Why It Matters

Towards safer e-scooter use

A proposal requiring all electric scooters to be registered aims to curb the growing menace of reckless riding. Submitted by an expert panel to the Ministry of Transport last week, it seeks to imbue in riders a greater sense of responsibility and help enforcement officers track down errant users.

E-scooters have received a bad rap in recent years after several high-profile incidents, including a 17-year-old rider knocking over a 53-year-old housewife in September 2016, putting her in a coma for a month. Each week, there are about three accidents involving e-scooters and other personal mobility devices (PMDs) on paths and roads, going by the 110 cases recorded between January and September last year.

There is reason to regulate e-scooters, which have an estimated population of over 30,000, and will likely grow further - due to their portability, ease of use and handiness for first-and last-mile trips. Since the registration of electric bicycles started last August, many riders have likely turned to e-scooters.

The distinctions are blurring - several makes of e-scooters have seats and foot rests, making them uncannily similar to e-bikes.

The lobby for registration of e-scooters undoubtedly comes in large part from pedestrians, who have had to keep a lookout for them.

Licensing e-scooters to promote their safe use, however, is just one piece of the puzzle. More public education and tough enforcement are also needed.

The authorities also have to push forward the Active Mobility Act, which passed in January last year but has yet to take effect. It has a penalty framework stipulating fines and jail terms for specific offences, such as using non-compliant devices.

As the Government seeks to encourage the use of PMDs, infrastructure must also keep pace, and pavements widened or segmented wherever possible to provide pedestrians and riders with more space, thus reducing conflicts and accidents.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2018, with the headline Towards safer e-scooter use. Subscribe