Give pedestrians right of way on footpaths

A man on an electric scooter or personal mobility device (PMD) riding on the pavement along Holland Road, on March 6, 2018.
A man on an electric scooter or personal mobility device (PMD) riding on the pavement along Holland Road, on March 6, 2018. PHOTO: ST FILE

I was shocked to learn that the number of off-road accidents involving active mobility users has almost doubled, from 132 in 2017 to 251 last year (CCTVs to detect offences, 40,000 e-scooters registered, March 8).

There were only 19 such cases in 2015, and the yearly increase is unacceptable.

The long-term solution is to improve infrastructure to cater for the riding community and educate them on safe riding. This would, however, take time, and we cannot afford to compromise the safety of pedestrians any further.

One of the root causes of accidents involving personal mobility devices is the ambiguity over who has the right of way.

This results in "innocent and dangerous" riders who believe that they have the right of way as long as they keep within the speed limit.

They expect pedestrians to share the path and step to the side as soon as they honk their horns. This is a dangerous assumption as not all pedestrians are able to maintain constant vigilance and react swiftly.

To address this urgent safety issue, I hope the Government will make it a law that pedestrians have a right of way on footpaths and shared paths. Riders must keep a safe distance from pedestrians and overtake only when it is safe to do so.

Such rules will not affect the majority of safe riders, and will reduce the number of dangerous riders by increasing the opportunity cost of dangerous overtaking.

Francis Chu Wa

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2019, with the headline 'Give pedestrians right of way on footpaths'. Print Edition | Subscribe