Where do pedes­tri­ans stand with PMD-shar­ing?

As com­pa­nies vie for PMD-shar­ing li­cences, bound­aries need to be set

The New Paper - - VIEWS - JONATHAN ROBERTS

bear in mind that this is the ini­tial phase. More could fol­low and that is not count­ing the pri­vately owned de­vices.

The big ques­tion is: Are we ready for this?

When PMD-shar­ing was first mooted, it was hard not to pic­ture it evolv­ing into the Pixar film Wall-E, where hu­mans had be­come so used to not hav­ing to walk, they lived in float­ing PMDs, get­ting in­creas­ingly fat.

At least with bike-shar­ing, you still get ex­er­cise.

If you were to ask if les­sons had been learnt from the ex­pe­ri­ences of bike-shar­ing, you will prob­a­bly get an­swers that re­late to the com­pa­nies’ fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity and due dili­gence.

No down pay­ment needed will help in­crease pop­u­lar­ity with users. And the need to charge e-scoot­ers will re­duce in­ci­dents of ran­domly dis­carded de­vices.

Well, that is the the­ory, at least.

The Land Trans­port Au­thor­ity has said also it will heav­ily fine breaches of li­cence.

But for the man (or woman) in the street, are they ready for foot­paths to be in­vaded?

Ask any­one who has en­coun­tered one of these halo­gen head­lamped, glo­ri­fied kick scoot­ers zoom­ing along a foot­path, and they will tell you e-scoot­ers are not pedes­trian-friendly.

Right now, it feels like pedes­tri­ans will have to “make a way” to ac­com­mo­date the rise in e-scooter num­bers.

Not to paint all rid­ers as speed demons who treat pedes­tri­ans as ir­ri­tat­ing ob­sta­cles, but these are de­vices any­one can ride – no prior ex­pe­ri­ence needed.

You get on a bi­cy­cle only if you know how to ride it.

With PMD-shar­ing, all you need is an app, some (mis­guided?) self-be­lief that you can bal­ance and away you go.

HOW FAST?

Which then brings us to speed. How fast is too fast for the pave­ment?

Any­one who has had an e-scooter silently skim by knows how an­noy­ing a scare it can be.

And while the top speed for PMDs on foot­paths has been re­duced to 10kmh from this year, past ac­ci­dents have shown the level of harm that can be caused in an e-scooter col­li­sion.

For pedes­tri­ans, it will be time to be more mind­ful of their im­me­di­ate sur­round­ings.

Just a walk through a busy shop­ping mall will re­mind you of how un­aware peo­ple can be of one an­other, whether they be phone zom­bies, shuf­fling along five abreast, or sud­denly stop­ping in front of oth­ers. We are all guilty of it.

But, it is one thing to bump into one an­other on foot. It is en­tirely an­other when one party is us­ing a de­vice that can cause harm – you’d bet­ter hope the rider’s re­flexes are up to par.

In­tro­duc­ing more PMDs, whose rid­ers think they can weave through gaps be­tween walk­ers, is a risk.

Grab, one of those vy­ing for a li­cence, says it will ed­u­cate the pub­lic.

Good to know, but can Grab suc­ceed in get­ting the pub­lic on board?

As an ex­am­ple, take the mark­ings at MRT plat­forms for peo­ple to wait at un­til oth­ers get out of the train – or a lift – be­fore go­ing in. Do we re­ally fol­low the lines?

Again, this is not fin­ger-wag­ging at im­po­lite­ness, just an ac­knowl­edge­ment of things that we do with­out think­ing.

One hopes that more PMDs come with ded­i­cated PMD lanes.

While giv­ing peo­ple more op­tions to travel is al­ways wel­come, the pri­or­ity has to be for the safety of those most at risk – in this case, the pedes­tri­ans.

TNP FILE PHOTO

As more PMDs get on the pave­ments, there needs to be proper ed­u­ca­tion for all users – pedes­tri­ans and PMD users.

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