E-scooters raise safety concerns in NTU

By Shirley Tay

Gwyneth Lim used to ride e-scooters around campus daily — until she got into an accident in February that left her unable to walk for two days.

E-scooter use in NTU has increased amid rising concerns of malfunctioning brakes and skidding. PHOTO: ZHENG JUNCEN

After the wounds she sustained on her knees became infected, Lim had to get around school on a wheelchair.

The second-year student from the Nanyang Business School (NBS) was trying to avoid a pedestrian when the brakes on her e-scooter malfunctioned.

“I was flung off the scooter after it skidded over a groove on the drain. I flew for a second and fell on my face, and lay sprawled on the ground,” said Lim, 20.

E-scooters have become increasingly popular among students for their convenience. A survey conducted by the Nanyang Chronicle of 110 students revealed that 47 per cent of students have used Telepod, the e-scooter sharing service available on campus, at least once.

However, the increased use of e-scooters has also raised safety concerns.

In the same survey, 45 per cent of students found riding e-scooters unsafe and 18 per cent of them have been in accidents at least once on a Telepod e-scooter. These accidents included malfunctioning brakes, collisions with pedestrians and skidding on slippery surfaces.

Dangers of riding

Martin Loh, a fourth-year student from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, was also involved in an e-scooter accident on campus.

Loh, 24, had decided to take the e-scooter after waiting for the campus shuttle bus for more than 20 minutes. It was drizzling at that time.

As he was going down the hill from Canteen 2 to Hall of Residence 8, the scooter started to skid on the slippery ground.

“In a moment of panic, I pressed down harder on the brakes, which only made it skid even more,” he added.

He eventually hopped off the scooter before it crashed, but the scooter hit the back of his right foot, causing it to bleed.

“I should have heeded Telepod’s warning to watch out for slippery surfaces. Now, I still use the e-scooters, but avoid doing so in bad weather,” said Loh.

Ng Yong Zhi, a second-year student from the School of Biological Sciences, said that he has ridden e-scooters with faulty brakes before.

“As the brakes are not responsive, I have to press really hard on them, which makes the scooter come to a sudden stop sometimes,” said Ng, 22, who uses the Telepod scooters three to four times a week.

“This is actually very dangerous as the inertia can throw you off the scooter,” he added.

Maintenance of e-scooters

Telepod’s chief operating officer, Louis Goh, said that the e-scooters are checked once every few days when it is brought back to the charging station near the North Hill cluster.

“We carry out checks on the brakes, acceleration, tyres and kickstands to ensure that the e-scooters are functioning normally,” said Mr Goh, 28.

Users are advised to check that the scooter is in good condition before embarking on a trip, and are encouraged to report faults through the Telepod application.

However, Low Hong Liang, a third-year Masters of Science in Technopreneurship and Innovation student, believes that Telepod holds a bigger responsibility in ensuring the safety of its riders.

“If they want to provide a service that people pay for, Telepod should be in charge of doing all these checks,” said the 25-year-old.

The user should not find out about these faults only when he is about to use the scooter, added Low, who rides the e-scooter at least once a day.

Convenience over safety

Despite the risks, Loh has continued to take the e-scooter even after the accident because it allows him to reach his destination with ease.  

“Riding an oBike or Mobike in the hot weather doesn’t sound like a good idea, especially around the parts of NTU with more slopes. I don’t want to get to class all sweaty,” he said.

For Gary Teo, a second-year NBS student, it is a matter of money.

“oBike and Mobike started to charge for their services, while e-scooters are still free to ride under the Jalan application,” said Teo, 22.

According to Telepod’s Mr Goh, NTU follows the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) rules and regulations on e-scooters. When travelling on walkways and footpaths, e-scooter riders need to keep to LTA’s speed limit of 15 kilometres per hour.

The Campus Security is monitoring the use of e-scooters on campus and will investigate any incidents involving these devices, said an NTU spokesperson.

Telepod also hopes that NTU students can use the e-scooters responsibly by slowing down when going over a bump or kerb and avoiding riding on roads.

“Safety is our top priority, and we need everyone to play their part,” Mr Goh said.