E-scooters are mostly used for leisure activities in Malaysia, but perhaps it's time for them to serve a bigger purpose.
The Malaysian government is always trying to make public transport better with the latest attempt costing them around RM36 Billion.
While the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) is a noble attempt and one of the largest infrastructure projects in Malaysian history, it seems that the foundation in the form of the first and last mile is still insufficient to support it, which deters most people from using it.
Yes, some buses try to connect public transit systems together, but frankly, they are not up to par and not as well connected which hinders most people from using them or the MRT altogether. What we mean by not up to par is that they sometimes do not stop at places that we need them to and this could mean a few km hike to the office and back.
Inspired by one of our colleagues who uses an e-scooter to complete his commute to work and back, we ask the question is perhaps e-scooters a viable solution to the first/ last mile problem? Not only will these e-scooters help lower our carbon footprint, but it will also benefit public transport users by connecting everything together.
We're not suggesting using an e-scooter sharing service like Neuron Mobility and Beam because they are scattered at places that are not convenient for public transports users, but rather purchasing one yourself to help complete that first and last-mile journey. Since it is foldable and not that heavy, it won't occupy that much space on the bus or trains, and you could always carry it around with you when not in service.
With an average range of 16KM, it can definitely help take you from your home to the nearest public transport system where you can then fold it up and keep it tidy while in transit. You can then deploy it once again on the other side of the public transport journey so that you can complete your travel to work.
It sounds easy, but it does require some commitment and sacrifice from yourself. Some of the challenges we can foresee are the initial cost where you will have to purchase an e-scooter. They are on average sold at around RM2k, so not a small price to pay. They require at minimum a 3-4 hour charge but a full 12 hours should give you the maximum possible range.
The biggest challenges of course, are the riding bits. What can seem like small pockets of fun is actually the biggest obstacle. Riding an e-scooter in our harsh climate through the city can seem pretty intimidating. One day it might be really hot where you will get all sweaty, while on another day you might get wet from our famous torrential downpours.
Either way, you are getting wet, but for those who have a showering facility at work, this isn't such a big deal but realistically how many of us have this privilege?
And then there is this bit where you're not allowed to ride on the pavement so you will have to ride your scooter on the road. Anything that involves endangering pedestrians on the pavement ie skateboarding, bicycle riding, or scooter riding is a big no-no in Malaysia, and this includes riding scooters that can go up to 24km/h. It's the same pretty much in any city, with most banning these types of activities on the pavement.
Photo credit: The Guardian
Riding a small e-scooter on the road brings with it its own set of challenges, especially when you're sharing the road with heavy moving traffic. And then there is the non-suspended small wheels that you will be riding on so vigilance when riding must be at its highest or else you will fall over. A helmet and some protective gear is recommended so another set of things to invest in.
But then again, after all these challenges, the e-scooter is most probably the most efficient way to end the first and last-mile problem. Since the bulk of the journey is done through public transport, you only need this little bit of help to complete the journey.
You don't have to share it with anyone, depend on anyone and in the current state we live in, touch what others have touched. The best thing is, after the initial investment, the journey will be free and if that doesn't entice you, surely not having to wait for a vehicle involved in an inefficient system must, as the e-scooter will allow you to be as timely as you want or as efficient as you like.
The e-scooter must seem like a toy or leisure activity machine but then again, it just seems like the perfect tool to solve this first and last-mile problem. What do you think?