Carol Herrera no longer has to walk to the bus in the morning. Instead, the 61-year-old Washington resident rides to her bus stop on her URB-E, a motorized device that most closely resembles the design of a child’s tricycle, but has two wheels and is made for adults. Herrera had grown tired of climbing hills on her commute.
While a range of mobility gadgets for city residents has emerged in recent years — from electric skateboards to hoverboards and scooters — the URB-E stands out with its unique appearance. The two-wheeled electric device was designed so that a commuter can sit down while riding it. With only 1,500 URB-Es sold, almost no one is accustomed to seeing a person motor around on the unusual device.
But there is a good reason for the motorized gadget’s unconventional appearance. URB-E designer Grant Delgatty wanted it to be something a commuter could easily bring on a bus or train, so it folds into a compact shape. The device’s throttle and brake are on the same handle so that riders could grab their coffee from the built-in cup holder as they ride the URB-E with one hand.
Delgatty, a former shoe designer, came up with the URB-E idea while running a design and consulting business. He said he saw how millennials were forgoing car ownership and taking public transportation. Delgatty wanted to create a solution to speed a person’s commute between their final destination and wherever public transportation let them off.
The 35-pound URB-E, which costs $1,500, was designed to be ridden anywhere a bicycle is, with the ideal place being in bike lanes. Some jurisdictions don’t allow motorized devices on sidewalks, plus with a top speed of 15 mph, the URB-E will be slowed by pedestrian traffic.
The URB-E’s battery lasts for up to 20 miles.
While the gadget provides a new way to get around urban areas, it may not be for everyone.
Sherry Ryan, a professor of city planning at San Diego State University, expressed concern that the URB-E would be too expensive for most users of public transit.
“Who’s going to pay $1,500 for that?” Ryan said. “It’s for high-income public transit riders, and the population is very small.”
But Herrera, at least, has been pleased with her purchase, which she said was partially an impulse buy. She was initially apprehensive about taking it on public streets, but is growing more comfortable.
“You have to put yourself out there and be used to people gawking,” Herrera said. “You can’t be concerned about what people might think of you. Maybe some people aren’t going to think it’s as cool as I do.”