The Singapore government’s ban on personal mobility devices (PMDs) on foot paths is the right thing to do.
While the matter has caused public uproar, especially among those who need these devices for work, the overarching priority behind the ban is safety, as the Senior Minister of State (SMS) for Transport, Lam Pin Min, explained on his Facebook page on 4 November:
“It has not been a straightforward nor an easy decision, but public safety always comes first and should never be at the expense of the young and elderly amongst us,” Dr Lam said.
Yet, the reversal is also understandable – there have been numerous injuries, and deaths, the last few years, and especially this year.
There have been 6 deaths since 2017, according to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH).
“Its trauma ward doctors have also seen a spike in the number of patients involved in PMD-related incidents and warned that the trend is likely to continue,” The New Paper reported in October.
According to the hospital’s records, head and neck injuries make up a majority of PMD-related injuries.
The New Paper said:
They accounted for 41 per cent of the 303 injuries reported, followed by external injuries such as abrasions and lacerations at 26 per cent and facial injuries at 12 per cent.
TTSH treated 87 patients who were involved in PMD-related incidents last year, an 85 per cent jump from the 47 patients in 2017.
The first nine months of this year have already seen 79 such patients, an almost 70 per cent rise from the whole of 2017.
The vast majority of these patients were PMD users. The youngest was a two-year-old pillion rider who suffered a head injury. The oldest was a 90-year-old rider.
Almost 300 people have had to be admitted to hospitals for PMD-related injuries in 2018.
Incidentally, there have also been 54 PMD-related fires in homes in the first 6 months of this year alone.
These are sobering numbers, because behind these numbers are real people, young and old. The youngest person involved in an accident was a 2-year old pillion rider who suffered head injuries, and the oldest a 90-year old rider.
It is clear that e-scooters are a danger not only to their riders and fellow motorists, but also to pedestrians, who obviously include children, the elderly, pregnant women, the handicapped, and even ordinary people such as joggers.
To allow these deadly machines to operate in the same space as human beings is just asking for trouble, which sadly has come to pass.
Flesh and blood do not go with metal and engine.
And to be fair to the government, it has tried the last 2 years to make foot paths and pavements safer for both people and riders, but alas, changing behaviour is not an easy thing.
“Over the last 2 years, we tried hard to make it work for everyone: we passed laws to regulate PMDs on footpaths, we lowered speed limits, we introduced the Safe Riding Programme, and we required the UL-2272 fire safety standard,” Dr Lam explained on 8 November. “At the same time, LTA stepped up their enforcement against errant riders.
“Despite all this, the situation did not improve.”
“When the safety of people is at stake, the decision is always clear. That is why after thinking long and hard, we decided to implement this ban to make our foot paths safer again.”
These suggestions, however, do not work and do not address the heart of the matter – deaths and injuries caused by these machines by riders who just don’t care about others using the same space.
We need to understand this: peddle bicycles are slower no matter what, and this gives cyclists time to react. PMDs, on the other hand, are speed machines, and no matter how skillfull the rider is, he will not have enough time to react, and neither will pedestrians, especially children and the elderly.
No matter how you regulate with rules, it does not change these basic facts.
Several European cities have also banned e-scooters from pavements. Their experience mirrors that of Singapore’s – speeding, reckless riding, inconsiderate behaviour towards others, and so on.
The authorities there have also introduced and tried to enforce legislations, but the danger continues.
“Since January 2018, at least 11 deaths have been linked to the scooters in cities including Paris, Brussels, Barcelona, Stockholm and London,” the BBC reported in August.
The lament of food delivery riders, many of whom need the PMDs to make a living, is credible and noted. The government should therefore look into their concerns, which are genuine, and help them as best as they can.
Alternatives for these riders are: switch to motorcycles or bicycles; or seek alternative employment opportunities.
The government has announced a subsidy offer to help e-scooter riders who work in food delivery switch from e-scooters to e-bikes. This, however, does not seem to be a good idea, for it is effectively pushing e-scooter riders onto the roads. (Ebikes are not allowed on foot paths or pavements, but are allowed on roads and cycling tracks.)
Dr Lam himself had warned in August, amidst calls for a PMD ban, that barring PMDs from foot paths would mean pushing them onto roads and this, he said, would result in more deaths. Ebikes on the roads are no safer than e-scooters on foot paths.
So, why are we doing exactly that now? I hope the government will seriously reconsider this move, as it may result in more fatalities, as Dr Lam had warned.
The government should stand by the ban on PMDs. (To reverse once again would be utterly bad, and would erode trust in the authorities.)
So, stick by the ban, and do all we can to help those most affected by it. Over time, Singaporeans will accept and support this move.
We need to keep in mind a simple point: no one should feel unsafe when walking or strolling on foot paths or pavements. Our young children, our elderly parents and grandparents, our pregnant wives and daughters, our handicapped and infirmed, and everyone else in fact, should not feel we are risking our lives just walking or strolling in public areas.
Deadly machines like PMDs do not belong in the same space as human beings.
It really is that simple.
Keep the ban. It is a no-brainer.
Visit LTA’s website to familiarise yourself with the code of conduct for PMD riders.
And here is how to register your device: