As Singaporeans are presented with more commuting options, personal mobility devices are becoming a common sight on public paths.
While many recognise the benefits of such devices – from saving time and money to preserving the environment – many also question how safe public paths will be with these devices on board.
Besides relying on the law to regulate users’ behavior, PMD users and cyclists also need to play their part in in abiding by the rules for ensuring safer paths. Thankfully, many riders are already practising safe habits. Move Happy spoke to some riders to get the lowdown on how they keep paths safe for everyone.
During the week, 22-year-old Royce Chan uses his kick-scooter to travel the “last mile” between his MRT station to his office. While he enjoys using his kick-scooter for such short commutes, he uses the scooter less frequently than his bicycle, which allows him to travel faster. Further, he shared how not being allowed to ride his kick-scooter on the roads limits its usage to bicycle paths, footpaths and shared paths.
As a regular rider, safety is paramount for Royce. And he’s not just talking about his own safety. He is a big believer that he plays a big part in creating a safe environment for the pedestrians he encounters in his daily commute, as well as his fellow PMD users and cyclists who are equally concerned about safer public paths in Singapore.
“Since it is easy to dismount from a scooter and push or carry it around, I simply step down and walk my scooter at high-pedestrian traffic areas such as bus-stops and traffic light junctions. This will not only prevent any accidents, but will hopefully eliminate any potential bad experiences with pedestrians who simply do not like to see a PMD sharing a narrow path with them,” said Royce.
In such cases, he felt that that it pays to engage in acts of considerate behaviour and avoid displaying behaviour which can antagonise pedestrians.
Many other cyclists and PMD users agreed. An important aspect of keeping the peace on pathways is developing an understanding of how pedestrians might misinterpret their seemingly harmless and even polite action.
For instance, the ringing of the bell. Originally built for the purpose of alerting pedestrians of the incoming cyclists, Junhe, 31, a personal trainer and cyclist, shared that this may no longer be perceived as the case.
“Many people find ringing the bell rude and threatening now, and they are less likely to give way when the bell is rung,” he said.
He used to speed past pedestrians, believing that as long as he rang his bell continuously to alert them as he passed by, he had extended the necessary act of courtesy. Sheepishly, he admitted, some pedestrians would swear at him. These days, he understands the pedestrians better.
“Instead of ringing the bell, I will try to slow down and say excuse me, and make it a point to say thank you after I overtake them. This will calm people down most of the time,” Junhe explained.
Other than the more common modes of alternative transport like cycling and riding an e-scooter, there is also a smaller community of individuals who ride skateboards and longboards. Before you think they are all Tony Hawk wannabes flying through the air, this group is conscious of regulating safety on public paths as well.
Take 20-year-old student Alexandra Teng. She picked up longboarding from her friends a few years back, but does not consider using it as a regular mode of transport. She felt that being on shared paths is stressful as she has to constantly look out for people walking.
However, she added: “Cycling paths, on the other hand, are a great idea as commuters on mobility devices will have a clearer path to ride on.”
Until she becomes more confident to ride alongside pedestrians, Alexandra decided that she would stick to being a part-time longboarder and part-time pedestrian, carrying her board until she gets to somewhere clear before she cruises.
Fazli Rahman, a 36-year-old IT support technician, echoed the other users and their belief that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure a safe environment. He believes the popular term “YOLO”, which stands for “you only live once” applies in the context of safety on shared paths.
He said with a laugh: “You only live once – why play around with safety?”
As a cyclist for 26 years and skate scooter for four, the father of two often takes to the Park Connector Network for a leisurely ride, or around his neighbourhood of Tampines. However, he believes that he is first and foremost a pedestrian, as are the rest of the PMD users. As such, “Everyone’s mindset should be similar, especially towards safety. We don’t forget how a pedestrian thinks or behaves even when we ride a bicycle.”
He added: “Patience is the main thing for me when I’m on the roads. Be careful, considerate, and most importantly, don’t act like you own it.”
In the world of shared paths, the mantra of “one for all, all for one” has never rang more true.