Maximilian Oh

Nov 6, 2019

5 min read

Just Be a Decent Human Being!

If you’ve been on the internet or read the papers recently, you would be aware of the new ban placed on Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) from riding on footpaths as of 5th November 2019.

This is in line with policy makers attempting to clamp down on irresponsible owners and errant riders in recent months, as a result of a constant slew of PMD-related incidents and accidents.

From void-deck fires to fatal collisions, it may seem that the future of a car-lite world may be killing us, rendering us incapable of leaving the house, in fear of being ran over by a teenager blasting the latest EDM hit through his JBL speakers.

Is a ban the right thing to do?

This petition has made its rounds in the past few months, and rightly so. People are angry and urgently want answers. Why are these errant riders allowed to roam the streets lawlessly? Why don’t they pay road tax? Why aren’t the police clamping down on these riders?

“Why aren’t they banned yet?”

A ban is an easy thing to do. All parliament needs is a few days to debate on the bill, and after consulting stakeholders and policy makers, hold a vote. Chances are that the majority would vote for a ban, be it opposition or ruling party.

However, this is a very lazy way to tackle a complex issue. When vehicles were first introduced, pedestrians who were tired of being run off the roads that were previously meant for everyone campaigned for the complete ban of motor-vehicles.

Can you imagine a world where that was successful? Thankfully, we don’t have to. Regardless of the influence from vehicle manufacturers shifting the blame to pedestrians through media campaigns, I hope that we can collectively agree that licenses, traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, speed limits, etc. all helped to ensure that we could all live a little longer, even with death machines on the road.

So, no. A ban is not the right thing to do.

Infrastructure needed.

At the moment, PMDs are only allowed on shared-paths and Park Connector Networks (PCNs). This is simply not enough infrastructure to support PMD riders to get to school, to work, or to take up food delivery jobs.

This means that a de facto ban is already in place. As in the case of motor vehicles, I sincerely believe that once the right infrastructure is put into place, we will see a fall in PMD-related accidents, even without banning them from riding on footpaths.

Both cyclists and PMD users would benefit from more footpaths being converted into shared-paths. With wider walkways, there is more room for pedestrians and riders to share the space, reducing the likelihood of collisions.

To support food-delivery riders, they can for a reasonable fee, pay to have their PMDs speed-limited and certified to be ridden on the roads, following the same laws that cyclists have to follow. These riders would have to bring in their devices for quarterly checks, and possibly hold an operating license that they can attain only by going through a short riding-course.

This is however going to take money and time, which we don’t have at the moment.

Just be a decent human being!

This may seem obvious to some, but certain people do need this reminder.

We can pass a thousand laws and sign a million petitions, but bad people will be bad people. Murder is illegal but we still have murderers. Drivers can’t crash into people but we still have car accidents.

If riders and pedestrians alike can agree to be decent people and share the walkways, we can reduce the amount of accidents. Don’t have your eyes glued to your phone, slow down when you see pedestrians, and give way to each other.

This can only happen in a perfect society, and no society is perfect. There will always be the outliers, and these are the people that we have to protect ourselves from.

Tougher regulations and limited ownership.

We may be tired of hearing this, since its all ST Forum wants to publish, but it’s true. We must however put into place reasonable regulations.

A compulsory 1–2-hour long riding etiquette lesson should be held for all PMD users. While requesting that PMD owners bring in their PMDs for UL2272 compliance inspections, we should have them attend this compulsory lesson that should be presented as an advisory.

To further combat errant riders, we must put a minimum ownership age on paper. 18 years of age is the legal age for drinking, and driving (but don’t do both at once). Since we can infer that 18 is the age at which teenagers will turn into responsible adults who can intoxicate themselves, as well as be able to drive a death machine, we can agree that it is also the age at which they will be able to responsibly ride PMDs.

Despite backlash from the PMD community, I am in support of more LTA exercises held to confiscate non-compliant devices. The owners of these devices are the ones making a ban the obvious choice for many citizens.

What can we do now?

Even with all the possible ways to reduce accidents without a ban, we have to accept that this will all simply take a lot of time and a lot of resources.

So here’s my suggestions for a temporary fix while the budget is allocated for the research and implementation of proper regulations and infrastructure.

  1. Stop all sales of PMDs for 6 months
  2. Bring the UL2272 inspection deadline up to February 1st
  3. Zero-tolerance policy on non-compliant PMDs
  4. Extend the early-disposal incentive to cover non-compliant and non-registered PMDs
  5. Make use of social media influence-rs to spread responsible riding habits

In conclusion

From my rejected ST Forum letter,

I would like to urge Singaporeans to not support a ban on PMDs, and to instead support the use of PMDs with additional protections in place to make travelling on PMDs and on foot safe and comfortable.

Be safe and sensible,

— Max