Personal mobility journey must go on

A man on a personal mobility device at Victoria Street.
A man on a personal mobility device at Victoria Street.PHOTO: ST FILE

In view of the recent spate of Forum letters on personal mobility devices (PMDs), I applaud policymakers for not taking the easy way out by going for an outright ban.

While this might immediately quell voices of dissent, it would prevent many others from ever benefiting from new micro-mobility options.

Technology will only move forward. Even if regulators cave in now, new micro-mobility alternatives will emerge in time to come. For example, the hoverboard that was mooted more than two decades ago in the movie Back To The Future could well become reality in the near term.

Should we as a society, continue to apply a carte blanche ban on all such devices?

Some writers also pointed to similar curbs in countries such as Germany as the way forward. In Germany, e-scooters will soon be allowed on roads but not pavements. However, what many reports failed to mention is the fact that cycling lanes in Germany are considered roads, and that there are increased fatalities resulting from accidents between cyclists and motorists. This number can only go up when the new e-scooter rules kick in.

In fact, I believe what Germany is doing is not all that different from Singapore. It has not banned e-scooters outright. It is also looking at building better infrastructure, possibly akin to Singapore's plans to build more cycling paths to better segregate mobility devices from pedestrians and cars.

E-scooters are a relatively new phenomenon here but, even then, laws have been swiftly passed to govern their specifications and usage to protect users and pedestrians. Regular reviews are undertaken by the authorities as well as the Active Mobility Advisory Panel to plug gaps and keep regulations up to date. This is supplemented by extensive public education. This approach is a robust and sustainable one.

We must continue to chart a new era of micro-mobility transportation that is not only safer for everyone, but also responsible to the environment, our city and our pockets.

I am confident that we will eventually get there, but it is inevitable that there will be some bumps along the way. Our culture of tolerance, graciousness and responsibility must always prevail and never erode. It is what makes us uniquely Singapore.

Denis Koh Teck Leong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2019, with the headline 'Personal mobility journey must go on'. Print Edition | Subscribe