ELECTRIC scooters have been a familiar sight in Kuala Lumpur since early 2019, particularly in Bukit Bintang, KLCC and Ampang.
They have grown more popular and many city folk can be seen whizzing around on these two-wheelers in other parts of the Klang Valley including Cheras, Bukit Jalil, Kepong, Sentul, Petaling Jaya, Cyberjaya and Shah Alam.
However, there is a consensus regarding the need for proper regulations on how to safely incorporate escooters in public spaces.
On Jan 1 last year, Kuala Lumpur police banned escooters on public roads but left Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to decide on the designated zones for their use in parks and shopping centres.
DBKL carried out a feasibility study with the Transport Ministry, Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros), Road Transport Department (JPJ) and the police, but the outcome has not been revealed so far.
However, last October, the government legalised micromobility vehicles that are propelled by electricity like escooters by virtue of the Road Transport (Amendment) Act 2020.
Now, usage of these two-wheelers must be regulated by JPJ and the respective local authorities.
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When contacted, a Miros representative said the organisation was still discussing the matter with multiple stakeholders.
Selangor’s local councils like Shah Alam and Sepang have allowed the use of escooters, but DBKL has not approved it.
A DBKL spokesperson from the Urban Transport Department confirmed no approval for escooters have been given as it was still waiting feedback from the Transport Ministry and Miros.
Beam, a Singapore-based electric scooter sharing service, has been working with DBKL and JPJ to share best practices around the region to help create clear guidelines on micromobility technology.
The company has permits to operate in several cities in Selangor but not Kuala Lumpur.
Beam mobility vice-president (public affairs) Isabelle Neo said they were still having talks with DBKL.
“However, we already have partnerships with private companies like hotels and condominiums in KL to allow the scooters to be placed in their premises for residents and guests.”
Sharing urban spaces
Not everyone is on board with this latest transport mode, citing the risks posed to pedestrians and other road users, especially the disabled.
Disability rights activists are now calling on DBKL to ensure that walkways are free from two-wheelers.
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“When a blind person uses a pedestrian walkway, especially the ones with tactile blocks, they have an expectation that it is safe and free from obstruction,’’ said Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) accessibility and advocacy executive Siti Huraizah Ruslan.
Agreeing with this, Independent Living and Training Centre (ILTC) Malaysia president G. Francis Siva said disabled people were already vulnerable and should not have to put up with more risks.
“As a disabled person, I can say that it is not safe for us on the streets.
“The walkways are often obstructed by tables and chairs as well as parked motorbikes and now irresponsible people are dumping their escooters there too,’’ he said.
A check by StarMetro at several locations in the city showed many of these two-wheelers abandoned at several sites including parking bays and pedestrian walkways.
Some were abandoned on the streets or propped up against traffic lights, trees and bushes.
At Jalan Bukit Bintang alone, dozens were dumped along walkways, back lanes and near the Bukit Bintang MRT station.
In Bandar Menjalara, Kepong, Euston Lee posted a photo on social media showing dozens of escooters parked on space meant for cars.
At the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, many escooters were left at the entrance and along walking paths with tactile blocks heading to the Bukit Jalil LRT station.
A security guard at the stadium said the two-wheelers were dumped by visitors after they were told they could not bring them into the stadium.
Virtual docking solution
To prevent escooters from being dumped all over the city, Neo said Beam introduced Virtual Docks to educate people on how to park their two-wheelers properly.
Virtual Docks are fixed parking spots that can be created virtually, and riders can be directed to appropriate parking spots using a combination of technology, GPS, behavioural science techniques, guidance, incentives and disincentives.
She said once Virtual Docks was established, within three months, escooter parking compliance in Kuala Lumpur increased from 44% to 90%.
“Last week, 95% of our total trips ended at designated parking spots.
“If a scooter is abandoned, the local authority will file a report and our Rapid Response Rangers team on the ground will collect the scooter.
“Those who do not park at predetermined spots will be fined. In Shah Alam, the local authority set a RM10 fine and in Kuala Lumpur the fine is RM5.
“In some countries, we reward users with rebates but in Malaysia, we found that fines were more effective in changing attitudes,’’ Neo said.
Beam has also created a dedicated hotline with local councils in Selangor and a 24-hour communication channel for residents to reach them, with an average response time of under 60 minutes.
“One of the key points of virtual docking is choosing parking spots that serve mobility efforts.
“Bus stops are the best places, in fact in Sepang and Cyberjaya, virtual docking next to the bus stops there is part of our agreement with the Sepang council.’’
Last year, Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Mahadi Che Ngah said DBKL had been approached by escooter companies seeking permission for their vehicles to be used at designated zones in the city.
Mahadi reiterated that DBKL did not want a repeat of the situation it faced with oBike previously.
oBikes proved to be a failure and a logistical nightmare as the local authority was saddled with the responsibility of collecting the abandoned bicycles dumped all over the city.
Thousands of the yellow bicycles that were collected and kept at the DBKL depot were auctioned off as scrap metal.
Boon or bane?
Kuala Lumpur folk are divided over the use of escooters in the city.
While some find this mode of getting around convenient, others view them as a nuisance that requires strict regulations.
Fatimah Johar, 18, rents an escooter when she is in the Bukit Bintang area.
“It gets me around from one place to another fast,’’ said the 18-year-old from Segambut.
Samuel Lai finds the escooter to be a convenient and cheap mode of transport.
“Ehailing is too expensive, especially during peak hours.
“So I use the scooter to move around,’’ said Lai, who worked as a barista in Jalan Raja Chulan.
However, M. Viknendran from Bangsar said escooters were a menace.
“I see them everywhere, left abandoned at bus stops and taking up space.
“Escooter users need to be more civic-minded and should consider others who share the pedestrian walkways with them,’’ he added.
Raj Kumar, a Bukit Jalil resident, thinks the escooters are good for the environment but feels users must be more responsible and not violate the rights of others like the elderly and disabled.
“We need rules to regulate their use or the same problem that happened with oBike will crop up again,’’ Raj said.