For the past five years I have lived in the suburbs of Pasir Ris, about 500 metres from the beach. Every other day, I walk about 6km because my wife wants me to. Occasionally, she comes along and I make her walk ahead of me. And, when she comes along, ever so often, she gives a furtive glance to make sure I am on the right path. Literally and figuratively.
Over the years, the footpaths we use, have become busy thoroughfares, filled with aging and other health freaks hoping to delay the inevitable. Of course, there were the occasional cyclists who squeezed past us, some warning us of their approach with ringing bells.
Gradually, a new element was added to the increasingly diverse traffic. The odd e-scooter. I was fascinated by the darn things! How I wished I could ride in one of those nifty contraptions, with the wind blowing in my face and going at speeds that would scare the hell out of even Evel Knievel.
The riders rode their machines without a care in the world and I became envious of them as they sped about their way and disappeared around bends, into the horizon to God knows where.
PMDs were now a familiar site everywhere. On footpaths, in void decks and even on roads. I was flabbergasted with the increasing speed with which they whizzed by me, sometimes missing me by inches.
And of course, true to form, my wife wouldn’t let me get one. One day, my neighbour’s son got one of those e-scooters. When my wife was out for the day, I begged the son to let me have a go.
“Uncle, you know how to ride one?,” he asked.
What impertinence! Of course, I could. Silly boy! After all, I have ridden a bicycle since I was 9-years-old. What difference could there be? One uses pedal power and the other, a small electric motor.
He showed me where the accelerator and brakes were and I got on the machine in the void deck of a block and started to ride this fascinating contraption. It was exhilarating. And as I started getting used to the balance, I increased speed.
I felt the wind blow in my face, my hair flying about and as pillar after pillar went by, I craved to make them go by faster and faster. But void decks are small enclosures. All too soon, the Evel Knievel in me ran out of floor. It was all over in just under five minutes. Reluctantly, I returned the machine and looked on longingly as the young man sped off to wherever he was going.
It was certainly faster than cycling. It had a speedometer and I knew that I must have been going at least 5-10km/hour and the accelerator was only at one third the twist. Instinctively, I knew that I could never own one. Speed kills and this was a potential killing machine.
Sometime last year, as I was on one of my 6km walks, with my wife ahead of me, she turned for some reason and screamed at me to move. Before I could react, something brushed against my right hip and elbow and I fell. I had just enough time to look up.
I was hit by a speeding rider on an e-scooter. He never looked back. He went on on his merry way as if I was an impediment to whatever quest he was on. I would have shown him the middle finger but he never obliged by turning around. He never stopped to look at the trail of damage he had caused.
I put it down as a stray incident, something that was rare and would never happen again…if I had eyes at the back of my head!
Two weeks after that incident, I read a report in the news about a tragic accident involving a young e-scooter rider who was killed after he was run over by a lorry. The report did not elaborate how the tragedy occurred. But my instinct was that the lorry driver must have been speeding when he hit the e-scooter.
As the days went by, taxi drivers I spoke to gave a different version. According to the stories, the e-scooter rider had sped across the path of the lorry at a point that was not meant for crossing. Why did he do it? The rider probably thought he could speed past the lorry as he crossed the road. Whatever his reasons were, it ended in the death of a young life.
As the years went by after my own personal experience with a PMD, the number of incidents of pedestrians being knocked down and some even dying from the ‘accidents’ became frightening.
While I admit that certain jobs would be much more efficient if there was an element of speed, but is progress and the need to be fast worth the loss of lives or injury?
On November 5th, the ban on PMDs on footpaths, void decks and on the grass came into effect.
Delivery service operators like foodpanda, delivero and Grabfood, are being paid by the number of trips they make. Hence the need for speed as faster delivery means another trip and money for the rider. But is the cost of speed worth the potential tragic consequences for that extra SGD5.00?
Today, I read with dismay, a netizen ranting about the PMD ban. Using expletives, and threatening a riot, she took to task the decision to stop PMDs on footpaths.
That is a dangerous path to take. You cannot hold an entire society to ransom with threats, much less riots.
Common sense must prevail in this matter. Rules, unfortunately, are needed to enforce common decency.
There is a need to enforce common sense, by rules and regulations if necessary, before we run riot on our PMDs and make a killing on the market and footpaths.
At the crossroads, the direction we take on this matter, will determine how safe our neighbourhoods will be.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Independent Singapore. /TISG