Civil disobedience: Singaporeans defiant as harsh eScooter laws come into play (video)

When it comes to safe, law-abiding cities it is hard to go past Singapore. In 2016 the city-state recorded 135 days on which there was no crime of any kind, while The Economist Intelligence Unit recently ranked Singapore second on its Safe Cities Index for 2017. All of which makes the recent outbreak of lawlessness on the roads there approaching the equivalent of mass civil disobedience in any other country.

Singapore's harsh new penalties for eScooters and PMDs see fines of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to six months
Singapore’s harsh new penalties for eScooters and PMDs see fines of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to six mon Land Transport Authority of Singapore

What’s brought out this sudden rebellious nature in Singaporeans? eScooters and Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs).

Singaporeans are revolting against authority in a rare sign of civil disobedience by refusing to leave their eScooters and PMDs in their HDBs (Housing and Development Board flats) after the government outlawed their use on public roads and footpaths last year, and restricted electric bicycles to roadways only.

Costing from as little as S$400 (about US$302) up to S$5,000 (US$3,781), sales of eScooters and PMDs such as skateboards, kick-scooters, and hoverboards mushroomed in Singapore last year.

Seen as an affordable and convenient way for those whose ownership of a car during their lifetime is almost an impossibility, light and affordable eScooters and PMDs were seen as ideal for covering short to mid distances without the hassles of train station or bus stop crushes.

Despite the convenience, feeling of freedom, and perhaps even excitement its citizens were experiencing rocketing along the road ala Harry Potter with their new-found liberty from humorless bus and anonymous train drivers, the government quickly clamped down on the devices, prompted by increasing reports of people being run over and crashed into by the silent moving devices, and several deaths of eScooter riders and pedestrians.

With Singaporeans refusing to abandon the silent and deadly devices harsh new penalties for eScooters and PMDs came into force on January 15, with offenders subject to a maximum fine of of S$10,000 (US$7,555), six months jail, or both.

While law enforcement officers in other countries sit in secluded spots waiting for speeding or drunk motorists, Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) officials set out daily with a flatbed truck to sit in wait for eScooter riding rebels.

In the video above taken in the Loyang Drive area on Monday to coincide with the introduction of the tougher penalties, business for the enforcers was brisk with LTA officials seized 11 eScooters, adding to the 38 eScooters and PMDs seized in the previous 14 days.

Last October Singapore Minister of Transport, Khaw Boon Wan, said that between January and September 2017, 110 accidents were reported involving eScooters and PMDs, with 70 per cent occurring on the nation’s roads.

The LTA says that in 2017 it seized more than 480 eScooters and PMDs and despite the publicity given to the seizures, miscreants still remain.

Supported by the harsh new penalties the LTA says it aims to ensure that this year those who suddenly get the urge to imitate Harry Potter by silently whizzing about its streets and pathways on end up well and truly grounded… and a little poorer for catering to their Adrenalin rush.

To help educate Singaporeans on the etiquette and safe operation of eScooters and PMDs the LTA will soon be introducing a free Safe Riding Programme. In the meantime, LTA officials vow to suppress the rare upsurge in civil disobedience by setting eScooter detection points up at up to four locations a day until the last of the rebellious Singaporeans and their ‘eScooter uprising’ are brought to justice.

 

Feature video Channel NewsAsia

 

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John Le Fevre in Phnom Penh contributed to this report

 

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Leakhena Khat

Leakhena is a junior journalist at AEC News Today who is also currently studying International Relations, which she finds adds perspective to her work reporting on the Asean Community.

“I love what I am doing so much as it gives me a lot of great experience and provides challenges to my mind.

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