Photo from Shin Min Daily of where the accident between the e-scooter and Mdm Ong took place

Another victim falls to the wheels of a PMD; Will authorities seriously deal with this existential public safety threat?

Yet another member of the public has fallen victim to the blight of Singapore’s personal mobility device (PMD) issues.

A senior citizen, 65-year-old Madam Ong Bee Eng has reportedly fallen into a coma after she collided with a 20-year-old an e-scooter while on her bicycle. It is said that she suffered a serious brain injury as well as fractures in her ribs and collar bone from the collision.

The accident, which happened on Saturday night (21 September) at Bedok North, caused fractured ribs and collarbone as well as severe brain injury. An unconscious Mdm Ong was taken to Changi General Hospital (CGH) where her condition remains serious.

Madam Ong’s son, Mr Ng Chin Khai, 41, told The Straits Times that his mother had been taken to hospital by the time he rushed to the scene.

“Doctors say she could be left in a vegetative state after her operation. We are praying that she will wake up,” said Mr Ng, who is unemployed.

Of course, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) can say that it has enhanced the regulations on PMDs such as implementing a weight limit of 20kg on those devices as well as on bicycles and power-assisted bicycles.

The regulating also stipulate that these devices have to be 70cm wide or less and that the speed limit is capped at 25km per hour to be used on public paths. LTA says it has also been conducting random checks on those who foul the regulations.

But it doesn’t matter whether those devices are within the speed or weight limit when the rider is above 50kg and travelling at more than 10 km per hour into another moving object such as an elderly person who is either on a bicycle or taking a stroll in the evening.

As a pedestrian, I have had near encounters with PMD users who could not be bothered to slow down for as they pass by me or to consider if I am aware that they are speeding towards me when they do not have a bell or light mounted on their PMD. They ride their devices as if they own the pathway and that they have no responsibility towards the safety of others sharing the path.

Putting aside the penalty of fouling existing LTA regulation on PMD, what about the penalty for knocking someone down, and in the case of Mdm Ong, the possibility of her never waking up?

The 20-year-old e-scooterist who was involved in the case is said to have been arrested by the police for causing grievous hurt by a rash act.

Under the law, whoever causes grievous hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 4 years, or with fine which may extend to $10,000, or with both.

But what can the fines do to help the injured and his or her family pay for medical bills, loss of income or in the worst case, the loss of life? It is unlikely that the family can claim much by way of damages from the 20-year-old PMD user. LTA has not made insurance compulsory for personal accident expenses and third-party injury claims for PMD users.

In a recent judgement involving such collisions, an e-scooterist was sentenced 18 days of jail. While the injured managed to claim the loss of income, which is about $1,680 from 48 days of hospitalisation leave, what happens when the amount involved is much higher than that and if the injured/deceased/bed-riddened is the sole-breadwinner of the family?

I think enough is enough. If the government can create laws to fight “fake news” when the threat is hardly causing any disturbance or risk to the public and imposing harsh jail terms and fines, it jolly well can do something about the existing threat to public safety with all the rouge PMD users terrorising families along the narrow pedestrian pathways.

Other than specific laws targeting at PMD offences, when will the authorities look at redesigning the common walkway? Given that PMDs are here to stay, for the reckless rider to those who depend on PMDs, such as the seniors and individuals with mobility impairment, why are we still having the narrow walkways in our estates? Certain town councils have started building cycling tracks so why aren’t the rest doing it? And for those who argue that there is no space for it because we need to plant trees by the side of the road, what is being limited here? The space or the mindset?

Let Mdm Ong’s case be the final warning and last accident to happen in Singapore. That is if the authorities finally decide to take firmer action on the matter.