Singapore

Ban PMDs on pavements? Residents split over use at void decks, footpaths

This article is more than 12 months old

Some pedestrians TNP spoke to want ban on footpaths; transport consultant says separate path for such users is the ideal

The incident occurred two months ago, but Madam Hamidah Mohd Noor, 70, still remembers clearly the moment an e-scooter zoomed past her, narrowly missing her when she was out on her daily evening walk.

"It was so close, I felt the wind as he went by. I have a heart problem, and it was quite a shock," she said.

It is such incidents that have made several MPs call for a ban of personal mobility devices (PMDs) on void decks and footpaths in Parliament last Tuesday.

Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) and Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) asked for PMDs to be banned from void deck spaces.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) called for them to be banned on footpaths, following the rising number of accidents involving PMDs.

In response, noting the differing configurations of void decks at different places, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said town councils can decide whether to enforce such a ban.

While the Active Mobility Act governs the use of PMDs and bicycles in areas such as footpaths, other spaces such as void decks - including lift lobbies and mailbox areas - are exempted, he said.

This is because they are deemed as "not critical for connectivity", he noted.

Banning PMDs from footpaths and restricting their use to roads would pose a greater risk to riders as well as motorists, he said, noting that in February, the speed limit for PMDs and bicycles on footpaths had been reduced from 15kmh to 10kmh as part of efforts to enhance safety.

His response has prompted several readers to write to The Straits Times, asking why the authorities are prioritising the safety of PMD users over pedestrians.

The New Paper spoke to residents at Lorong 4 Toa Payoh – a hot spot for PMD users – last Thursday and found that they were divided over the issue.

Madam Noor, a retiree, is among those who want a ban on PMDs on pavements – as is Madam Alice Goh, 54, who works in retail.

"Some estates have many old people walking around who may not hear well or have delayed reactions, and these PMDs move so fast," said Madam Goh.

WHERE WILL THEY GO?

Retiree Chris Choo, 65, felt it was more perilous for e-scooter riders to be on roads.

"If we don't let them onto pedestrian pathways, where will they go?" he asked.

Retiree Jeffrey Tan, 66, called for a total ban on PMDs.

"We don't have the infrastructure to support PMDs, and now the Government is taking half measures by imposing more stringent regulations instead of outright banning them. It feels like they are not prioritising the safety of pedestrians."

Transport consultant Gopinath Menon, 75, said he would prefer to have PMD users on a separate path.

He said: "If we cannot provide the ideal then we have to learn to share. Sharing means a give-and-take attitude among all users and showing consideration towards the more vulnerable user, the pedestrian."

Ms Lee said a comprehensive response was required.

She suggested dedicated PMD paths, licensing and third-party insurance for riders, not allowing e-scooter sharing and more frequent enforcement.

Ms Lee told TNP: "If the problem persists, we can ban e-scooters and e-bikes on footpaths totally. Other types of PMDs that are not as fast and as heavy can still be allowed."

Ms Pereira told TNP the PMD issue should not be a zero-sum game between pedestrians, e-scooter riders and motorists.

"Everybody's safety is important, and this is why we have the difficult issue of how to go about ensuring the safest environment for all," she said.

While she agreed that dedicated lanes and paths for PMDs and cyclists would be the most ideal, she acknowledged that not every town has the luxury of space for such paths, and it can be factored in only through town planning for the future.

"For now, in tandem with the compulsory registration, I hope to see measures being put in place to track PMD users speed (possibly compulsory speedometers that are registered to their owners)," she said.

She suggested that LTA step up its use of both staff and technology to better carry out effective enforcement work.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KOK YUFENG

COMMUNITY ISSUES