E-scooters banned from footpaths amid rise in accidents

From today, riders can use them only on park connectors and cycling paths or face fines, jail

E-scooters have been the main subject of scrutiny amid safety concerns around their usage. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Electric scooters will be banned from footpaths from today, in the latest and toughest measure yet to address public safety concerns surrounding their use.

Those caught flouting the rules can be fined up to $2,000 and/or jailed for up to three months if convicted.

There are 100,000 registered e-scooters in Singapore.

From now until the end of the year, the authorities will mainly issue warnings to errant riders, but a zero-tolerance approach will be taken from next year.

The ban means that e-scooters will be confined to 440km of cycling paths islandwide, instead of the 5,500km of footpaths the riders could use before.

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Bicycles and personal mobility aids such as motorised wheelchairs will continue to be allowed on footpaths, cycling paths and park connectors.

But the ban will progressively be extended to other motorised personal mobility devices (PMDs) in the first quarter of next year, including hoverboards and unicycles.

Announcing the tougher stance, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said in Parliament yesterday: "This ban of e-scooters from footpaths is a difficult decision. But it is a necessary step for pedestrians to feel safe again on public paths, while still allowing e-scooters to grow in tandem with cycling path infrastructure."

He made the announcement in a statement responding to questions from five MPs, including Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir), who asked about the Transport Ministry's plans to improve safety levels around the use of PMDs.

Dr Lam noted that calls for a total ban on PMD usage have been getting louder as more accidents occur.

"We expected the co-sharing of footpaths to be challenging but we were hopeful that with public education, PMD users would be gracious and responsible," he said.

"Unfortunately, this was not so."

Previously, PMDs could be used on cycling paths (at up to 25kmh) and footpaths (10kmh).

They are not allowed on roads.

Dr Lam noted that the move was not a complete ban on e-scooters as PMDs can still be used on cycling paths and park connectors. The total cycling path network is expected to triple by 2030.

Countries such as Japan, Germany and France have also banned e-scooters from footpaths.

Dr Lam also told Parliament that plans to issue PMD-sharing licences will be scrapped.

The move will have some impact on the plans to improve last-mile connectivity.

Dr Lam said that the authorities had earlier felt that PMDs could be allowed on footpaths with mitigating measures in place, but this had not worked.

"At the same time, we understand that we should not push for connectivity at all costs. I think public safety is still paramount. And looking at the current situation, I think it is not possible for the Government not to make a decisive decision, and therefore the decision to prohibit the use of PMDs on footpaths," said Dr Lam.

The number of accidents involving PMDs has gone up with the increase in users. There were 228 reported accidents involving PMDs on public paths in 2017 and last year, with 196 resulting in injuries.

In September, a 65-year-old cyclist, Madam Ong Bee Eng, died in hospital after an e-scooter accident in Bedok. A 20-year-old man was arrested and the case is being investigated as one of causing death by a rash act.

A few riders of motorised e-scooters have also died in accidents, Dr Lam said.

He added that the authorities will also work with food delivery firms to help their riders switch to motorcycles or bicycles.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2019, with the headline E-scooters banned from footpaths amid rise in accidents. Subscribe