Picking out suitable areas for pilot projects

Aimie Nurhaneem seen here with her electric unicycle at Sepang International Circuit. — Courtesy pix

KUALA Lumpur is looking at the possibility of welcoming micromobility vehicles on its roads in a move to encourage active mobility among city folk.

However, this is contingent on the success of pilot projects undertaken by two government agencies currently working with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).

Mahadi says the city needs to be extra cautious when introducing micromobility vehicles to Kuala Lumpur’s public roads.Mahadi says the city needs to be extra cautious when introducing micromobility vehicles to Kuala Lumpur’s public roads.

Mayor Datuk Seri Mahadi Che Ngah said DBKL had to be extra cautious when drawing up guidelines and by-laws pertaining to the use of micromobility vehicles on its roads, largely due to safety issues.

“I have seen young children using escooters and sometimes two people on one scooter.

“And it’s not just the users but public safety, too, that needs to be looked at,” he said, adding that DBKL was involved in two trials with government agencies.

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“We have been approached by PLANMalaysia (Environment and Town and Country Planning Department) and Urbanice Malaysia to work on pilot projects to test the feasibility of using micromobility vehicles on city roads,” he said.

“We are excited about initiatives that promote active mobility, walking and cycling, any form of lifestyle that contributes to a person’s physical and mental health.

“But we also need to address the challenges of using micromobility vehicles on city roads,” Mahadi said.

The mayor added that the government via the Transport Ministry and Housing and Local Government Ministry were currently approaching local councils nationwide to iron out micromobility guidelines to regulate usage of the vehicles in a controlled environment.

He said he would be meeting up with the heads of Legal, Engineering and Urban Transportation, Project and Infrastructure departments as well as the Public Works Department to discuss the feasibility of the projects.

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In June, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong had a dialogue session with associations and micromobility vehicle operators and various government agencies to get feedback and suggestions to develop detailed guidelines on the usage of these vehicles in council-operated areas.

Wee reiterated that the ban was only on public roads to ensure public safety.

Pilot projects

Both PLANMalaysia and Urbanice Malaysia are parked under the Housing and Local Government Ministry and are tasked with creating sustainable and liveable cities for residents.

Mahadi said PLANMalaysia had invited DBKL to partner in a pilot project to help put in place the infrastructure needed for the project to work.

He said DBKL would also be working on it with the Road Transport Department.

“PLANMalaysia wants us to identify areas that are suitable for this project and through this experiment, we will be able to gauge the challenges faced by people using micromobility vehicles as well as pedestrians’ experience with these vehicles on the road,” he said.

On Urbanice Malaysia, the mayor said the agency was collaborating with a local university on the project, and had already identified areas in the city to test the initiative.

“Apart from legal issues, we need to look at safety, insurance and accountability if there were to be an accident, and if there were to be a fatality.

“These are important things to consider before legalising the operation,” he added.

Ban on public roads

The usage of micromobility vehicles on public roads made headlines on April 26 after the Transport Ministry banned the use of several types of micromobility vehicles on public roads to safeguard road users.

Vehicles on the ban list include mopeds (a two-wheeled or three-wheeled electric-powered vehicle with a maximum speed not exceeding 50kph), personal mobility vehicles (PMD) such as electric scooters and skateboards, and personal mobility aids (PMA) such as motorised wheelchairs.

The prohibition has been gazetted under the Road Traffic Rules 2021 (Prohibition of Use of Certain Micromobility Vehicles) that came into effect last Dec 17.

In response to public complaints shortly after the announcement of the ban, a directive was issued to the relevant authorities to allow the disabled community on micromobility vehicles to use bicycle lanes and crossroads, both with and without zebra crossings.

Bicycles, electric bicycles and trishaws are not affected by the new rule as they are not categorised as micromobility vehicles.

The ministry has also directed local authorities in each state to draw up by-laws to address various issues regarding the legal aspects of the use of micromobility vehicles on public roads.

Chief among them are that local authorities such as DBKL must provide the needed infrastructure and facilities, such as docking stations, barrier-free pavements, granting of licences to users and operators, the types of permitted vehicles and the designation of areas suitable for micromobility.

Nor Fajariah says City Hall is currently identifying areas in Kuala Lumpur to put in place the required infrastructure.Nor Fajariah says City Hall is currently identifying areas in Kuala Lumpur to put in place the required infrastructure.

DBKL Infrastructure Planning Department director Nor Fajariah Sulaiman, who is spearheading both pilot projects, said City Hall was currently identifying areas in Kuala Lumpur to instal the required infrastructure.

“PLANMalaysia wants us to pick the areas because while it has a set of guidelines ready, we need to see if it is suitable for the locations.

“Urbanice is working with UTM and has already identified the locations in Keramat to start the pilot project,” added Nor Fajariah.

She elaborated that DBKL had to ensure that the location identified was suitable for the Urbanice project.

“Micromobility vehicles are not suitable for areas like public parks that are frequented by joggers.

“In the event of an accident, the city can be liable so we have to look at everything before committing because ultimately, this is about people’s safety.

“Legality aside, we also have to look at speed limits and jurisdictions because we can only do this on DBKL roads and not Public Works Department roads,” she added.

‘Include users in feedback’

Personal Electric Vehicle Association (PEV Malaysia) president Edi Khushairy Abdul Kadir said the issue was with people using electric scooter-sharing services casually for recreation as they give regular users a bad name.

Edi Khushairy said many regular users had invested a lot of money on micromobility vehicles as well as protective gear for their safety.

“It would be good if DBKL could include us in its study as we can give useful information and feedback,” he said.

Edi Khushairy says a big group of users rely on escooters to get to work. — Photos: CHAN TAK KONG and SAMUEL ONG/The StarEdi Khushairy says a big group of users rely on escooters to get to work. — Photos: CHAN TAK KONG and SAMUEL ONG/The Star

“There is a big community of micromobility users out there. We have all the data and we are willing to share,” he said.

Social media influencer Aimie Nurhaneem Wan Hamizan, who is an avid electric unicycle user, expressed her excitement at the prospect of having a safe and controlled environment to use her vehicle.

“I think what DBKL is doing is great because there is a need for a place where we can use our vehicles without having to worry about safety as well as the fear of getting caught, since micromobility vehicles are technically banned.

“But it’s so portable, convenient and provides a good form of exercise. It’s also good for the environment,” she said.

Aimie said she wanted to create awareness of the benefits of micromobility vehicles, adding that it was a way of the future.

“Right now, I go to the outskirts of the city and ride in kampung areas just to be safe and not break any rules,’’ she explained.

“It would be good to finally have a spot of our own in KL where we can ride without fear,” she added.

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