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Singaporean Pedestrians Are Losing to Hoverboards, E-Scooters, And Segways

Personal mobility devices have become increasingly popular in Singapore. Some pedestrians aren’t happy.
Photo via Pixabay

When personal mobility devices (PMD) such as hoverboards and scooters were introduced in Singapore, they were touted as game-changers to the country’s transport system. They filled a crucial gap during one’s last-mile commute, a term used to describe the last step in commuting, e.g. the trip from the bus stop to the house, or from the train station to the office. Why walk when you can just zip to work on a small pair of wheels?


They’ve now become a popular option for commuters—80,000 PMDs are currently in use in Singapore, according to a report by the South China Morning Post. They’re also a bane to the pedestrians who have had to share the road.

This rift between PMDs and the rest of Singapore is just the latest in the country’s efforts to find efficient solutions to the last-mile commute. The popular option that came before it, bike-sharing, sharply declined two years since its introduction because of similar woes of public safety.

Regulations consider PMDs more pedestrian than car; people operating them are considered users, not drivers. They’re also commonly used on pedestrian environments, like footpaths and sidewalks. As such, accidents involving PMDs are becoming impossible to ignore.

A 2018 report by Singaporean Parliament said that three accidents involving PMDs in public space occurred every week. Singaporean press reported that 228 PMD-related accidents were recorded in 2017 and 2018, according to Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan. Some heavily modified e-scooters dubbed as “monsters” or “beasts” can run as fast as 150 kilometers per hour. The speed limit for PMDs is 25 kilometers per hour.

On a more dangerous note, 54 PMD-related fires were recorded in the first half of this year, a huge jump from a recorded 74 for the whole of 2018. Most of the fires were triggered by PMDs left charging.

An essay called Smart Mobility: Disrupting Transport Governance? points out that new transport innovations such as PMDs are not just seen as a new means to travel the city but also a tool for economic development. The rise of more convenient alternatives to walking isn’t just desirable to citizens but to governments themselves. In that vein, the Singaporean government is still finding a solution that will satisfy both fans and critics of PMDs.

Singapore’s legislative stance towards the vehicles have been a “let’s monitor and then try to mitigate when the worst happens,” Walter Theseira, a top researcher on Singapore’s public transport, told South China Morning Post. Policymakers are guided by the belief that they need to take a relaxed stance towards PMDs and other innovations to maintain Singapore’s forward-thinking image, he added.

But they’ve also been forced to take action. Fifteen town councils recently banned PMDs from the common areas in public housing complexes, according to Channel News Asia. The government is also requiring all PMDs to undergo certification, making Singapore the first country to do so. While the original deadline was on December 2020, they moved it up to July 2020 as a result of the recent safety concerns.

Singapore is just one country coming to grips with the rise of these devices. France recently banned e-scooters in pavements and have instead relegated them to dedicated cycling paths. San Francisco lifted their ban on electric scooters and introduced them back on the market, albeit with stricter regulations. The burden now falls on Singapore’s government to find a balance between pedestrians and PMD users; between innovation and public safety.