Monday 11 November 2019

National Steps Challenge: Is this the real reason e-scooters are banned on footpaths?

Well, that was sudden.

Last Monday, the Government decreed that e-scooters would not be allowed on footpaths from the next day.

It’s not as if there were Select Committee on E-Scooters On Footpaths hearings where Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam grilled a Foodpanda rider for six hours about Operation Coldstore. A Ban E-Scooters On Footpaths Bill wasn’t tabled in Parliament, debated, voted on and passed into law.

At least the Government prepared us for the fake news law that is the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act earlier this year.

Not so with this.

You know how when you look out for vehicles while crossing the road, expecting it to be safe when you reach the sidewalk, only to be surprised by a speeding e-scooter that almost hits you.

The banning of e-scooters on footpaths is like that e-scooter that almost hit you on the footpath – it sort of just came out of nowhere.

It is the e-scooter riders’ turn to be hit by something they didn’t see coming, and they’re not liking it.

That’s one thing millennials can’t dismiss with a glib “Okay, boomer.”

But why now? Why the short one-day notice?

When the new 10kmh speed limit for e-scooters was announced in September last year, it wasn’t implemented until five months later.

When the Government introduced UL2272 as the new standard for personal mobility devices (PMDs) in September last year because of all the PMD-related fires, PMD users originally had until the end of next year to comply. The deadline was later brought forward to next July, all of which seems rather pointless now.

So what’s the rush with the footpath ban?

Instead of an immediate ban with an advisory period until the end of the year, why not start the ban next year so that everyone has more time to adjust?

I have a theory.

The National Steps Challenge Season 5 started on Oct 26. Ten days later, we have the footpath ban.

Coincidence? Maybe not.

The National Steps Challenge is the Government’s attempt to get us off our asses and move around more by rewarding us for every step we take up to 10,000 a day.

The Government is even giving you a nifty Fitbit knock-off you can wear on your wrist to count your steps.

You could even take a picture with Pokemon at the mega roadshows where the free fitness trackers were distributed.

What is the point of the Government spending all that effort and taxpayers’ money to encourage you to get fitter by walking more if you are just going to scoot around on your damn e-scooter?

Or sit around waiting for your food to be delivered by e-scooter instead of using your own two feet to get your bubur cha cha or bubble tea with brown sugar or whatever?

People may also be afraid to go for a walk because they don’t want to get hit by Ah Boy on an e-scooter.

Having PMDs defeats the whole purpose of the National Steps Challenge, which lasts until April.

Ergo the timing of the ban.

It could also be because of the elderly cyclist who tragically died after colliding with an e-scooter in September.

And Tan Tock Seng Hospital reporting an alarming 70 per cent increase in PMD rider injuries in two years.

And the horrific viral video of a e-scooter rider crashing into a three-year-old girl in a Boon Lay void deck last month.

Perhaps the ban shouldn’t be so unexpected after all.

Is it too late to meet Pikachu?

- Published in The New Paper, 11 November 2019