Following a spate of accidents and deaths involving PMDs, more than 65,000 people have signed a Change.org petition, calling for the ban of these private vehicles. The petition on Change.org is just one of several petitions that are circulating on social media.
This is more than triple the number of signatories before news broke of Madam Ong’s death, a response Mr Zachary Tan did not expect.
Mr Zachary Tan, who started the petition six months ago, told The New Paper, “Many people, including me, are now walking on the streets in fear for ourselves and our loved ones, a psychological burden wrongfully imposed on us. This has to stop.”
Referring to the thousands of signatories who came out to support what he has initiated, Mr Tan, who declined to give his occupation, added: “I hope the support will lead to a ban, so no more accidents will occur.”
People are fearful
Many people are of the opinion that PMDs should be banned from using pavements or walking paths because they are very dangerous.
Mr Kok Wei Ming, 35, a social media manager who signed the petition, said that walking on footpaths nowadays is worse than crossing the road.
“With traffic lights, at least cars and motorcycles will stop. PMD riders do not,” he said.
He called for an interim ban on PMDs from footpaths until a proper safety framework can be set up. In the meantime, PMDs should be used on the roads with rules on helmet use and speed limits, he added.
Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) urban transport expert Park Byung Joon told TNP that he strongly supports banning PMDs from footpaths as he feels footpaths must belong to pedestrians.
Mr Nicholas Cho, 41, said he gave up his PMD after a hit-and-run accident last year left his 68-year-old aunt bleeding from the head and unconscious.
“The person had no decency to even stop and help… It is disgusting,” the marketing director of local fashion brand Flesh Imp, who also signed the petition, told the media.
“I am a PMD user. There is no denying it’s a good mode of transport in a city where cars are very expensive. The problem is I don’t know how they can co-exist with pedestrians.”
The Active Mobility Advisory Panel gave new recommendations for safe PMD use, including a minimum age of 16, a theory test requirement and mandating that businesses buy third-party liability insurance for their riders.
But Mr Cho felt the rules were being made only after a spate of accidents and fires.
“It is not a very Singaporean way of doing things,” he said.
“Maybe people will say a ban is very dramatic. But unless we have the proper infrastructure and people who are old enough to not mess things up… ban it first, come up with a full set of rules, get all the feedback, then you say, all right, here you go.”
For Mr Hilary Teo, 29, an accident involving his six-month pregnant wife, 26, was the last straw. “My wife getting hit and the fear of miscarriage was a whole new level of fear, as two lives are involved.”
While he did not agree to a full PMD ban, Mr Teo said there must be strict laws and specific areas where they can be used.
“Until such facilities are developed, the best thing to do is prohibit such dangerous devices.”
Which way to go?
Lawmakers and observers have different opinions about the ban on personal mobility devices (PMDs), though one transport expert has joined the growing chorus against such devices.
The recent death of Madam Ong Bee Eng, 65, who was hit by a speeding, non-compliant e-scooter, has become a lightning rod for frustrations over irresponsible PMD users.
Mr Lim Biow Chuan, the MP for Mountbatten SMC, said he hopes the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will come down hard on such culprits.
“It was a waste of life… We ought to come down like a ton of bricks on such belligerent individuals,” Mr Lim said. However, he was not very sure about a ban, calling it a blunt tool.
“I do empathise with pedestrians because I, too, worry when I walk…Society needs a lot more maturity to deal with the issue.”
In August, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min announced a $50 million kitty to expand and improve active mobility infrastructure at accident hot spots.
Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) transport economist Walter Theseira agreed that de-conflicting PMD users and pedestrians is crucial.
“The problem is the re-design of paths takes time. That is something I think people may feel we could move faster on.”
But SUSS urban transport expert Park Byung Joon, who feels that footpaths must belong to pedestrians, strongly supports the banning of PMDs from footpaths.
He said that PMDs are a form of personalised wheeled transport, such as bicycles and motorcycles, and should be regulated in the same way.
Dr Theseira said, “Even when we talk about a total ban, we have to recognise that we are probably going to shift some risk, for example, to increased use of motorcycles and bicycles.” -/TISG