As a lifelong pedestrian who can’t drive, cycle or operate anything that runs on wheels to save my own life, the recent spate of e-scooter-related accidents has got my stomach turning.
First, an 11-year-old girl and a six-year-old boy were hurt after they were knocked down by e-scooters in separate incidents at Pasir Ris and near Punggol Park last Thursday.
Then, earlier this week, an elderly e-scooter user was involved in a collision with a bus, and just two days ago, an elderly woman sustained injuries in a hit-and-run incident involving an e-scooter rider.
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These accidents have happened even though the authorities have laid down the law to regulate the use of e-scooters, such as by introducing bans on illegal modifications, implementing speed limits, and making roads off-limits to those who use personal mobility devices.
Enforcement officers are also stationed across the island to coach e-scooter riders on riding etiquette and to go after reckless riders.
So this spate of accidents is telling us that errant riding continues to be a problem. And it can result in disastrous consequences, particularly when the ones caught on the other end are vulnerable individuals.
I’m especially thinking of the injuries sustained by the children and elderly woman who were knocked down by e-scooter riders in the past week, and the distress their loved ones were made to go through, when I say this.
Any victim is one too many, and pedestrians should not be made to feel like they’re in constant danger on the walkways.
But contrary to the views of many irate netizens who are baying for blood and calling for e-scooters to be banned entirely, I think eliminating them is not the answer, even if it could be a quick and effective fix.
Look at it this way: e-scooters that meet the Land Transport Authority’s specifications and guidelines, and have not been modified, do not pose any danger. And for every thoughtless e-scooter rider that makes the headlines, there are many more who use them out of everyday necessity and take care to ride responsibly and safely.
So rather than cut off the nose to spite the face, we may do better to try tackling the attitudes of those behind the wheel, and beef up our system of enforcement and guidelines instead.
Could this mean harsher punishments so that recalcitrant riders will think twice before they hit the accelerator?
Should we introduce compulsory routine inspections to stamp out illegal modifications?
Perhaps, all e-scooter riders, like any motorist, should be made to take a test before they’re allowed on the walkways?
Already, the LTA has announced plans to mandate all e-scooter users to register their vehicles, and that’s a significant step towards ensuring accountability.
Drawing a parallel to our roads, most motorists know to be mindful of those who are more vulnerable by virtue of their smaller and lighter vehicles, like cyclists and motorcyclists.
In that vein, e-scooter riders need to give special care to pedestrians.
So, short of saying ban all e-scooters right now, let’s first try to establish a culture of mutual respect and civic-mindedness among pedestrians, cyclists, e-scooter riders alike.
As for me? This smartphone zombie wants to try and kick my old habits so that I’ll no longer take my right of way as a pedestrian for granted.
Because my situational awareness shouldn’t be treated as a good-to-have, when it’s essential for helping to keep myself and others out of harm’s way.