Singapore

Some netizens want stricter rules for e-bikes

Some call for e-bike ban following fatal accidents, others suggest raising safety awareness and increasing rider visibility

The Internet was abuzz with conflicting reactions after two e-bikers died in an accident on West Coast Highway on Thursday night.

While some took to Facebook to send their well-wishes to the sole survivor - an injured teen - and offer condolences to the families of the deceased, others called for stricter rules and a ban on e-bikes because of the increasing number of accidents involving such bikes.

The police have said the lorry driver involved in this latest case was arrested for causing death by negligence.

But some netizens have commented that allowing e-bikes on the road invites risks.

Some have cited their own experiences of seeing e-bike riders speeding, zipping in and out of traffic and even beating red lights.

Facebook user PatPal Tan said in a comment on The New Paper Facebook page: "My deepest condolences to the bereaved families. I would hope that it's time our LTA/authorities do something regarding these e-bikes on the road.

"They must understand it's very risky for all road users as some of these e-bikers tend to travel at extreme high speed on the road, carrying pillion (riders), and sometimes without any safety gear like helmets...It's time the authority take (sic) appropriate actions before more and more road users get into road accidents."

Another Facebook user, Jacky Loh, said: "I think it's time the government takes a strong stand and ban (sic) e-bikes on the road...We have read (of) such accidents far too many times, endangering so many people. It's time to keep them off the road."

A friend of the two men who died in Thursday's accident told TNP that netizens' comments, some of which said that the e-bike riders did not deserve sympathy, shocked her.

The woman, who is between jobs and wanted to be known only as Phoebe, 22, said that she had last seen her friends in August.

Between tears, she said in Mandarin: "These people don't spare any thoughts for the feelings of their family and friends.

"They were such happy-go-lucky boys and now they are gone like this."

RESTRICTIONS LOOM

But will the deaths of these happy-go-lucky boys cause the laws for e-bikes to be tightened?

Some restrictions are already in the works.

The Active Mobility Advisory Panel's recommendations, announced at the Committee of Supply Debate this year, stated that e-bikes should not be allowed on pavements and allowed only on shared and cycling paths, as these are generally wider than footpaths.

They can also be used on roads but must keep to a speed limit of 25kmh.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) also announced this year that it will soon require the registration of e-bikes, for more effective enforcement against illegal modifications.

E-bikes must also have electric motors that come on only when the rider starts to pedal.

The motor must be progressively reduced and finally cut off if the rider stops pedalling or when the e-bike reaches 25kmh.

On suggestions to ban e-bikes, Singapore Safety Driving Centre's operations manager Gerard Pereira said: "Banning e-bikes doesn't solve the problem, people will always find alternatives.

"E-bikes are a convenience to many and it's not just e-bikers who get into accidents."

He said: "What you need is to educate the sellers and owners of such equipment."

Mr Pereira said the key to preventing such accidents from happening again is visibility.

"E-bikes are smaller than motorbikes. They don't take up the whole lane and are harder to spot than motorbikes, so it's even more dangerous," he said.

As "visibility is very important", e-bike riders should preferably have blinking lights attached, he added.

Mr Steven Lim, 49, president of the Safe Cycling Task Force, agreed.

"There's always a risk for all road users. The bigger question for all road users is, 'Have you done all you can to try to keep yourself and others safe?' For cyclists (and e-bike riders) it means wearing a helmet, bright clothing and covered shoes," said Mr Lim.

Another suggestion Mr Lim and Mr Pereira had to prevent such accidents is for road users, especially e-bike riders and cyclists, to plan their routes to avoid heavy traffic or big junctions.

Said Mr Lim: "Look for the best route. The shortest route isn't always the safest."

Mr Lim added that ultimately, everyone on the road plays a part.

He said: "As long as you're on the road, safety becomes everyone's responsibility.

"E-bikes are a good form of transportation, so we should use them properly and safely."

E-bikes help 'cut travel costs'

Despite the dangers, some e-bikers will continue riding them for the convenience and the savings on transport bills.

Mr Jasmi Arsat, 32, told The New Paper: "I need it for transportation. I ride it to work every day."

The car washer, who earns around $1,200 a month, said he found it difficult to afford the daily bus fares. His wife, who earns around $900 a month, works part-time as a cashier at a petrol kiosk. They have an eight-year-old son.

He said that the $2 to travel from his home at Lorong 1 to his workplace and back by bus was eating into the family finances.

The family saved money for two months to afford the e-bike which he bought on Carousell for $500.

"We can use the e-bike for a long time and save money, that's why I bought it," he said.

Another e-biker, Mr Muhammad Hanifa, 60, said: "For me, it takes around $1.20 to take a bus."

Mr Hanifa, who earns $1,400 a month tending to horses, said he cannot afford a motorcycle.

A Certificate of Entitlement for motorcycles now costs $6,354.

With an e-bike, he said he only has to replace the battery for $200 after about a year of use. He was not sure how much he spends on keeping the bike charged.

His e-bike, which is not modified, goes at a top speed of about 30kmh, and Mr Hanifa likes not having to pedal much.

- Joseph Lee

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