Warning: Singapore’s sidewalk is no longer safe for those who walk (PMD Debate)

Today, I’m going to deviate from the norm and talk about how living in Singapore is like, or more specifically, how PMDs have changed the way we WALK in Singapore.

What’s a PMD? It stands for Personal Mobility Device and include transport devices such as e-scooters and motor-powered bikes.

PMD in Singapore
Motor-powered bicycle in Singapore

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 25km 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.

PMDs in Singapore
Pedestrians turning back to check for PMDs approaching from the back
PMD in Singapore
This PMD user did not speed, that’s why accident didn’t happen. But not all riders are responsible

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.

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

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 was to allow citizens to report errant PMD users by submitting photos and videos through an app.

Hmm…I wonder if the person who came up with this solution actually spend enough time walking along pedestrian walkways. Because he or she would have then known that a pedestrian travelling at human speed would not have enough time to – take out phone, unlock pin, aim the camera – and take a proper shot of the speeding PMD user.

And we are not even talking about someone who has been knocked because she would probably be in shock or concussion to take a photo of the culprit.

I am not hopeful solution #2 would work because I’ve tried. By the time I snapped a shot, 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 weren’t catered for in 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.

PMDs in Singapore
This bicycle path lasts about 30 metres?
Personal Mobility Device Singapore
This one lasts 15m? The cyclist didn’t bother to take the right lane given such abrupt start and stop

A second reason why this would not work is the lack of public education and 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.

Personal Mobility Device Singapore
Man using cyclist path. Cyclist using man’s path. Which path should I take?


My Proposed Solution to Tackle PMD Issue

Well, I’m not an expert and have not been paid to research on a plausible solution. Given my hectic schedule, here’s what I’ve come up with without spending too much time (yeah, so don’t take my words too seriously).

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.

PMDs in Singapore
Existing infrastructure is not ready for dual paths – too many start-stops

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:

Personal Mobility Device Singapore
Elderly carrying a kid and walking on the cyclist path

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? 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.

Please feel free to voice your thoughts, whether you are a pedestrian or a PMD user. Do you face any inconvenience or difficulty? What changes would you like to see taking place?

That’s all I have for you today. If you love more of our honest reviews, click the button and we’ll notify you whenever a new post is published. See ya! 


(This post was first published on 24 July 2019)

Pin This!

PMDs in Singapore

This post may contain affiliate links. Read mfull disclosure for more info.

(Visited 65 time, 1 visit today)

2 thoughts on “Warning: Singapore’s sidewalk is no longer safe for those who walk (PMD Debate)”

  1. Hmm. Like you, I’ve also developed a habit of checking behind me when walking on footpaths nowadays. (Or when jogging). Worse, I sometimes have to cross pavements the same way I cross roads. Left, right, left look, etc.

    Anyway, I think a separate path is the ultimate solution, but that will take time to build. In addition, there probably needs to be some form of active policing. I can foresee riders not using their rightful path, if only for the kick of it.

    1. Maybe after a while, we – the pedestrians – would get used to the new way of walking, and then everyone would be safe and happy. :)

      I actually think PMD is very useful and who knows, I may one day be a user. Hopefully, a separate path would be ready by then.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest