Opinion: Are We Ready for eBikes after banning PMDs on footpaths?

Recently, I feel that I ranted a lot. Usually, I keep it to myself because there are many ways to look at matters. This time, I feel that I need to express my thoughts on this: Are we ready to swap PMDs on the footpaths to eBikes on the road?

Background

Without warning, on 4th November 2019, our Singapore Government announced that all PMDs (Personal Mobility Devices) are banned from footpaths from 5th November 2019 onwards.

The biggest impact on this news is food delivery riders from the food delivery companies like GrabFood, Deliveroo, Foodpanda and etc.

Then, in an announcement on Friday (8th November), the government announced a joint grant (together with 3 major food delivery companies – Grab, Deliveroo, Foodpanda) of S$7 million to let these food-delivery riders transit from PMD to another form of transport to avoid the loss of their livelihood due to the ban.

This form of transport can be PAB (Power Assisted Bicycle), PMA (Personal Mobility Aids) or the non-powered bicycles.

You can read the official news below

$7 million E-Scooter Trade-in Grant to Help Food Delivery Riders Switch to Alternative Modes of Transport

This eScooter Trade-in Grant (eTG) allows registered delivery riders to trade in up to S$1,000.

Under this scheme, LTA will match dollar-for-dollar the food delivery companies’ funding support for their food delivery riders who trade in their existing e-scooters for alternative LTA-approved devices – and each rider will receive an eTG of up to $1,000 for PABs or $600 for bicycle. For delivery riders with mobility difficulties who are eligible to use PMAs and wish to continue working for their delivery company, they too will receive an eTG of up to $1,000.

The Risk and Why

Based on the chain of events, all seem well. The Singapore Government has taken immediate steps to help those affected by this ban.

However, as a person who drives, rides a bicycle and also rides PMDs, I can already see the warning lights of a disaster coming.

You might think that changing from a PMD to a PAB is just upgrading the wheel size and adding a pair of pedals to a PMD. In general, you might be correct.

The problem is that you will also be “upgrading” from a footpath to the road. This, in my opinion, is going to go down badly.

Firstly, Singapore roads are not bicycle or PAB friendly. Unlike some countries, our bicycle lanes are not on the road. It is usually with the footpaths.

For illustration purposes only.

And Singapore drivers are not exactly good at co-existing with bicycles or PABs on the road.

Secondly, PMD users are not familiar with Singapore road conditions. On a footpath, as an ex-PMD user, the worst you can get is to collide with a pedestrian, a bicycle, other PMDs or fall off from it. On a road, you are vulnerable to getting hit by cars traveling at high speed with your minimum protection (helmet) because you are small (as compared to them) and cannot be seen from their blind spots.

Thirdly, traffic rules apply. How many of our PMD users (that are upgrading to PAB users) are familiar with them?

For example, to make a right turn on a Singapore road, the rider needs to filter to the right on the road and follow the traffic rules to turn right. Without skills and knowledge, I believe it will be disastrous to both the PAB riders and motorists. It is like getting someone without a driver’s license to drive on a road.

Of course, you can argue that they can use the traffic lights to cross the road. You are correct if they bother to dismount from their PABs, push them across the traffic junctions and join back to the road after the crossing. How many, do you think, will do this?

Fourthly, jams on the footpath and PCNs (Park Connectors). With the ban of PMDs on footpaths, some will switch to PABs. PABs are generally larger and take up more space. On footpaths, PAB users will have to push their PABs after dismounting. Imagine the width needed for the PAB and the person pushing it. Pedestrians will have to squeeze through them on footpaths.

Likewise, for PCNs, more PABs will mean more space needed for them to co-exist with park users. Based on our current PCNs, not all are upgraded with wider width.

Summary

I find it hard to believe that the Singapore Government would push a ban without comprehensive thoughts on the outcome. For example, if the PMD riders’ did not complain, will the eTG (eScooter Trade-in Grant) happens? Did our Government think about it in the first place? What is the expected outcome of the ban?

This is my version of “expectation vs reality”.

Expectation:

  • Lesser complains of PMDs on footpaths.
  • Lesser people injured by PMDs on footpaths or PCNs.
  • People are happy with the swift decision on the ban.
  • The goal of car-lite society continues despite the small hiccups.

Reality:

  • Increasing complains from motorists on PAB users on the road.
  • More reported injuries (including fatal injuries) of PAB users on the road
  • More insurance claims against PAB users on the road
  • Increasing complains of PABs blocking the footpaths.
  • Increasing complains of congestion on PCNs due to PABs
  • Increasing reported cases of people injured by PABs on PCNs
  • eScooter business owners closing shops because of the ban
  • People are frustrated because they followed the Government’s recommendations to register their eScooters, upgrade them to comply with UL2272 certification just before the ban.
  • Speedsters on PMDs continue to ride on the road at high speed.

There is no perfect way to resolve the issues. I am ranting because if I can see the negative outcome of the ban, why can’t our Government see them. I am not against the ban. I am against the way it was suddenly implemented that is affecting the PMD users and the PMD/food delivery businesses.

More thoughts should have been done. Why wasn’t AMAP (Active Mobility Advisory Panel) being consulted before the ban? If AMAP was so crucial in the decision to allow PMDs on footpaths and PCNs initially, they should be in the discussion to ban PMDs on footpaths.

What do you think?