Mobility scooters may soon require certification to use,  maximum speed of PMAs may be reduced to 6km

Mobility scooters may soon require certification to use, maximum speed of PMAs may be reduced to 6km

(FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)
(Source: By Chia Han Keong | Yahoo! News | Singapore | 14 Dec 2023)

SINGAPORE — Mobility scooters may soon be limited to be used only by those with certified walking difficulties, while the speed limit of all personal mobility aids (PMAs) - manual and motorised wheelchairs as well as mobility scooters - may be reduced from 10kmh to 6kmh.

These are two of the key recommendations by the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) as part of its review on the use of PMAs, in order to ensure that Singapore continues to facilitate the mobility of persons with walking difficulties while keeping its paths safe for all users, including seniors and young children.

AMAP chairman Baey Yam Keng - Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment - told reporters in a media briefing on Thursday (14 December) that the panel had received feedback over the past few years on people misusing the PMAs. This included able-bodied users as well as those who were using oversized devices.

"In common spaces such as footpaths, lifts and public transport, that becomes a problem. We have also heard from genuine users that their reputation has been tarnished by such misuse, so much so that the public are becoming less patient or accepting of such devices," Baey said.

"The recommendations are not so much as to target able-bodied persons abusing the devices, but more of making sure that our common spaces remain safe and accessible for all users."

Three key recommendations from panel
In its review, AMAP was guided by the principle that PMAs should be used to support persons with walking difficulties as a replacement for walking, and not for able-bodied persons to use them as an alternative mode of transport.

To enhance path safety and support active ageing, the panel recommends the following:

Continue with existing rules on manual and motorised wheelchairs, but only allow users with certified walking difficulties to use mobility scooters: Details of the types of certification or identification would be finalised after further discussion with the relevant government agencies.

Reduce the device speed limit of all motorised PMAs from 10kmh to 6kmh, which is the typical speed of brisk walking: Given that PMAs are generally larger and heavier than other active mobility devices such as bicycles, travelling at 10 kmh may pose a danger to other path users. Lowering the device speed to 6kmh better reflects the intended use of PMAs to replace walking for users with mobility challenges. Transitionary measures should be in place to allow certified users to continue using their existing PMAs, but within the revised speed limit. A PMA-like device capable of exceeding speed of 6 kmh may qualify for use as a motorised personal mobility device (PMD), provided it meets specific criteria.

Harmonise PMA dimension restrictions for public paths and public transport: This will be based on the existing public transport restrictions (70cm width, 120cm length, 150cm height and 300kg laden weight). Exceptions can be granted for users who have a certification of medical need to use oversized PMAs.

AMAP also recommends that the government steps up public education and outreach efforts to raise awareness and clarity on the rules and code of conduct for PMAs. These include sharing the difference between mobility scooters and motorised PMDs, guidelines on safe sharing of public paths, as well as fire safety tips and safe charging practices for PMAs.

At the same time, upstream measures against online sales and advertisement of noncompliant PMAs and other active mobility devices should be adopted, along with increased enforcement.

The panel also recommends not to introduce registration or licensing of PMAs at this point, after studying the practices of overseas jurisdictions and conducting focus-group discussions (FGDs) with PMA users, caregivers, occupational therapists, seniors and general path users.

The recommendations form part of the panel's review proposal which was submitted to the Ministry of Transport on Thursday. Baey said the Singapore government may take a few months to review the recommendations.

Concerns over PMA misuse
The AMAP review arose after growing concerns regarding the misuse of mobility scooters by seemingly able-bodied persons.

There are also concerns over mobility scooters riding in ways that compromise the safety of other path users. These include: speeding, reckless riding, using overly large devices or carrying multiple passengers. Concerns on PMA fire safety have also been raised.

Currently, PMAs are allowed on all public paths - footpaths, cycling paths and pedestrian-only paths - up to a maximum device speed of 10kmh. They are not allowed on roads.

No registration is required for PMAs or its users. Users are not required to show proof of medical need prior to purchasing or using a PMA. Restrictions on device dimensions apply on public transport, but there are no dimension restrictions on public paths.

While mobility scooters are motorised wheeled devices like PMDs, they are classified as a distinct device type having its own defining features and compliance criteria under the Active Mobility Act. Specifically, mobility scooters have three or more wheels, a footboard wide enough to safely seat those with walking difficulties, and a single seat.

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