By Linette Heng
SINGAPORE — The call for a ban on personal mobility devices (PMDs) and e-bikes in Singapore has grown louder after a collision with a non-compliant e-scooter cost cyclist Ong Bee Eng, 65, her life. The 20-year-old rider has been arrested.
As of Wednesday evening (2 October), the number of signatories on a five-month petition to ban PMDs had grown to over 66,000, from 21,000 signatures just before the accident.
Meanwhile, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP), headed by Dr Faishal Ibrahim, submitted its latest recommendations on PMD use to the government last Friday (27 September).
The recommendations include a minimum age of 16 and a mandatory theory test before being allowed on a public path. Businesses are also required to procure third-party liability insurance for e-scooter riders riding in the course of their work.
Also in the panel’s list: banning the use of mobile phones while riding except when mounted and used hands-free, and the introduction of a code of conduct for pedestrians targeted at safely sharing paths with PMD users.
“The tragic incident underscores the need to implement AMAP’s recommendations swiftly, and to continue stepping up on education and enforcement to create a safe riding culture,” Dr Faishal said in a Facebook post.
Host of preventive measures
Regulations for PMD use have piled on over the last few years. On 1 September, the use of PMDs, bicycles and power assisted bicycles was banned on housing board void decks. Since the start of 2019, the speed limit for PMDs and bicycles on footpaths has been capped at 10kmh from 15kmh. And since July, only e-scooters registered with the Land Transport Authority have been allowed on public paths.
Over 85,000 e-scooters had been registered with the LTA as of July 2019. To register, users need to be at least 16, and declare that their e-scooters do not exceed weight and width limits, and have a speed cap of 25kmh.
Zachary Tan, who is behind the petition calling for a ban, pointed out that current regulations and increased enforcement from the authorities have not worked.
“A recent case of fatality still happened anyway and there were many (cases of) errant PMD use in the face of regulations, thus showing that rules can be easily disregarded...it is difficult for cameras and enforcement officers to be ubiquitous,” he wrote on the petition page.
There were 228 reported accidents involving PMDs on public paths in 2017 and 2018. Of the 196 of them that resulted in injuries, 32 of them were major injuries. Over the last 12 months, 15 PAP town councils also received around 190 pieces of feedback on the reckless behaviour of some PMD users.
‘Zero-accident’ scenario unrealistic
But a “zero-accident” scenario is unrealistic, said Denis Koh, a member of AMAP and president of Big Wheel Scooters Singapore, an online PMD enthusiast group with over 26,500 members.
“The recommendations are meant to lower risk and improve safety,” he said, adding that AMAP’s challenge would be to balance the needs and wants of the various stakeholders.
Wilson Seng, president of PMD Retailers Association of Singapore, which represents over 20 retailers, said that retailers have already taken a proactive role to encourage safety by turning away young riders and educating their customers.
The businessman, who has been riding an e-scooter for over five years, said that most riders already comply with the rules
“I have shouted at fellow riders who are going too fast on footpaths and most slow down. The community knows that we have to adapt (to the regulations),” he said
Some, however, remain wary, like retiree and Toa Payoh resident Peter Chong, 78, who thinks mobility devices should only be allowed for those who require it for medical reasons.
He said in Mandarin, “The PMD riders go too fast and the footpaths are too narrow, and many people – not just those my age – worry we’ll get injured just trying to dodge them. More rules will not help because riders don’t even follow the existing rules.”