Why you can't ride these electric scooters in S'pore
While others rely on personal or public transport, he whizzes around on his electric kick scooter.
Travelling around five kilometres over park connectors and pavements is how designer Benjy Choo, 39, goes to work each day.
Said Mr Choo: "On days that my wife uses the car, I ride the e-scooter. Public transport doesn't take me right to the doorstep of my office and bicycles are too cumbersome to carry to a meeting and the weather is too hot to ride one."
The only problem is, it is illegal to ride e-scooters on our roads and Mr Choo could be jailed or fined for it.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA), Traffic Police and the National Parks Board said they are not allowed or not advised to be on public roads, pavements and park connectors.
Users know it is illegal to ride them on public roads, but few know that they are not allowed in parks and on pavements too.
Some riders told The New Paper that because they cannot afford a car and the MRT trains and public buses are too crowded, these scooters are the best solution to their transport woes.
Mr Choo, for example, rides it often to work, to meet clients or to run errands for his family.
He said: "I know there are no regulations yet. No one knows what the authorities might decide, but if it is banned, it would be such a waste. It reduces the need for cars and one can easily take it onto buses and trains.
"It is the perfect solution for Singapore."
Distributors and retailers said sales figures have rocketed since their introduction late last year.
One of the largest e-scooter distributors here, Falcon Portable Electric Vehicles, said each sale comes attached with a warning.
Its director, Mr Warren Chew, said: "I tell each customer that, technically, what they are getting is not legal to be used on almost any road here."
Mr Chew said the scooters are so popular that the company sold more units in a month than it had forecasted for a year.
He classes the scooters as portable electric vehicles (PEV), alongside self-balancing unicycles and vehicles like the Segway.
He believes there are 2,000 to 3,000 PEV users on the road today, based on his sales figures.
Exact figures are not known as there is no industry association for these vehicles and some buyers get their scooters from online shops.
Some of these models have more powerful engines than those sold by Falcon and have higher top speeds.
Said Mr Chew: "That could become a safety and reliability problem.
"That is why we are very much in favour of some regulation and I expect it to come within a year."
E-scooters are not a new, but advances in battery technology have made them smaller and lighter, said another distributor of an e-scooter.
That is why they have become so popular, said the director of Zoom Urban Transport, Mr James Lai, 24.
His company, which started in April, sells between 50 and 100 e-scooters every month.
"Most of our customers are the young corporate type," he said, adding that some of his clients are businesses that want to use them for their factories, warehouses or offices.
"Because e-scooters are so portable, we know of many drivers who keep them in their car boot.
"They park somewhere cheaper and 'scoot' to their destination."
This recent trend has also created several enthusiast communities here.
Said the founder of Facebook group Big Wheel Scooters Singapore, Mr Swen Einhaus: "I started the group last November, thinking there was just a small niche community.
"I did not expect the hype to build up so quickly."
His group has more than 2,500 users and it organises meet-ups at least once a month.
About 40 to 50 e-scooter users attend each time, he said.
CONCERNS OVER SAFETY
Although many do not turn up in helmets or knee and elbow pads, the group encourages its users to ride safely.
Facebook posts discussing safety gear like headlamps, horns and luminous vests accompany those which call for members to give other road users the right of way.
Mr Einhaus, an engineer, said: "I get the sense that the community knows that this is something the authorities haven't looked at yet. And we're afraid of one black sheep spoiling the experience for everyone.
"That is why we advocate safe riding. The community is trying to look after itself."
But some say that it is not enough.
A retiree, who wanted to be known only as Mr Lee, told TNP he had got into a few incidents with speeding e-scooters users at his void deck in Bedok.
The 63-year-old said in Mandarin: "They are fast and hard to dodge and they look like they can't brake properly. I can't tell them apart from regular scooters, which are less dangerous."
"They should stay out of void decks where there could be a lot of old people."
CONVENIENCE FOR COMMUTERS
Experts tell TNP that e-scooters could be the solution to the "last mile problem" here.
Head of the urban transport management programme at SIM University, Dr Park Byung Joon, explained: "The last mile or last kilometre problem is regarding how commuters get to the transport points, such as MRT stations or bus stops.
"Even in the cities where the public transportation network is comprehensively built, commuters have to make a trip to the public transport point to use the transport network. The most common solution to the last kilometre problem is walking."
Editor of Torque magazine, Mr David Ting, said: "The e-scooter is ideal to cover this distance and its portability means it can be taken on the train or bus easily."
He cited the LTA Household Interview Travel Survey 2012, which found that 67 per cent of residents who live within 800m of an MRT station take public transport.
That number fell to 55 per cent for those living beyond 2km. The rest prefer driving to their destination.
E-scooters can be a viable alternative to private cars for distances of less than 10km, said Mr Ting.
Transport economist Michael Li from Nanyang Business School said there is also a cost issue.
E-scooters cost upwards of $1,000 and can be cheaper if bought online.
Said Dr Li: "It's all about how much time it saves you as compared to your current mode of transport.
"If it can save you 10 minutes of travel time, then the question is how much you are willing to pay for it."
He added that Nanyang Technological University has a plan for the use of e-scooters for staff and students to reduce motorised traffic in its campus. But the plan was put aside because of cost.
"The other key concern is safety. LTA or someone else has to decide where and how these vehicles can be used.
"Regulation is one of the biggest hurdles right now," said Dr Li.
"They are fast and hard to dodge and they look like they can't brake properly. I can't tell them apart from regular scooters, which are less dangerous."
- A retiree who wanted to be known as Mr Lee
WHAT ARE KICK SCOOTERS?
The kick scooter was created by Swiss-born former banker Wim Ouboter in the 1990s. Powered by an electric motor and fuelled by lithium polymer batteries, an e-scooter can weigh less than 10kg and travel more than 30km on a single charge.
Types of portable electric vehicles
ELECTRIC KICK SCOOTER
Description: A kick scooter with its front wheel powered by an electric motor. Modern versions use high-capacity lithium polymer batteries.
Top speed: Up to 30kph
Power: Versions with motors producing more than 250 watts are available.
Brakes: Disc/drum or electric brake.
Weight: About 10kg
Description: Requires some practice to use. Balanced by an internal gyroscope, it moves forward when the user leans to the front.
Range: Up to 30km
Top speed: Up to 20kph
Power: The most powerful models have a 1,500-watt electric motor.
Brakes: To slow down, the user must lean backwards.
Weight: Less than 10kg
PHOTO: ST FILE
TWO-WHEELED ELECTRIC VEHICLE
Description: Used in Sentosa and Changi Airport, the twin-wheeled self-balancing transporter moves in the direction the user leans.
Range: Up to 20km
Top speed: Up to 10kph
Power: Electric motor of about 1,500 watts.
Brakes: Lean backwards to slow down.
Weight: Around 30kg