He came out of nowhere, swerving his four-wheeled personal mobility device (PMD) around pedestrians, both school-going and the elderly. When I stared at him, he glowered in return. Without even slowing down, he zipped out of the Bishan community complex. As I seethed in anger – thinking he could have seriously hurt an old person or run over a child – I realised I was not even thinking about them, not really. I was more affected that the reckless motorist could have run over my foot.
(Featured Image: CloudFront)
As any motorist knows, you are held to a higher conduct by the traffic police. Even if a pedestrian runs across the road without looking, it is the job of the motorist to look out for them. Failing which, the motorist may be penalised. Hit-And-Runs are serious offences that could result in fines, jail terms (for second offences and above) and may result in a disqualification from driving for a period of at least 12 months, according to the Singapore Statutes Online.
Likewise, a set of regulations has been created to protect pedestrians from reckless PMD users. Previously, cyclists and PMD users cannot exceed a speed limit of 15km/h on footpaths. Announced on 4 September 2018 by the Government, under the list of recommendations made by the Active Mobility Advisory Panel, there will be a change of speed limit from 15km/h to 10km/h. Under the new speed limit, all PMD users including the motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters will have to follow the maximum speed imposed. These changes will take effect early next year. For scale, the average walking speed of a relatively healthy person is about 5km/h. Bicycles, PMDs and Power Assisted Bicycles (e-bikes) face a 25km/h speed limit on demarcated cycling and shared paths.
It goes on to assure pedestrians that enforcement officers equipped with speed guns will be on the lookout for reckless riders. Cyclists and PMD users found guilty of reckless behaviours and injuring others could be fined up to $5,000 or face a jail term of a year, or both.
Apart from the new speed limit implementation, all active mobility users must also wear helmet when riding on roads. For safety reasons, the Ministry of Transport ‘strongly advise’ all PMD users to wear helmet when travelling on footpath although its not compulsory. Do note that PMD users are not allowed to ride on roads or expressways.
(Image: One Motoring)
In the event of an accident, make a police report – even if the PMD flees the scene. The victim should note the description of the cyclist or PMD user and their mobility devices. While this is reassuring, I did not see an enforcement officer at the scene, and since there was no accident, I couldn’t make a police report.
On August 2, the Land Transport Authority decreed all e-bikes are to be registered and marked with a number plate. Registration will begin on Aug 14, and e-bike owners have until January 31, 2018 to sign up. The exercise was suggested by the Active Mobility Panel to ensure enforcement against errant riders and people who modify their bicycles with more powerful engines. “Those who fail to register their e-bikes face a fine of up to S$2,000 and up to three months in jail for the first offence. Those caught using an e-bike without a valid plate displayed are liable for a fine of up to S$1,000 and up to three months in jail,” reported Channel News Asia. Users can register their e-bikes online at the One Motoring website, or at any SingPost branch.
Before they can register their e-bikes, users need to pass an LTA inspection and procure a seal of approval. Users who get their bikes inspected before Aug 14 will have their S$50-fee waived. Owners may sell their bikes but registration has to be transferred for S$11 at One Motoring. Registered users need to be aged 16 and above.
A more gracious society
While Singapore has a decent public transport system, it is cracking its head to solve the first- and last-mile transportation issues. Allowing bike-sharing companies to provide pedal-powered transport is not only eco-friendly, it does wonders in keeping the population healthy too.
If only people could get along.
Sales manager Lau Yu-Jin uses his PMD when he wants to pop by the neighbourhood grocery store or prata coffeeshop on weekends. He prefers to zip to nearby places instead of driving as it saves him the hassle of looking for parking.
Mr Lau said he’s never faced any problem on the footpath. “I do slow down when I’m passing them (pedestrians) and a simple ring of my bell and saying ‘excuse me’ and ‘thank you’ works wonders.”
By and large, users say riders are more conscious of pedestrians – even if it doesn’t feel like it. According to a 2015 report by Todayonline, both users and pedestrians highlighted safety concerns in sharing footpaths. Information Technology executive Kirby Ong told the paper that his electric unicycle has a built-in warning system that restricts its speed when it surpasses 18km/h.
Senior marketing executive Syareen Ahmad said she tends to slow down in heavily congested areas or when there are children on the pavement. As she uses a kick-scooter, the speed at which she travels is up to her “fitness level”.
In her parliamentary reply on Oct 10, 2016, then Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said: “There were 12 reported on-road accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists” from June 2015 to the same period in 2016. This has led to stepped-up enforcement efforts as mentioned earlier.
However, a 2016 The New Paper report captured more than 20 e-bike riders flouting rules with some of them even riding against traffic. The Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said government agencies received 600 complaints about errant cyclists in 2014 and 800 complaints in 2015.
Ms Teo, however, cautioned against a blanket removal of PMDs due to a few reckless riders. Instead let new rules and enforcement build a culture of responsible and safe sharing of space, she reasoned. While Ms Teo said we’re not (yet) on par with Amsterdam and Tokyo on being cycling-friendly cities, it takes time to let pedestrians and PMD users to co-exist.
“There are a few types of people who use PMDs. The hooligan; the family; and the dumb ones,” said Mr Tan Zhi Hao, who rides a bicycle. “The dumb ones are the type who will weave in and out between the road and the footpath. These are the ones who endanger their lives as well as those around them,” said Mr Tan emphatically. “The hooligan types are young adults and teenagers who ride in gangsterish style. They need to calm down and give way to slow people.”
Mr Jenks Chen said there is a “need versus want” for PMD users. A ‘need’ would be a motorised wheelchair that allows the elderly more freedom while a ‘want’ would be a young, healthy individual who uses an e-scooter to replace a 5-minute walk.
“If I see a mother with bags of groceries on her scooter and her young child on pillion, I’d give way. However, if I see a bunch of youths on e-bikes re-enacting a scene from The Fast and Furious, I would not,” shared Mr Chen. Mr Tan wholeheartedly agrees with Mr Chen’s sentiment. Mr Chen added: “I’d like for all PMDs to have wireless e-brakes installed so the police and LTA officers can stop reckless riders.”
Rules and regulations – and the officers to enforce them – are well and good. However, for a car-lite society to thrive, pedestrians, cyclists and PMD users need to use more restraint. As Mr Lau mentioned, some courtesy goes a long way in maintaining cool heads. If people could get along, there would be fewer accidents and, hopefully, no road rage scenarios. After all, what everyone wants is a safe way to get home to loved ones.
The comments of some individuals were taken from a private online poll and do not necessarily reflect the values or beliefs of ETHOZ. Information updated as of 5 September 2018.