Graphic designer Ling Teck Mong may have been a wheelchair user for 33 years, but that has not stopped him from learning how to ride a motorcycle and from riding a scooter for 16 years.
The 53-year-old owns a scooter created by grafting the rear bumper of a Japanese Suzuki Swift hatchback to the handles and front wheel of an Italian Piaggio scooter.
He came up with the design himself in 2009 after a similar Nippi three-wheel scooter that he bought from a person with a disability in 1995 became too expensive to maintain and there was no local agent which he could buy a replacement from.
He then approached local motorcycle workshop Ban Hock Hin to put together the three-wheel vehicle in 2009.
The $18,000 scooter is entirely driven by hand and Mr Ling can wheel himself into it using a lever-operated rear ramp.
"The Land Transport Authority (LTA) approved the design," said Mr Ling, who is one of only two owners of this type of modified scooter on Singapore's roads.
He did not think of registering a patent on his design. "There is no need to," he said.
Mr Ling lost the use of his legs in 1981 after a traffic accident.
He got his motorcycle licence in 1995, taking six months to pass the test at the Singapore Safety Driving Centre at Ang Mo Kio.
"I have the same Class 2B licence as other motorcycles riders. There was no special treatment," he said, adding that he did not find the lessons and tests too difficult.
"The only thing different was that I learnt how to ride using my own bike."
Mr Ling uses the scooter mainly to travel from his home in Lorong Ah Soo - to his office in Chai Chee, his mother's flat in North Bridge Road or the Safra club in Yishun where he attends air pistol practice.
The longest route is from his home in Lorong Ah Soo to the club and he takes up to 45 minutes to make the trip.
"Riding the scooter is more convenient than taking taxis," he said. "The only times when riding gets difficult are when it rains and over long distances.
"The vehicle does not have a covered top. I get wet when it rains and visibility becomes poorer, so I have to drive more carefully."
Mr Ling added: "My scooter is also easy to park. It is about the size of two motorcycles. So as long as I can find two empty parking spaces for motorcycles side-by-side, I can still park my scooter, even if the disabled parking space is not available."
He is used to curious stares and friendly smiles from people.
"Drivers usually give way to me. And when I stop at traffic lights, other motorcycle riders always smile at me," he said. He has been accident-free on the roads for 20 years.
"I cannot go fast since the speed limit is 60kmh, but I have to watch my distance to the vehicle in front so that I can brake in time," he said.
But he was unable to avoid a few hit-and-run accidents at carparks.
"When the cars reversed, maybe the drivers thought that my scooter was a normal motorcycle and they could not see its width, so they knocked into it," he explained.
"Someone left a $10 note for me after knocking into my licence plate, but no one left any contact number," he said, shaking his head.
He is thinking of upgrading his scooter to a modified car in the future so that he can ferry his wife Madam S.K. Lim, in her 40s, who is recuperating at home after an illness. The couple has no children.
Madam Lim said that she is not worried about her husband riding the scooter.
"He has been riding for many years," she said.
Mr Ling had wanted to have the scooter modified to carry a passenger in 2009, but the idea was rejected by the LTA for safety reasons.
"While the scooter is convenient for me, my wife has to take the bus and MRT and meet me outside when we go out," he said. "This will not work when we grow old."
This article was first published on November 30, 2015.
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