Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min spent roughly one and a half hours in a closed-door meeting with Personal Mobility Device (PMD) riders ahead of his Meet-the-People Session on Tuesday evening.
Following it, he spoke for about 10 minutes with the media, addressing questions that were at times pretty hard-hitting from the likes of CNA's Steven Chia, who led questioning in the brief doorstop interview.
Here is a transcript of Lam's comments (we flagged Chia's questions in red):
1. On why there was an about-turn in government policy on allowing PMDs on footpaths:
"Well we have to look at the situation. We have always believed in active mobility, using active mobility devices for first and last mile, and we also understand that many Singaporeans have also used e-scooters as a means of making a living such as in the food delivery services.
All these two years we have been trying to promote the use of active mobility. We have come up with various measures, initiatives, to promote safe riding of PMDs but unfortunately over the past year in fact months, the situation doesn't seem to have improved, we have seen quite a significant number of injuries from accidents of PMDs and pedestrians, and we have also seen several fatalities.
And therefore, after looking at the situation, we know that we have to do something to bring safety back to footpaths and therefore this very difficult decision to prohibit the use of PMDs on footpaths."
2. But why so soon, why overnight?
"Well we have been looking at this situation for a long time. We have to make the announcement and come up with the decision and at the same time we have also provided an advisory period till the end of this year because we know that some people may need time to adjust, some people may not be aware of the news, and therefore this advisory period.
And we are also working with the three major food delivery companies, we understand that many of them will be affected as a result of this prohibition and that many of them still want to continue to work as food delivery riders and therefore we have come up with this S$7 million transition assistance package to provide and facilitate switching to a different alternative mode of transport which allows them to continue to work in this line."
3. His response to accusations that this is a flip-flop in position:
"Well I don't see this as a flip-flop because if you look at the history of active mobility, since 2017 since the enactment of the Active Mobility Act, we have been trying to promote the use of active mobility in a safe and responsible way.
We have come up with many of the measures that have been mentioned before including mandatory registration, safe riding programme, decreasing the speed limit of devices on footpaths but unfortunately you know, even with all these measures the situation did not improve and therefore I think it is a responsible thing to do to prohibit the use of PMDs on footpaths because of several reports we have read in the newspaper about severe injuries as well as fatalities."
4. Was there a solution given to unhappy PMD riders?
"Well we understand that with the news of the prohibition as well as even with the announcement of the assistance package, not everyone, not 100 per cent of the people will be happy with the assistance. But we have to understand that you know, what we are trying to do is to allow them to return to the trade that they want to continue in and this is the way that we can facilitate so that they can continue with the food delivery services provision.
For those peculiar cases where the assistance package may not be of significant relief, I think we have to look at it individually to see how else we can assist them, you know, we will work with the local advisers, with the community in a very holistic way to address some of the problems that they are facing."
5. Where does this leave the Land Transport Masterplan?
"Well I must say that it is our long term vision to promote active mobility, and therefore we are actually ramping up on our infrastructure enhancement, the building of more bicycle paths and PCN (park connector networks)."
6. How long will that take?
"Well we have announced in Parliament that we're going to increase the number of shared paths and PCN to 750km by 2025 and 1,300km by 2030 but of course, you know, as much as possible we will try to also work with the local advisers to identify within the constituency areas where they think that sooner enhancement may actually provide that connectivity, and this is something that we are also willing to consider."
7. Because right now, the network of shared paths and PCNs isn't working. Riders can't make a living the same way they used to.
We understand that the maturity of the cycling paths and the PCNs differ from town to town. There are some towns such as Ang Mo Kio and Tampines which may provide better connectivity and others may not, therefore we will continue to work on infrastructure enhancement.
We are not saying that it is going to be the same, it's never the same. The fact that this news has affected the food delivery riders is the reason why we have come up with this S$7 million assistance package to allow them to convert to alternative modes of transport so they can continue to work.
8. But that alternative mode of transport puts them on the roads with the cars, transferring the problem to the roads.
"We have provided several options, it is not one size fits all. For those who are keen to convert to alternative mode of transport, we are working with food delivery companies to see what options they would like to exercise. The assistance package actually allows them to get an e-bicycle, a bicycle or a personal mobility aid if that's required because of the physical condition."
9. Will this force everyone to modify their vehicles to a Personal Mobility Aid (PMA)?
"There are guidelines to allow everyone to switch to a PMA. We are actually working with the food delivery companies but we also don't envisage a situation where people will just switch to PMA for the sake of using a PMA for food deliveries because there is a speed limitation to PMAs and it's limited to only 10km/h on all paths."
10. Most will switch to the roads, then — will this mean we will see more accidents on the roads?
"We are working with the food delivery companies to see which is the best option for the riders. We know that bicycles have been on the roads for many years. Motorists are more familiar with looking out for bicycles and in fact if you look at the roads even on weekends, there are actually many people who actually ride bicycles on the roads.
But whatever modality I think it is important for all users to exercise caution to safeguard and ensure that they do so in a safe and responsible manner."
11. What would you say to those who say their PMDs are now useless?
"We understand that the announcement of this ban there will be people who will be affected but our main priority is to return safety to pedestrians on footpaths I think that's the main reason why we are doing this. We don't want a situation where you know, we do not do anything resulting in another fatality on footpaths. I think this is something that is not acceptable."
12. On the session and how it went:
"Maybe I just give a very quick summary of what happened. I think this engagement session allows us to explain the rationale of the prohibition of PMD use on footpath and also the $7 million transition assistance package for food delivery riders and we want to let them know first-hand the rationale behind this move and to seek their understanding why the government has decided so.
And at the same time we also want to let them know that we take their livelihood very seriously and therefore the $7 million assistance package is one way we can help them to continue work to support their family."
Top photo by Joshua Lee and CNA
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