“Food Panda” delivery man riding on an electric bicycle doing deliveries at Geylang Road. (Image by Terence Toh Chin Eng / Shutterstock.com)

PMD users vent frustrations with the sudden ban of e-scooters on footpaths

On Tuesday (5 November), electric scooters were banned from all footpaths in Singapore, after Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min announced it a day earlier in Parliament.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said in a statement that despite “significant efforts” to regulate the use of such personal mobility devices (PMDs) using laws and to educate the public in using such devices responsibly, “offences relating to errant behaviour and incidents involving e-scooters remained on an upward trend”.

Dr Lam said on Monday that it was a “difficult decision” to prohibit e-scooters from being used on footpaths, but “it is a necessary step for pedestrians to feel safe again on public paths, while still allowing e-scooters to grow in tandem with cycling path infrastructure”.

Although e-scooters are banned from being used on roads and footpaths in the Republic, but it will still be allowed on cycling paths and Park Connector Networks (PCNs).

Those found guilty of the crime can be fined up to S$2,000 and jail time of up to three months once the ban is strictly enforced from 2020.

From now till 31 December 2019, there will be an advisory period where offenders will be given warnings, in order to give time for e-scooter riders to adjust to the changes.

“From 1 January 2020, a zero-tolerance approach will be taken and those caught riding an e-scooter on footpaths will face regulatory action. Offenders are liable for fines up to S$2,000 and/or face imprisonment of up to 3 months, if convicted,” LTA warned.

However, bicycles and Personal Mobility Aids (PMAs) like motorised wheelchairs will not be subjected to the footpaths ban, and will also be allowed on all cycling paths and PCNs.

Angry PMD riders

Following the announcement of the ban, one group that is badly affected is of course the PMD riders, especially those who use it as their livelihoods like food delivery riders.

Venting his frustration, Afiq Azman said in a YouTube video that he depends on PMD as a source of income.

“This (ban) has been a concern for a lot of PMD riders, like myself, because a lot of riders depend on this device for income. A lot of them do it for GrabFood, Foodpanda, Deliveroo and other food delivery apps as well,” Mr Afiq said.

However, the biggest issue he has with the ban is that the Government failed to understand that PMD users have to use combined paths – PCNs, Housing and Development Board (HDB) and footpaths – to reach their destination.

As an example, he noted that there isn’t any PCN that connects from his house to Woodlands MRT. As such, he will have no choice now but to push his PMD till he reaches a PCN. “The problem with the ban is that they (PMD riders) have no other alternative but to walk,” lamented Mr Afiq.

If that’s not all, he also said that the sudden ban has come as a shock to a lot of users, and it will also cause a dip in demand for the device as the public has no idea on how to use PMDs anymore.

“From my point of view, the problem with PMDs are that riders are not taking responsibility for the safety of other users in the paths. This is why the Government decided to ban it. But at the end of the day, the actions of a few errant users have cause inconvenience to a lot of other users who follow the rules,” he said.

He continued, “For now, I hope the Government can deliver their promise of an enhanced PCN network that will allow PMD users like us to continue using our PMDs in a safer environment.”

LTA said on Monday (4 November) that it intends to “triple” the current distance of cycling paths from 440km by 2030, adding that all HDB towns will have a cycling path by that year.

Separately, another PMD user that goes by the name Acai Berry also posted a video on YouTube expressing his anger towards Dr Lam for making such a sudden announcement.

“Your news is very shocking! You’re destroying lives, especially food delivery people who use PMDs. I don’t think you fit to be Minister,” he said, referring to Dr Lam.

He added that the Ministry first announced that PMDs are fire hazard, forcing all users to change their device to follow the UL2272 standard. Suppliers brought in UL2272 complying models into the market, and chances are they might not be able to sell it now due to the ban, the user said.

As such, he suggested Dr Lam to come up with different solution to curb the problem, instead of just banning it on footpaths.

“Give another solution. If footpaths cannot ride, then have to give another solution. Maybe ride on the left side of the road for the footpath distance. First cannot use on roads, then HDB and now footpaths,” he said.

Previous changes

PMDs like e-scooters were first introduced in Singapore in 2013. Although it gained popularity among the people in the country, but it soon began to make negative headlines due to behaviour of certain errant users which contributed to high number of accidents involving such devices, several of which were fatal.

Prior to the latest ban on footpaths, the Government announced that since 15 January 2018, under the Road Traffic Act, it is illegal for PMDs – such as e-scooters and hoverboards – to be used on Singapore roads, with first-time offenders subject to a fine of up to S$2,000, a jail term of up to three months, or both.

Then in May 2018, the Active Mobility Act kicked in and enforced new rules like lowering the speed limit for the devices on footpaths from 15 kmh to 10kmh, mandatory use of helmets by cyclists on roads and “stop and look” requirement for all active mobility device users.

Following that, in July this year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that all e-scooters and electric bikes must be registered and the devices have to comply with the UL2272 certification.

UL2272 is a safety standard that will reduce the risk of fire and it assesses the devices at the “system level”. This means that it looks at the full spectrum of use conditions, instead of evaluating only individual parts, hence remarkably reducing the risk of fires. Certification involves a series of electrical, mechanical and environmental tests.

From 1 September 2019 onwards, riders were also banned from riding their PMDs at void decks and common corridors at 15 town councils under the People’s Action Party (PAP).

Despite all the previous changes with the rules, the latest ban on all footpaths in Singapore came unannounced. The ban kicked in just one day after it was announced.

As such, the biggest question here is what happens to the suppliers and those who just bought their PMDs?

They are now left in the lurch as it becomes impractical for people to use e-scooters anymore as they have to push the device for most of the time.