Should e-scooters be banned in Singapore? 5 alternatives to an outright ban

PHOTO: AFP

Unless you’ve been living like a complete hermit who has renounced all earthly ties, you would have heard of the heated debate about what to do about e-scooters in Singapore.

Thanks to almost-daily news about e-scooters exploding into flames and heart-rending stories about PMD casualties, electric scooters have become quite the hot-button issue of the day. Many Singaporeans are baying for blood and calling for a complete ban of the evil things.

Then again, most of us also recognise that rogue riding is ultimately a user problem. Demonising e-scooters may do more harm than good, and could set Singapore back in our disabled-friendly and car-lite goals.

So apart from a complete ban of all PMDs, what else can be done? 

Here are 5 great suggestions from the internet Reddit that the Active Mobility Advisory Panel might want to consider.

1. MAKE IT REALLY HARD TO OWN AN E-SCOOTER

For the longest time, anyone could buy, modify and ride an electric scooter in Singapore — it’s only quite recently that the government has started trying to regulate them.

The AMAP has also recently suggested a minimum age of 16 for e-scooter users and a compulsory theory test before people can ride in public.

But why stop there? Let’s just make PMD ownership an outright pain in the ass, as this Redditor suggests:

In places like New Zealand and Canada, riders are required to get a license (kinda like a driving or motorbike license) before they can own / ride an e-scooter. 

2. MAKE THIRD PARTY LIABILITY INSURANCE COMPULSORY

Unless you have the resources to take the uninsured rider to court, it’s unlikely that your requests for compensation is going to result in a single cent.

I mean, we’re talking about assholes who don’t even stop to help their crash victims. You think they’ll send you money meh?

The AMAP has suggested making third party liability insurance compulsory for those who need to ride e-scooters for work, e.g. food delivery riders. 

But, again, why stop there? If we’re going to implement licensing, might as well make insurance compulsory at the same time. 

What’s great about insurance is that young punks who want to show off to girls can be charged a much higher premium than those who are more likely to use PMDs responsibly. If the cost is sufficient to put off the YPs, then all the better.

Apart from deterring casual riders from having access to PMDs, e-scooter insurance can also motivate licensed riders to ride safely in much the same way as car insurance does.

3. TAKE E-SCOOTERS OFF THE FOOTPATH AND ONTO THE ROAD

In 2018, the LTA put in place a new set of rules for e-scooters, e-bikes and other PMDs, and one of the more confusing ones is that e-scooters are not allowed on roads, only on pavements. (It’s the inverse for e-bikes: Only roads, no pavements.)

In cases of e-scooter regulation around the world, PMDs are banned from the pavements and pushed onto the roads — not the other way around.

I have no doubt that putting e-scooters on the road will be painful for drivers, but between that and knocking down elderly pedestrians? I’d choose the road as the lesser evil. At least PMD riders, being in the more vulnerable position, would be a bit more careful.

But is it feasible? According to this commenter, our roads are wide enough to accommodate an extra bike / e-scooter lane.

Commenters have also pointed to other countries’ bike lanes as successful implementations of car-lite infrastructure:

I’ve seen the bike lanes in Copenhagen and can assure you, there’s nothing high-tech or expensive about them. They simply painted over the existing lines on the left and re-drew an extra one. That was it.

If the government painted yellow boxes for bike-sharing parking practically overnight, surely it’s not that hard to paint on bike lanes.

4. REGULATE THE FOOD DELIVERY INDUSTRY

For every person screaming on the internet for a PMD ban, there’s always someone objecting with a “… but then my GrabFood how?”

And it’s a very real tension: At least some of those “bad” e-scooter riders you see on the sidewalks are food delivery riders. They’re zipping around at top speed with overloaded bags to deliver dinner to (probably) the very same people calling for a PMD ban.

The AMAP recommends mandatory insurance for food delivery riders, but that doesn’t address the root of the problem, which is that using e-scooters for work incentivises riders to go faster:

There should be some way for food delivery companies to take responsibility for (near-)accidents, not just leave it to the insurers. But this also means added costs, which are likely to get passed down to consumers.

Here’s one elegant solution: Just give us a no-PMD option on the app.

Or make like the government and impose a surcharge for e-scooter delivery. Maybe this “cooling measure” for decrease overall usage of e-scooters in the industry (and hence on the pavements).

5. TIGHTER REGULATIONS ON THE E-SCOOTER SUPPLY CHAIN

Not saying that modifications are the sole cause of reckless riding, but why are these businesses even allowed to exist?!

One excuse is that the illegal modifications are done by home-based operations, which are difficult to police.

But, you know which other home-based industry has been successfully managed in Singapore? Drug dealers. If the CNB can do drug busts, it can’t be impossible to catch illegal modifiers. They can’t exactly hide all that gear up their butts, can they?

Separately from e-scooter mod workshops, e-scooter importers and retailers can also be more strictly regulated. If you have to get a liquor license to serve or sell alcohol in Singapore, then something similar could be implemented for e-scooters too.

This article was first published in MoneySmart

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