
Riding a Unagi scooter
Soon enough, I was cruising through the streets of my Greenwood Heights neighborhood, taking on hills without breaking a sweat.
With 1,000W of max power, the scooter goes up to 20 miles per hour, and features three modes — beginner, intermediate, and advanced — that allows riders to limit speeds below that, if you’re looking for a calmer trip.
A light-up LED display atop the handlebars shows your speed, as well as battery life — which comes in around 15.5 miles per full charge, and takes about 4-5 hours to max out.
The dual motors threw me for a loop the first time I twisted the throttle, as I was pleasantly surprised by how quick the vehicle’s acceleration got me going.
Braking was a breeze, as the provided handlebar brake brought me to a quick stop, and the regenerative brake system also slows riders, while feeding power back into the battery, even without pressing anything. The company’s website boasts a 13-foot braking distance on dry roads, and I was able to come to a complete stop long before even that.
LED headlights and taillights kept the road lit up as the sun went down, and the 7.5 inch tires made me feel sturdy and secure while riding — at least, most of the time. I did make the mistake of attempting to ride over a cracked sidewalk, which is a staple of New York City’s infrastructure, and fell onto the pavement, bloodying my knee and burnishing a few bruises across my body. Thankfully, I was wearing a helmet, and avoided more serious injury, although the experience did shake my confidence a bit.
Nevertheless, in the sacred name of journalism, I continued to test out my trial scooter, and regained my faith in the two-wheeler’s ability to safely get me around the borough (provided I rode in bike lanes and over smooth pavement).
Over the month of using the scooter, I got a palpable sense of freedom that I didn’t have before, as it filled transportation gaps that had otherwise been unattainable, even the ones I didn’t know I had — like the two-second ride to the corner store. The walk from Greenwood Heights to Prospect Park is slightly too long for comfort, and transit-starved neighborhoods like Red Hook are nearly inaccessible by public transportation, but my Unagi scooter zipped my right to my destination, without the per-ride charges of Uber, or the hassle of finding car parking.
Living with Unagi
A major selling point of Unagi’s subscription service is that, unlike other per-month ride shares, you can actually keep your scooter with you, and ride the same one on every trip.
I often used CitiBikes to get around, but there’s never a guarantee that the bike you chose will be in tip-top shape, and you’re required to dock it at specific locations, which are not everywhere in Brooklyn.
Unagi, however, allows you to fold your scooter with just one click, and take it wherever you want. At three feet in length, and just over 1.4 feet in width, the scooter is small enough to take with you to a restaurant, or bring onto the subway.
And at 26.5 pounds, I’m able to lug the two-wheeler up the stairs to my apartment, albeit not as comfortably as I’d like. Once inside, however, the vehicle doesn’t take up too much space, and if I leave it in the charger, I always know I’ll be ready to scoot around the next morning.
On top of the freedom of movement, the company also includes insurance with each subscription that calms anyone worried about damage. Subscribers would only be subject to a small $85 deductible in the event of serious damage from an accident or vandalism, and Unagi will replace the scooter for no charge if there are mechanical issues. Users won’t be charged for regular wear-and-tear when returning the scooter.
Unagi’s subscription scooters come in four colors — red, white, blue and black — and sport a much sleeker look than many of the scooters I have seen, which are typically heavier and have a boxier shape with a variety of exposed wires. The minimalist look helped the vehicle seamlessly blend in, without creating an ugly eyesore.
The freedom to easily travel from one place to another aboard a sleek and sporty electric vehicle, in this reporter’s humble opinion, represents the future of mobility in cities like New York.
Congested car lanes and limited parking spaces make driving a headache, and overcrowded unreliable subways, while great for longer trips, are a pain for shorter travels. Micro-mobility systems like Unagi — or CitiBike, or Revel, or Lime — give riders the ability to zip around at low costs, and without the hassle of traditional modes of transport.
Of course, much of this depends on the government — both from the standpoint of regulation, as well as infrastructure. If widespread adoption is allowed (which cleared a major hurdle last year, when electric scooters were made legal up to 20 miles per hour) and adequate lanes are available to safely travel upon, systems like Unagi are likely here to stay.
It’s going to be difficult to give up my Unagi scooter when my test run is over, and I’m certainly leaning towards becoming a full-time subscriber.
Interested in subscribing? Head over to Unagi’s website.