In a piece of sudden news, the Singapore Government bans the PMD (Personal Mobility Device) on all footpaths from 5th November 2019. This, in my opinion, is almost the same as “banning them on footpaths with immediate effect”.
The news came as a shock because it is sudden and because the ban starts immediately.
Those who loathe the PMDs, they will be laughing and celebrating on this ban. It is like a small victory (the big victory will be to ban the PMD permanently in Singapore, right?). And they must be thinking, “You had it coming with all the accidents/incidents on PMDs”.
Those who love the PMDs will be thinking of what they will have to do now if they cannot ride on footpaths.
Initially, I intend to write an opinion piece on PMD with the title: “Opinion: What happens if Singapore bans PMDs“. Now, I have changed it because it has become a reality (almost).
Before we start discussing the impact, let us take a short look at the evolution of eScooter in Singapore.
The Evolution of eScooter
The first skate scooter or kick scooter goes a long way back to the 1920s. It slowly evolves to the folding scooter from 1996, and finally, from the year about 2000, battery-operated skate scooter (or electric scooter) came into the scene.
The History of e-Scooter in Singapore
It seems that we are turning the clock back. I will explain why. As early as 2014, PMDs or some called them PEVs (Personal Electric Vehicles), are prohibited anywhere in Singapore except “your own backyard“.
I wrote an opinion piece criticizing our Singapore Government, who on one hand, is promoting a car-lite society and on the other hand, not helping the situation on the last-mile solution at that time.
Finally, in 2016, news that a panel was established to study the impact of PMDs/PEVs on footpaths or PCNs (Park Connectors). This panel is called the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP).
Then, in the same year, Singapore Government accepted the recommendations from AMAP on the rules and regulations of PMDs in Singapore. And in February 2017, the Active Mobility Act was passed in Parliament.
It was a sweet victory for PMD supporters and progress towards the last-mile solution in Singapore. And this also starts the boom of eScooter in Singapore.
Why eBikes or bicycles did not take off in Singapore
When it comes to last-mile solutions, there are several options but based on popularity, only escooters enjoyed the most support.
Singapore is not exactly a cool (literally) country and high humidity is not helping. In Europe, many workers ride to work without drenching themselves in sweat. In Singapore, it is impossible.
Over the years, companies build shower facilities for these workers and businesses leverage the growing demand to build parking areas with shower facilities in the town area.
These never really take off because you still sweat and you have to pay a fee to park your bicycle and/or use the shower facilities.
You might think the game changer is the e-bike or PAB (Power Assist Vehicle). It seems so for a short while until the rules kicked in.
Our Singapore Government has strict rules when it comes to e-bikes. For instance, you need to register them officially, and they have to be power-assisted. That means you must pedal to activate the power to drive the bicycle. You cannot use a throttle (like a motorcycle) to ride the e-bikes. In other words, you might sweat a little to use them.
Some smart alecks tried to modify them to bypass the power-assist and thanks to the crack-down on these illegal modifications, the e-bikes trend start to decline. Plus, AMAP rules state that e-bikes are NOT ALLOWED on footpaths. These really restrict the usage of e-bikes since riding on the road with vehicles in Singapore is not exactly pleasant.
The Boom of e-Scooter in Singapore
As more shops start to sell e-scooters, people become more innovative. Some start to modify the e-scooters to include a seat.
This literally transforms a boring standing electric scooter into an electric vehicle that you can ride with ease by controlling the speed with a speed lever. Singaporeans love it because:
- You can ride within the limit of 25km/hr at park connectors (PCN) without breaking a sweat
- You can ride on a footpath within a limit of 10km/hr from Point A to Point B almost anywhere in Singapore.
- It is small enough to carry it to wherever you want to go.
People start to buy them in all shapes and sizes. Workers start to ride them to work and people in the food delivery services start to use them to deliver food. Parents start to fetch their kids to and from schools.
The Problem with e-Scooter in Singapore
All seems well until issues start to surface. People start to disobey the guidelines by AMAP.
