Errant e-scooter riders to blame for ban on footpaths: Experts
E-scooters will be allowed only on park connectors and bicycle lanes from today. Ban on footpaths draws relief, but also raises concerns
Every day after school, five days a week, Mr Putra Zulfadhli, 18, makes food deliveries on his e-scooter till 9pm, to raise his own school fees and pocket money.
The Institute of Technical Education student, who works with GrabFood, spends most of the weekend making deliveries.
But he will now have to think of another way to make his deliveries with new restrictions on personal mobility devices (PMDs) kicking in.
In Parliament yesterday, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min announced that starting today, e-scooters will be banned from footpaths.
This means that riders can use the devices only on park connectors and bicycle lanes, as PMDs are already banned from roads.
Warnings will be given to those who flout the ban from now until the end of the year. But from next year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will adopt a zero-tolerance approach and those caught riding on footpaths can face a fine of up to $2,000 and/or jail of up to three months.
The ban was introduced following persistent errant riding and a spate of accidents recently, which has led to much anxiety among pedestrians, particularly more vulnerable groups such as the elderly and children.
Transport economist Michael Li told The New Paper that the ban reflects the behaviour of errant users.
He said: "It is due to the misbehaviour of a few users. There has been much done, whether education or regulation, to ensure safety, but people continued not to listen, and pushed the Government into a corner."
Urban transport expert Park Byung Joon said that while it would be ideal if a balance could be struck between ensuring safety and allowing PMD use, in this case, Singapore cannot have its cake and eat it.
Associate Professor Park said: "Motorised wheels should not have been allowed on footpaths to begin with.
"No one expected how quickly e-scooters would enter (the market), it caught everyone off-guard. The LTA tried to catch up, and many initiatives were introduced. But they did not work, so in the interest of safety, the ban is the right call."
He added that keeping e-scooters to bike lanes and park connectors means the use of the devices will continue, but in tandem with the infrastructure to support it.
Experts said the ban will affect the livelihoods of many, and it will be a huge blow for those who rely on the devices.
Mr Shah Ahamad, founder of e-scooter interest group Brotherhood Scooterz, told TNP that since news of the announcement broke, he had received many concerned phone calls and messages from members of the PMD community.
He said: "People ask me what they are going to do to find makan (make a living) now. So many people rely on the devices for a livelihood, to earn money."
Mr Denis Koh, chairman of scooter enthusiast group Big Wheel Scooters Singapore, said the ban came as a big disappointment for the e-scooter community.
He said: "The ban does not eliminate the problem of errant riding. We should focus on the problem of errant riding as the main culprit, not the device. Even with just bicycles, those who choose to display errant behaviour will continue to do so."
Mr Koh added that many had adopted e-scooters as modes of transport and more importantly, many have built their livelihoods with it.
He said: "To lose all that due to a handful of black sheep is a pity and a big blow to active mobility."
ITE student Zulfadhli told TNP: "In order to earn enough, I can ride over 50km a day on weekends. Before, while using a bicycle, I could make between 15 and 20 deliveries, but my body would hurt so badly the next day and I had no energy to do anything other than shower and go to sleep.
"I bought my PMD for about $800 in June, and with it, I can easily make 27 deliveries a day, and still have energy for schoolwork, friends and family.
"I am very disappointed by the announcement. I will have to work harder to save money so I can afford a motorcycle and licence to continue making deliveries."
While there are concerns among riders, the ban has been a long time coming for pedestrians.
Ms Eileen Sim, 28, the niece of Madam Ong Bee Eng, 65, the cyclist who died after a collision with a PMD rider on a cycling path in Bedok in late September, said she and her family were glad to hear the news.
The relationship manager said: "It pains us whenever we get reminded of my aunt's absence.
"I feel her death has helped a lot of people indirectly because this ban of PMDs on footpaths can prevent accidents like this from happening again."
- ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KOK YUFENG