They zip across walkways with scant regard for pedestrians. They either appear without warning, catching any unsuspecting passerby off-guard or blast cringe-worthy techno music with portable disco lights that could rival any Zouk Out set up. They appear in the news for all the wrong reasons – another kid or elderly resident gets run over; another fire that forces the evacuation of an entire HDB block. They are the much derided e-scooters and personal mobility devices (PMDs) of Singapore.
A spike in E-Scooter fires
In 2017, there were 49 fires involving e-scooters, according to statistics released by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). This number spiked by more than 50% to 74 in 2018. The spate of fires compelled the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to consider reviewing a deadline for the devices to meet fire safety standards.
E-scooter related injuries have been on the rise. According to emergency departments, the number of e-scooter and personal mobility device riders who met with accidents and sustained injuries serious enough to be admitted to hospitals jumped from 10 in 2017 to 23 in 2018.
Mount Elizabeth Hospital released a public advisory about the risks of e-scooter collisions.
A pedestrian who is hit by the device could suffer serious or even deadly injuries – with the elderly and young children particularly at risk. Furthermore, given that it takes time for e-scooters to decelerate and come to a stop, collisions are likely to happen any time a rider sees a pedestrian too late.-Mount Elizabeth Hospital
In July, a video was uploaded on social media by Tune Extreme, which touted its e-scooter modification services. The 40-second clip featured a black e-scooter zipping along a remote stretch of Tanah Merah Cost Road at a speed of 150kmh. At that speed, any collision with a pedestrian or physical barrier would likely be fatal.
Such stories are far from the exception. Under the Active Mobility Act, PMDs cannot exceed 20kg in weight, be wider than 70cm, or travel faster than 25kmh. The LTA detected 1,700 active mobility offences in the first half of 2019. A third of them were for using non-compliant devices. Users who were caught flouting these regulations had their e-scooter engines modified for greater speed or added decals which increased the overall weight of the e-scooter.
In a most recent case, one rider was charged in court for riding his e-scooter along a public road at a “very high speed”. Further checks by the traffic police revealed that his e-scooter weighed 48.28kg, well above the 20kg weight limit.
Calls to ban E-Scooters grow
With e-scooter accidents, injuries, and fires on the rise, more Singaporeans — including Members of Parliament (MPs) — have joined a growing chorus of voices calling for e-scooters to be banned. Germany in May 2019 banned e-scooters from pavements and France will follow suit in September. In the United Kingdom, roads and pavements are off-limits to e-scooters and restricted to private property.