With a ban on the table, is the ride over for Singapore’s e-scooters?

An e-scooter involved in a Sept. 13 fire on Rivervale Drive. Image: SCDF/Facebook
An e-scooter involved in a Sept. 13 fire on Rivervale Drive. Image: SCDF/Facebook

A total ban on e-scooters is on the cards in Singapore following a spate of incidents and accidents involving the so-called personal mobility devices.

A top transportation official took to Facebook today to say the law may be changed due to pedestrian safety fears when using public footpaths or near scooters with safety issues after the death of an elderly pedestrian and a number of spontaneous fires.

The government needs to “review the law, rethink our approach and introduce additional measures where necessary,” Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min wrote. 

“Should we allow [scooters] to be used only on dedicated paths? Should we ban [them] in Singapore totally until the infrastructure is ready, which would take years? Or enact a total ban?”

“None of these are easy questions, but we will have to make difficult choices in the coming months to strike a reasonable balance,” he added.

Faulty batteries from scooters not up to safety standards can short-circuit or overheat and can catch fire, the Singapore Civil Defence Force said back in August, citing 54 such fires in the first half of this year. That was twice as many as during the same period in 2018. Last week, a video of an e-scooter in flames by the side of a road was circulated online. 

There were 228 pedestrian accidents involving errant riders during 2017 and 2018, Lam said in Parliament last month, weeks before 65-year-old cyclist Ong Bee Eng was hit fatally in Bedok by an e-scooter said to be traveling in excess of 40kph. The speed limit for e-scooters is capped at 25kph.

Ong, whose ribs were fractured and collarbone broken in the accident, died Sept. 25 at Changi General Hospital, The New Paper reported.

Scooters operated commercially by the likes of Neuron Mobility and Telepod are generally considered up to safety standards, while many other Singaporeans ride unregulated units bought online. 

Having gained traction in Singapore, some operators, such as Neuron, are exporting them to other Southeast Asian metropolises, such as Bangkok.

Current regulations mandate compulsory registration of all devices with the Land Transport Authority and forbid the sale of those which do not comply with safety standards. Those standards require all personal mobility devices, or PMDs, undergo a stringent set of tests designed to reduce fire and electrical hazards.

Those still holding on to non-compliant vehicles have until July to do so. Starting in April, it was announced today, compulsory checks will be conducted on e-scooters every two years.

Other measures already in place include a ban on using them in the common areas of most public housing estates, such as void decks and corridors, at risk of a S$5,000 (US$3,600) fine. E-scooters and e-bikes are also not allowed on roads and expressways, and can only be used on public paths alongside other pedestrians.  

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Related stories:

Riders who flout PMD ban at HDB common areas could face up to S$5,000 fine

In wake of recent fires, Singapore consider moving up ban on e-scooters without safety certificate

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