Ban e-scooters until infrastructure is in place

Avid e-scooter users will no doubt argue that most are careful, conscientious, considerate and law-abiding.
Avid e-scooter users will no doubt argue that most are careful, conscientious, considerate and law-abiding. PHOTO: ST FILE

Kudos to the French authorities for taking the decision to ban e-scooters from pavements. They are, simply put, a hazard. So, the decision taken here to take them off the roads and unleash them on pedestrians is puzzling, to say the least.

My issue, and I believe I'm not alone in this, is with the people who ride e-scooters.

Avid e-scooter users will no doubt argue that most are careful, conscientious, considerate and law-abiding. This may or may not be true, because seven to eight out of every 10 e-scooter riders I've ever seen do not demonstrate these qualities.

They show scant regard for the safety of pedestrians - they slalom through crowds, carry passengers, zip by pedestrians without warning and, of course, use their mobile devices.

The regular reports of accidents here reveal that one errant rider is all it takes to hurt, cause permanent injury, or worse. Enforcement is practically non-existent and understandably so.

And yet, e-scooter riders have been taken off the roads for their safety, and inflicted upon the pedestrian population. Riders are encouraged to wear helmets and safety gear. Do pedestrians need similar protection?

We are constantly reminded that we are an ageing population. This means slower reaction times and reduced ability to avoid collisions with virtually silent e-scooters. The youngest of our pedestrians are also put at risk.

If e-scooters are meant to help move Singapore towards a car-lite society, it is a laudable sentiment. But the necessary infrastructure needs to be put in place first. This has not been done by any measure. If the plan is to create the required infrastructure over time, are pedestrians who are hurt or killed by e-scooter riders mere collateral damage?

Exactly who needs to be hurt or worse before good sense prevails on the part of the relevant authorities?

For decades, chewing gum has been "banned" because of the damage some people caused to property and infrastructure.

Aren't human lives worth, at the very least, the same consideration?

Perhaps until structures are in place or all e-scooter users ride with responsibility, these devices should be banned from public areas altogether.

Remesh Panicker

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2019, with the headline 'Ban e-scooters until infrastructure is in place'. Print Edition | Subscribe