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‘Can my kid still cycle under the block?’ Some residents confused about PMD void deck ban

SINGAPORE — While many had initially cheered the ban on personal mobility devices (PMDs) at void decks and other common areas of public housing estates, the measure by all 15 People’s Action Party (PAP) town councils — in effect since the start of this month — has created confusion and inconvenience for some residents, especially parents with young kids.

‘Can my kid still cycle under the block?’ Some residents confused about PMD void deck ban

Less than two weeks into the ban, some parents interviewed said they are unsure if teaching their children to ride a bicycle at their void deck is allowed.

SINGAPORE — While many had initially cheered the ban on personal mobility devices (PMDs) at void decks and other common areas of public housing estates, the measure by all 15 People’s Action Party (PAP) town councils — in effect since the start of this month — has created confusion and inconvenience for some residents, especially parents with young kids.

Under the ban, offenders caught using PMDs such as electric scooters, skateboards, bicycles and e-bikes in the stipulated areas will face a fine of up to S$5,000. It does not apply to Personal Mobility Aids (PMAs) such as motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters.

There is a two-month grace period (until Oct 31) during which errant riders are issued a warning letter for their first offence.

Less than two weeks into the ban, some parents interviewed said they are unsure if teaching their children to ride a bicycle at their void deck, for example, is allowed. Others wonder if it means that their children can no longer ride bicycles or kick scooters at the void decks and other common areas, and they have to take their kids to the parks to do so.

There are also those who ferry their toddlers by bicycle to childcare centres located at the void decks. They lament that the ban has caused them some inconvenience.

Checks by TODAY with the PAP town councils found that what is permissible under the ban may vary from estate to estate.

PAP Town Councils coordinating chairman Teo Ho Pin confirmed as much in response to TODAY’s queries. Each town council can “exercise discretion on certain issues pertaining to the ban if they feel that it has no or low safety risks”, he said.

In general, children’s wheeled toys — and these include pedal cars, scooters or tricycles for kids — are exempted from the ban.

The Tampines and Nee Soon town councils said that under the town councils’ by-laws and the Active Mobility Act, children’s toy vehicles and PMAs are exempted from the ban.

At Tampines, its town council spokesperson said that teaching children how to ride a bicycle at void decks or other common areas is allowed “as long as there is adult supervision”.

A Nee Soon Town Council spokesperson noted that the Active Mobility Act defines children wheeled toys as “a child’s pedal car, scooter, tricycle or similar toy but only used by children below 12 years old”.

Its spokesperson was unable to comment specifically on whether it is permissible for children to learn how to cycle at the void decks, noting the many possible scenarios. Nevertheless, under the Nee Soon Town Council’s by-laws cycling is not allowed in open spaces or on common properties.

WHAT RESIDENTS SAY

Ms Juliza Jamel, 31, cycles about 10 minutes every morning to take her 19-month-old toddler to a childcare centre in Bedok. Since the ban took effect on Sept 1, she has had to dismount from her bicycle and push her child for about two blocks before reaching the childcare centre, she said.

“Cycling with a toddler is much easier than dismounting and pushing because it’s harder to balance and push the bicycle with a front child seat,” said Ms Juliza, who works for a non-profit organisation.

Another parent, Mr Zhu Bingcheng, 40, said that he and his three children frequently cycle and use kick scooters to get around the estate, run grocery errands, and get to Bedok MRT station or Bedok North MRT station.

Adding that cutting through void decks used to be part of his intra-town route apart from footpaths, Mr Zhu — who is a civil servant — said it is not easy to dismount and push his bicycle, especially when it is loaded with groceries or when his children are riding pillion.

Other parents also brought up concerns that they may no longer be allowed to teach their children how to ride a bicycle in common areas and void decks.

Mr Muhammad Rezal, 39, a student development officer, said that he frequently takes his children to cycle or skateboard in badminton courts or other open areas near their flat, for example.

“Many parents wish to teach their children how to ride bicycles… You’re talking about a quick ride downstairs… in the late afternoon before dinner, so that the kids can expend their energy,” he said. 

Mr Rezal, a Bedok resident, said he has written to his Member of Parliament, Ms Cheryl Chan, on the matter.

Citing an email reply which he received from the East Coast-Fengshan Town Council, Mr Rezal said he was told that riding bicycles and skating are “generally not allowed at the void deck and common spaces managed by the Town Council”.

The East Coast-Fengshan Town Council did not reply to TODAY’s queries.

According to Mr Rezal, the town council also told him that exceptions are only made for persons with mobility aids, perambulators (prams) or a child’s toy vehicle used solely by a child.

Mr Rezal noted that the reply left him with more questions: His four-year-old son is able to ride a two-wheeler — is it considered a “toy vehicle”? How does the town council differentiate between a toy vehicle and a normal bicycle?

Other residents had similar questions. Mr Zhu noted that his two older children — aged six and eight — ride normal bicycles with training wheels mounted and kickscooters. “The bicycles my kids ride are not classified as ‘toys’. They are metal framed with rubber wheels and brakes,” he said. 

Mdm Eileen Khoo, 39, a part-time administrator in the interior design industry, added: “If toy vehicles are allowed, does that refer to two or three-wheelers? I don’t think age classification is a good way (to gauge whether a device is allowed or not), especially when a child is 11 or 12, they could easily ride an adult bicycle.”

Several residents interviewed felt that the ban could be more clearly communicated, given the confusion and the fact that each town council can exercise its own discretion in the implementation.

Mdm Khoo said there are signs in her Bishan estate informing residents where PMDs and bicycles are not allowed. These places include playgrounds and void decks. However, it is not clear to her what type of devices are covered under the ban, she pointed out.

SAFETY A PRIORITY: TOWN COUNCILS

Amid the confusion among some residents, the town councils that responded to TODAY’s queries reiterated that the safety of their residents remains a priority.

The Jurong-Clementi Town Council said that since Sept 1, a “small” number of PMD riders have been caught violating the ban.

The Nee Soon Town Council said it has “enforcement agents patrolling the ground on a daily basis for enforcement of the town council’s bylaws”.

It said that it has been “focusing on public education through traditional and new media to inform our residents of the new rule”. It will continue to work on these efforts, said the town council, adding that its enforcement actions will kick in after the grace period.

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PMD bicycles ban

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