A number of pedestrians have written to forums to express their concerns while others discuss the issue on social media. The Internet is now jam-packed with stories of various encounters. The topic? Irresponsible PMD riders and the many accidents that have taken place because of them.
Recently, countless Singaporeans — including Members of Parliament (MPs) — have joined the clamour of disapproval on motorised vehicles which have become popular with riders for daily commutes and with deliverymen whose source of income depends on them. The vehicles in question are known as personal mobility devices (PMDs) which include electric scooters, hoverboards and electric unicycles.
Even with the initiatives to regulate their use, safety issues persist and calls to keep them off footpaths and void decks of public housing estates have escalated.
Land Transport Authority statistics
Data from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) reveal that almost a fifth of the 3,700 active-mobility offences between May 2018 and April 2019 involved users who sped, rode recklessly or used PMDs on roads.
Under Singapore’s law, PMDs cannot be used on roads. They are allowed only on footpaths and shared pathways, such as cycling paths and park-connector networks.
According to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, in 2017 and 2018, there were 228 reported accidents involving PMDs on public paths and 196 of them led to serious injuries. One smashup left a rider dead and 32 other collisions resulted in lethal physical trauma, such as concussions and fractures.
The LTA said that in recent months, the agency has intensified its enforcement efforts. From February to April, it implemented roughly 2,260 enforcement operations and seized more than 400 units.
Hints of a ‘ban’
Earlier this month, Dr Lee Bee Wah, an MP for the Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (GRC), asked in Parliament if Singapore could emulate France’s impending ban.
Allowing PMDs on footpaths presents “more risks to the pedestrians”, said Dr Lee. She added that some of her residents feel so unsafe on footpaths that they have “even given up their daily walks”.
Despite the hint of a ban however, there appears no forthcoming prohibition on PMDs in Singapore.
Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Transport, responded to Dr. Lee saying that while the Government is very much aware of the safety issues, the solution was “not to ban them, but to cultivate the right culture where users ride safely and responsibly, and only at the allowed places.”
Transport economist Walter Theseira of the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) said a primary concern with PMD users is the lack of licensing or testing.
“There are practically no minimum standards a user has to meet to be able to operate a PMD,” said Associate Professor Theseira, head of the SUSS’ Master of Management (Urban Transportation) programme.
He added that it would make sense to resolve the problem by regulating issues such as licensing.
Dr Lee, the Nee Soon GRC MP, also supported licensing e-scooter riders, who should be of a minimum age and receive training. “If they get into an accident with pedestrians, their licence will be revoked,” she added.
At present, users must be at least 16 years old to register their e-scooters with the LTA.
Singapore should not be a “nanny state”
Assoc Prof Faishal, who is also Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development, said that when used responsibly PMDs have an important role in Singapore’s transport landscape.
While some may argue that PMDs have no place here since the country is so well-connected, he said that those who use these vehicles as an alternative to driving, walking or taking public transport have found them “convenient, useful and environmentally friendly”.
He said that most e-scooter riders, for instance, are safe and responsible.
“We should, therefore, not go down the path of imposing a complete ban on PMDs because of a small number of people who misuse them,” said Assoc Prof Faishal.
“Instead, we should take a balanced and holistic approach to improve active-mobility safety and build this as part of the evolving transport landscape.”
Dr Barter reiterated that PMDs have greatly expanded users’ freedom to make trips that are inconvenient by public transport.
“Banning them would harm the mobility of many thousands of people who already find them useful,” he said.
Mr Sitoh Yih Pin, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said that an outright ban at this stage would be “a little excessive”.
Apart from stricter rules and enforcement, the Potong Pasir MP said greater effort is needed to communicate with PMD riders and other road and pavement users on taking precautions and observing proper etiquette. A balance must be struck without restricting Singaporeans’ commuting options.
“We don’t want to make this a nanny state, where everything is governed by rules, rules, rules, and enforcement, enforcement, enforcement,” he added. -/TISG
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