SINGAPORE – Three years ago, Mr Muhammad Sofiyan, 32, who is self-employed, used his personal mobility device (PMD) for food delivery jobs.
Then, in late 2019, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) banned e-scooters from footpaths and his PMD had been left idle outside his flat since then.
That ban and the recent fire in Woodlands, where a PMD burst into flames in a lift and killed a man, convinced Mr Sofiyan to dispose of his PMD last Wednesday at a designated collection point in Dover.
In fact, since that fire was reported on June 4, more than 1,700 PMDs have been disposed of, said waste management firm KGS, which is overseeing the free disposal of PMDs until June 30.
On June 3, Mr Muhammad Irfan Danish Azhar, 20, a food delivery rider, was in a lift at Block 537 Woodlands Drive 16 when his PMD caught fire. Residents doused the flames but he died the next day.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) had said preliminary investigations indicated the fire was of electrical origin from a PMD.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Baey Yam Keng told The Sunday Times he was deeply saddened when he heard the news.
He added: “I strongly urge owners who are holding onto non-compliant devices to make use of the last week of KGS’ ongoing PMD free disposal programme and dispose of them as soon as possible. This is for their own and their family’s safety and well-being.”
A KGS spokesman told The Sunday Times that since the fire was reported, more people have been disposing of their PMDs.
Between June 4 and 24, KGS collected 1,707 PMDs over a 17-day period. This compared with 353 PMDs collected over a 17-day period between April 22 and June 3.
He said: “The incident has definitely encouraged PMD users to dispose of their PMDs due to the safety and well-being of their loved ones. We would like to urge owners of non-UL2272 certified PMDs to dispose of their device safely.”
The UL2272 requirement specifies a set of safety requirements covering the electrical drive train system, including the battery system and electrical components of motorised PMDs.
Since last July, all non-UL2272 PMDs have been deregistered and are not allowed to be used in public.
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SCDF said there were 102 fires caused by non-compliant PMDs in 2019 – almost double the 52 in 2018. It fell to 42 last year.
SCDF’s spokesman added that from Jan 1 to Feb 28 this year, they had responded to 13 fire calls, 10 of which involved a PMD and three involving a power-assisted bicycle (PAB). He said three people were hurt, compared with 10 injuries in the same period last year.
SCDF also advised the public not to charge their PMD or PAB or its batteries near combustible materials or along an escape path, and not to leave charging devices or batteries unattended for long periods.
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KGS has been running an island-wide PMD collection programme since last December, allowing the public to dispose of their PMDs at 88 designated locations across Singapore till June 30.
It said that since the start of the programme, the company has collected more than 3,300 PMDs.
Mr Sofiyan said the Woodlands lift fire was a contributing factor for him in surrendering his PMD. He said: “I am worried about it because I have children at home. Usually, I tell them to not touch it or even go near it.”
Six other people at the collection point in Dover on Wednesday also said the fire convinced them to dispose of their PMDs.
One of them, office executive, Mr Christopher Yeh, 34, said the fire had worried his loved ones.
Mr Yeh, who lives on the 11th storey, said: “They told me if I wanted to take the PMD down to the collection point, I must take the stairs.”
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Mr Denis Koh, chairman of PMD enthusiast group Big Wheel Scooters Singapore and a former member of the Active Mobility Advisory Panel, said the fire may not be the sole reason behind the spike in disposals.
He said some riders had disposed of their e-scooters because active mobility rules have become too onerous. His e-scooters were deregistered last July as they were not UL2272-compliant and he has since disposed of all seven of them.
Mr Koh said: “My last e-scooter was in perfect working condition. It was hardly used and cost more than $1,000. But there is no point for me to keep it in storage and expose myself to risk.”
Those who wish to dispose of their PMDs for free before June 30 may visit KGS’ website for the list of locations.
From July 1 onwards, PMD owners can still dispose of their devices for free at selected collection avenues by Alba E-Waste Smart Recycling.
They can visit its website and the National Environment Agency’s website.