SINGAPORE – Food delivery rider Shahrulnizam Ramli, 32, used to take his two children, aged four and five, out cycling around his Tampines Housing Board estate every weekend.
But he is worried that doing so now would risk a fine of up to $5,000, after the introduction of a rule banning the use of personal mobility devices (PMDs), bicycles and power-assisted bicycles in all common properties in HDB estates.
“I am frustrated by this new rule because the actions of some inconsiderate PMD users affected the rest of us,” said Mr Shahrulnizam, who uses an e-scooter to carry out deliveries.
The ban covers common areas such as void decks, playgrounds, common corridors and play courts in estates.
Some 70,000 lift surveillance and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at void decks and lifts will be used to identify reckless riders.
“The ban would also make it harder for us food-delivery riders to do our jobs,” said Mr Shahrulnizam.
He was among the people The Straits Times interviewed who expressed concerns and confusion over the rule, which kicked in on Sept 1.
Among them were cyclists who questioned why bicycles were included in the ban when public attention had been focused on PMDs, in particular e-scooters.
The other PMDs are kick scooters, unicycles and hoverboards.
The ban is in place at the 15 town councils run by the People’s Action Party (PAP).
It comes after a spike in accidents involving PMDs, and public concern over safety issues.
The number of PMD riders who met with accidents and suffered injuries serious enough to be admitted to emergency departments in public hospitals jumped to 23 last year from 10 in 2017.
There were 228 reported accidents in total involving PMDs on public paths in 2017 and 2018, 196 of them resulting in injuries, the Ministry of Transport said in April this year.
In a joint statement on Sept 2, the 15 town councils said a two-month grace period from when the rule kicks in will give PMD users enough time to adapt to the new regulation.
Riders who violate the ban will be issued a warning letter for their first offence during the period.
After Oct 31, the town councils said they will take strict enforcement action according to the revised regulations.
Personal mobility aids such as motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters, and children’s toy vehicles are exempted from the ban.
Town councils contacted by ST reiterated that the ban was needed to ensure residents’ safety, but several of them said they would make exceptions for children learning to cycle.
Dr Teo Ho Pin, who oversees the PAP’s 15 town councils, said: “Based on our feedback, the majority of residents are supportive of the ban.
“Residents are concerned about their safety when moving around at our blocks’ void decks and common property.”
On the need to ban bicycles as well, Dr Teo pointed out that cycling was already banned in common areas under town council by-laws which were in place before the new rule was introduced.
He said the town councils will make exceptions on the condition that they do not affect the safety of residents.
For example, police bike patrols are exempted from the ban.
Dr Teo said: “Each town council will have to monitor residents’ feedback and assess the situation on the ground to decide on what measures (education, enforcement or exemption) to take to ensure the safety of our residents.”
Ang Mo Kio Town Council chairman Ang Hin Kee said his council will not enforce the rule against children practising on bicycles at common areas such as void decks.
He said: “Certainly children learning to cycle is not in the same category (of safety risk). We enforce the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law.”
Mr Chong Kee Hiong, chairman of the Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council, said his town council had received queries about whether children would be allowed to practise cycling.
It has since clarified that this is allowed.
Tampines Town Council said it would allow it on the condition that there is adult supervision.
While PMD users and cyclists accepted that measures are needed to better protect residents in common areas, both groups continue to hope that rules can be relaxed.
Mr Francis Chu, the co-founder of cycling group Love Cycling SG, said the community was disappointed by the ban.
He hopes there could be separate rules for PMDs and bicycles due to the lower risks posed by the latter.
Bicycles accelerate slower and require more effort to get up to speed, he said.
“The no-cycling rule in HDB void decks was hardly enforced, and the situation is similar to the no cycling on pavement rule before 2016.
“Many cyclists ignored the rule and that did not cause a huge safety issue, not until the sudden surge of complaints that came with the appearance of PMDs,” he added.
Mr Shahrulnizam hopes there can be a compromise.
For example, a speed limit of under 10kmh at void decks would keep residents safe and not inconvenience PMD users, he said.
Cyclists and PMD users are currently limited to 10kmh on footpaths.
He said he is concerned about residents’ safety as well.
“It’s our responsibility to look out for each other,” he added.