Telepod and Neuron’s e-scooters impounded at Esplanade Drive on 7 February 2019 (Source: LTA).

Robin Low: Inability to admit mistake for lack of regulations for PMDs

by Robin Low

I have seen more cities transform their infrastructure to be more friendly to cyclists, and when there are cycling lanes on the roads, laws that require cyclists to wear a helmet, and getting them to cycle in the direction of traffic.

Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can reduce the risk of death by almost 40% and the risk of severe injury by over 70%. Motorcyclists have to follow traffic rules and I believe that this has reduced the number of accidents, making the roads safer.

In Singapore, I find the roads getting more crowded every year as the population increases. Besides roads, the sidewalks, walkways, bicycle paths and all are packed with people, especially on weekends.

I find it strange when Singapore, a well known “Fine City” would have not regulations when they can ban chewing gum and e-cigarettes, yet ANYONE can even rent a e-scooter in Singapore without any license, training or helmets.

Since 2018, there are calls for users to register their e-scooters, however, I do feel that the problem is not only just that it is unregulated, there is an unclear signal from the government what these modes of transports are; Are they considered vehicles, or Are they considered pedestrains?

I had a few bad encounters with bicycles in Singapore. In 2017, a cyclist was riding on a 4 lane road and crashed into my motorcycle by simply cutting across suddenly into my lane. Even when the cyclist admited to be in the wrong, I find it hard to claim insurance as he was not insured, and the traffic police do not consider it to be a motor-vehicle accident and I had to engage a lawyer to take up a civil case against the cyclist.

I have a friend who was on his bicycle and he collided with another cyclist who zoomed across zebra crossing while he was turning, and the cyclist ended up in a coma as he was not wearing a helmet.

Cycling in Singapore still feels like any third world country where anything goes, because it is unregulated. What makes Dr. Lam Pin Min, the Transport Minister believe that he can prevent accidents by just using “government-approved e-scooters”

Sad, this shows a big disconnect as the usual panels set up by the government usually consists of their own people who probably do not use e-scooters or cycle regularly.

Having a UL2272 standard for the e-scooters is a good start as it addresses the fire risks of charging these devices, but it does not address the safety concerns of pedestrians and motorists.

On 5 November 2019, Dr. Lam Pin Min abruptly calls for a ban of these devices on Singapore’s footpaths. When many people call for action to be taken since 2018, this sudden ban feels like “elections is coming” and an action is needed to satisfy the public.

From my observation, the majority of the users that use these devices are food delivery personnel. As the COE prices were very high, motorcycle costs easily exceeds $10,000 for a scooter in 2018. There was also an NEA ban on old motorcycles that are older than 2003. So when you cannot afford a motorcycle, an e-scooter seems to be the next best option for food delivery.

Now, with this ban, these food delivery personnel who previously bought an e-scooter, then bought another one with the UL2272 certification, and now cannot use it on footpaths.

So who suffers the most, and were they consulted and engaged on how this would impact some of these people who already cannot find jobs and have to work full time in food delivery?

I feel that if the govenrment has proposed a law by mistake, and they know it, can they at least admit to that mistake? They cannot be right all the time, can they?

So far, a lot of solutions proposed seemed rushed out or focused on profits. I live in Toa Payoh, and want to get to Toa Payoh central fast, but taking a bus now can cost more than $0.70 each way, far from the $0.35 on the feeder buses a few years back. So for many people like me, the PMDs are a cheaper alternative to get around.

I hope that the transport minister would actually work harder and come out with safer solution, and here are some I can suggest for FREE.

1. Have more guidelines for cycling / e-scooter / PMD laws.

Bicycles and other motorized mobility devices are not pedestrains. They need to stop at zebra crossing and traffic light before zooming across. I have witnessed many near accidents before.

Bicycles and other motorized mobility devices need to follow the traffic direction. They are not slow and drivers who check their blindspots and drive off may be hit by these vehicles in the other direction.

2. Helmet laws

If the government agrees that helmets save lives, why not make it mandatory for bicycles and other motorized mobility devices?

3. Licencing and insurance for these cyclists.

If cyclists want to be on the road, it is fair that they follow traffic directions instead of zooming across roads in the opposite direction. If they wish go against traffic, they can always push their vehicles.

To learn this, perhaps they can go through a short course and obtain a license so that they are allowed to use the road. With a licence, they will have no excuse that they don’t know such laws.

4. Continue to build more cycling infrastructure and cycling lanes.

I cringe when I see a cyclist in the bus lane during peak hour. This is such an unsafe practice and buses need to filter out of bus lanes to pass the cyclist. This can be avoided if there are provisions to have more cycling lanes on the road, and perhaps bicycles and other motorized mobility devices can use these lanes to allow Singapore to be a car-lite society.

This was first published on Medium and reproduced with permission.