Today, I’m going to talk about how living in Singapore is like, or more specifically, how PMDs such as e-scooters have changed the way we WALK in Singapore.
What’s a PMD? It stands for Personal Mobility Device and include transport devices such as electronic scooters and motor-powered bikes.
Update: This post was first published in Jul 2019. With effect from 5 Nov 2019, e-scooters would be banned on footpath in Singapore. Let’s hope that Singapore’s walkways would be safe from then onwards. Do continue to read through on why this ban was made.
Such devices, which can travel many times faster than human can, have been allowed to share the 1.5m-wide footpath with pedestrians. Although the speed limit has been capped at 10km per hour in Singapore, many seemed to be flouting the rule. In one notable case, an e-scooter was caught travelling at 150km/hour.
With the growing number of injury and death caused by PMDs, some solutions have been proposed and implemented. Let us take a look at the current solutions and see if they can prevent another unlucky person(s) from getting hit or killed by PMDs.
Thanks to PMDs, I Now Walk as if I’m Driving a Car
In recent months (or years), I have developed a habit of turning back to check for “traffic” before veering to the other side of the walkway. It was as if I was driving a car, and I needed to check whether it was clear for me to switch “lane”.
Now, do note that there’s no lane per se, just an imaginary line. This habit came about after a few close shaves when I was almost knocked down by personal mobility devices.
On one occasion, I turned right to get access to the traffic crossing waiting area, and was almost knocked down by an e-scooter. On another occasion, an e-bike missed me by an inch when I was alighting from a bus.
My luck must have run out last month because an e-bike hit my elbow and caused me to lose my balance when I was on my way home after a jog. How he was able to hit me when I’d been walking in a straight path was beyond my comprehension.
Why is the Onus on Pedestrians to Look out for PMDs that they couldn’t see?
It seems like the onus now falls on pedestrians’ shoulders to watch out for Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) even though these devices normally approach from behind.
This is a win-lose situation where the PMDs gain the convenience of speed at the expense of the pedestrians, who can no longer walk at ease without having their safety compromised. The following are some recent accidents that took place when people were just innocently walking along the pavement.
- Girls jaw & gums had to be aligned after accident with e-scooter
- E-scooter rider caused brain injuries to 55 year old housewife
- E-scooter hit Taiwanese tourist outside MRT
What solutions did the authority come up with to tackle the rising accidents involving PMDs?
I thought the PMD Solution was a Straightforward one
I honestly didn’t think this simple problem requires a complex solution. The trend shows us that citizens kept getting hit by personal mobility devices. Those who weren’t hurt probably lived and walked in fear (like I do).
So, I thought the solution should be to restrict PMDs on footpath. A footpath is named as such for a reason – it’s meant for those travelling on FOOT!
A footpath is also known as sidewalk and walkway. Notice that they both consist of the word “Walk”? Not ride, scoot or zoom.
Instead, the following solutions were implemented
The current solutions introduced by the authority to reduce PMD accidents are to:
1) Reduce travelling speed of PMDs
2) Allow citizens to report on errant users, and
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3) Create a separate lane for PMDs on the pedestrian walkways
Let’s look at each of these current solutions and see why they are unlikely to be effective.
Current Solution #1 – Reduce Allowable Travelling Speed of PMDs
The authority limited the speed of PMDs on footpath. Sure, that sounds like a good idea. But, how do we prevent errant users from flouting the rules?
Are there (enough) traffic cameras installed on the pavements? Do we have enough enforcement officers assigned to catch errant users? What’s the percentage of those who were caught?
I doubt this has been an effective solution because I continue to see fast-moving PMDs zoom past me every day. Also, if it had been effective, then there probably wouldn’t be a need for solution #2 which came out just a few days ago.
Current Solution #2 – Allow Citizens to Report on Errant PMD Users
A second solution is to allow citizens to report errant PMD users by submitting photos and videos through an app.
I am not hopeful solution #2 would work because I’ve tried. By the time I snapped a photo, the speeding PMD that zoomed past me was the size of an ant in my photo.
I’m also not sure how many PMDs are registered and carry a visible registration number. And lastly, how do we (citizens) prove that the PMD exceeds the permissible speed when non-technical devices (eyeballs) were used to measure speed?
Current Solution #3 – A Separate Lane on the Walkways for PMDs
Based on my daily observation, having dual lanes (one for PMDs and another for people) aren’t effective in reducing collision.
Simply put, the infrastructure we have in Singapore today is not ready, as PMDs were not part of the initial city planning. There’s just not enough space on existing walkways, and probably too many obstacles (e.g. trees, bus stops) that can’t be relocated.
Look at these bicycle lanes that start and stop abruptly every hundred metres or so. Does this really help avoid collision when the PMDs need to swerve in and out of shared footpath?
Honestly, this seems like a make-shift solution.
A second reason why this would not work is the lack of public awareness. No one seems to be following the lanes they should be on. I see pedestrians using the “PMD lane” and PMDs using the pedestrian lane.
It has been so confusing that although I knew which lane I should take, I couldn’t because I may be knocked down if I follow the rule.
My Proposed Solution to Tackle PMD Issue
Well, I’m not an expert. Off the cuff, perhaps PMDs should be allowed on footpaths only after the infrastructure is ready or awareness program has been successful implemented.
This means that the pavement should be rebuilt and widened to create realistically-usable PMD lane (not one that breaks every 100m). Also, people should be aware of the path they should take in a shared lane.
Prior to achieving the above, don’t let PMDs share a sidewalk when vulnerable pedestrians, including kids, elderly and pregnant women, are using it.
More accidents caused by PMDs:
- Youth knocked into toddler while riding e-scooter in shopping mall
- e-Scooter allegedly hit child along Orchard Road
- e-Bike rider rode into jogger and caused brain injury
Create a special lane for PMDs that’s on the road, not footpath
How about creating a lane on the road that is specially dedicated to PMDs? With the PMDs’ desire to travel fast, why make them go turtle speed at 10km/hour on footpaths (for info, human walking speed is 5km/hr)? That defeats the purpose of them having a PMD in the first place. And the likelihood is that many would flout the law.
Let PMDs be where they are supposed to be – at the fast lane, but a safer one. Those who love the convenience of speed can then consider if they are willing to bear the risk of travelling alongside other fast-moving devices.
At least they have a choice. Right now, the pedestrians don’t!
Okay, this is a random rambling from me. But I’m doing it with a purpose – I’m hoping that we can change things by voicing our thoughts loud and clear. If you are with me, let’s try to make use of the media to effect change. Don’t let PMDs share a FOOTpath. It’s common sense!
Give them a dedicated lane that is exclusively theirs, usable and that won’t be mistaken by pedestrians as a walkway.
Update: e-Scooter would be banned from 5 Nov 2019. This is partially due to a fatal incident in Sep 2019 and a strong outcry from the public.
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(This post was first published on 24 July 2019)
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