- Shops start to sell these e-scooters beyond the recommended weight of max 20kg, the width of max 70cm and speed limit of 25km/hr.
- e-Scooter riders speed on footpaths or park connectors causing deaths and injuries to the public.
- A handful of irresponsible e-Scooter riders also started to ride on the road at extremely high speed causing danger to themselves, the pedestrians and the motorists.
- e-Scooters with poor safety specifications caused fire at homes when overcharged.
News of fire from PMDs, injuries and reckless riding continue to plague the nation. The AMAP and the Singapore Government try to educate the citizen on responsible riding and fire prevention and tightened the rules of the PMDs.
- To prevent fire arising from short circuits from PMDs, future PMDs must adhere to UL2272-certified regulations. Based on the report, out of the 100,000 PMDs registered, only 20,000 of them are UL2272-certified.
- To educate and instill responsible riding, Police Officers are patrolling the footpaths and PCNs and confiscating PMDs that are out of specs.
Singaporeans are taking things for granted as the situation did not improve. Finally, it seems that our Singapore Government succumbs to the pressure of the public to instill the ban of PMDs on footpaths. You can read all about it HERE.
What happens after the ban is implemented
Although in the official report, it states that there are still 440km of PCNs that PMD users can use, it fails to identify one big issue.
Not all houses have PCNs next to them. To conform to the rule, I can imagine someone pushing the PMD to the park connector before starting to ride them. This is counter-productive and really a setback to the goal of a car-lite society.
Here are my predictions:
- Many food delivery companies are using PMD riders to deliver food. Expect delays in your food from now onwards since they cannot ride on footpaths to homes.
- Commuters may expect a rise in the number of people using public transport because it is not easy to ride a PMD to the workplace without flouting the “no PMD on footpath” rule.
- I have seen more families going out to the parks in recent years, thanks to PMDs. With the new rule, parks may become less crowded because lesser people are riding PMDs.
- Reckless people will still challenge the authority to ride on the road and at high speed.
- People will continue to flout the new rule because there are so many changes to them in recent months and they cannot keep up with the changes.
- There might be lesser complains on the social media on reckless PMD riders on footpaths.
- Pedestrians still get injured from reckless cyclists or motorists.
- Some food delivery riders might be out of jobs with the ban.
- Parents will be complaining about losing their means of transport to fetch their children.
It is a sad day for PMD riders, especially those who recently bought new UL2272 certified PMDs to conform to the new rules.
The banning of PMDs on footpaths is very sudden and at least one company has already started to do something.
They have started a petition against the ban of PMDs on footpath. Click HERE to read the details on Facebook or click HERE to support them.
Food Delivery Companies
Based on a report on Straits Times, Grab mentioned that food delivery might be delayed or canceled due to the new rule as 1 in 3 of the Grabfood delivery riders use PMDs.
Deliveroo, however, is confident that they are not overly affected as only 5% of their delivery riders use PMDs.
And for your information, the Singapore Government will also stop issuing licenses for PMD sharing (which I think Grab is also affected).
Following recent accidents involving PMDs, the Minister for Transport has issued a safety directive prohibiting e-scooter sharing services. Hence, LTA will reject all existing licence applications and will not be inviting applications for PMD sharing licences until further notice.
I believe the Singapore Government is still weighing on options in regards to the ban. Talks will still be taking place to understand the full impact of it.
At least, officially, here is a grand plan on what to expect for PMD users.
To know more information, click HERE.
I enjoyed riding PMDs especially when you need a bit of me-time to relax and let the wind blow into your face.
In my opinion, a small group of PMD users is the real trouble-makers. If this small group of PMD users continue to behave recklessly and disregard the laws, we will be turning back the clock with a full ban on PMDs in Singapore.
All the hard work by AMAP and various groups will be lost. It will definitely be a lose-lose situation. Do not let it escalate to this situation as it takes a long way to reach where we are now. Hopefully, this setback can be reversed.