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SINGAPORE — If the users of personal mobility devices (PMDs) do not improve their behaviour, the government may have “no choice but to ban their usage completely in Singapore”, said Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for Transport, in Parliament on Monday (7 October).
“This would be a loss,” he said, noting that PMDs are “useful devices for first and last mile connectivity, if they are used responsibly”. Dr Janil, who is also Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, also urged PMD users to be “extra responsible and mindful of others”.
Responding to questions by three Members of Parliament (MPs), the Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC MP noted that a recent incident involving a 65-year-old woman who died after being hit by an illegally modified e-scooter had caused “public alarm” over the dangers posed by PMDs. The accident had also “heightened fears for the safety of pedestrians using footpaths, particularly the old and the young”, he added.
Observing that the number of PMD-related accidents had risen alongside the increase in PMD usage, Dr Janil said the government is determined to get footpath safety back to the level it was at before PMDs were allowed on footpaths.
“We need footpaths to be safe for pedestrians again,” he said, adding that the government will be revisiting its plans on public path safety to see where it needs to rethink its approach and possibly introduce new measures. Dr Janil asked for “one or two months” for his ministry to conduct a thorough review on the matter.
Last month, the death of Ong Bee Eng, the elderly cyclist who collided with a 20-year-old e-scooter rider, sparked many calls from the public for PMDs and e-bikes to be banned. Her death led to the number of signatures in a six-month old petition calling for the ban to surge to more than 67,000 as of Monday afternoon from 21,000 just before Ong’s death was reported on 25 September.
In an ideal scenario, pedestrians and PMD users would share separate paths, said Dr Janil. However, he noted that current infrastructure constraints can prevent this from happening.
“New towns will allow for such a separation. But existing towns currently do not have many dedicated parts for PMDs. This poses an immediate challenge for PMD users,” he said.
Dr Janil revealed that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is working with Members of Parliament to highlight hotspots where immediate steps – such as the widening of footpaths or the installing of speed regulating strips – can be taken to improve public safety. Efforts would also be made to speed up the building of dedicated paths for PMDs, he added.
“Meanwhile, we have to make a decision on where to allow PMDs to be used other than on dedicated paths...These are difficult choices, we will re-examine them and re-discuss with the stakeholders.”
The LTA is also working with town councils to implement pedestrian-only zones at all the town centres, which will be rolled out in stages. “We will do so as soon as the town councils are ready,” said Dr Janil.
Mandatory inspections for e-scooters
Answering PMD-related questions by Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah, Dr Janil said that the LTA had seized 161 non-compliant PMDs between July and September this year, some of which had been illegally modified.
He added that beyond their mandatory inspection at the point of registration, e-scooters will also be called up for inspections every two years. The LTA is also studying upstream measures – including import controls – to tackle the problem of non-compliant PMDs and reviewing the penalties for the illegal modification of such devices and other offences.
In a separate news release on Monday, the LTA said that it will be scheduling mandatory inspections for UL2272-certified e-scooters registered before 1 April 2020 at “no cost to existing owners”. Device owners will receive a notice from the LTA to bring their devices in for inspection at one of nine E-scooter Inspection Centres located around the island.
From 1 April 2020, all new e-scooters will have to pass the inspection before they can be registered for use on public paths. Retailers and other businesses will only be able to display, sell or lease devices that have passed the inspection and bear the registration mark, said LTA.
All non UL2272-certified e-scooters will be automatically deregistered from 1 July 2020, which is the deadline for mandatory UL2272 compliance for e-scooters used on public paths. E-scooters that are UL2272-certified but do not comply with the weight, width and speed requirements during inspection will also have their registration cancelled by the LTA.
Those who fail to send their devices for inspection by 1 April next year are liable to be fined up to $1,000, jailed up to three months, or both, if convicted. It is also an offence to ride an unregistered e-scooter on a public path. First-time offenders face a fine of up to $5,000, a jail term of up to three months, or both.
Regarding the LTA’s early disposal incentive scheme for non UL2272 compliant e-scooters, Dr Janil said that over 2,800 applications for the scheme had been received and more than 940 PMDs collected between 23 September and 3 October.
‘Mixed reactions’ to PMD ban at void decks, common corridors
Responding Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP Alex Yam’s question on the public feedback received following the implementation of a ban on PMD use at void decks and common corridors at 15 towns, Dr Janil said the LTA had received “mixed reactions”.
Some had welcomed the move to enhance safety while others expressed concerns around reduced connectivity, he replied, adding that that there has been no “noticeable drop in reported incidents” since the ban took effect.
Noting that the LTA is still in an advisory period until 31 October, Dr Janil added, “We expect the full impact to be clearer after the town councils begin enforcement action.”