About 150 personal mobility device (PMD) riders showed up at a dialogue session at Chong Pang Community Club on Nov. 12 to meet the Nee Soon GRC MP, K Shanmugam, who is also law and home affairs minister.
This figure was more than three times the number of attendees at the previous session held a week ago on Nov. 5, the day e-scooters were banned from footpaths.
The ban had sparked a furore among Singaporeans, with the food delivery riders who use the PMD to earn a living the most affected.
Since the first meeting between PMD riders and Shanmugam, various Meet-the-People sessions (MPS) over the past week saw a spike in the number of attendees who wanted to raise their concerns.
A basketball court in Chong Pang Community Club nearby was filled with the PMDs left neatly in rows by the riders.
At around 8:20pm, close to 50 PMD riders were waiting to register for the dialogue session and there were light refreshments provided by the community club.
A follow up on the first conversation and feedback on new grant
A GrabFood rider that Mothership spoke to shared that he bought his PMD two weeks ago and he is still paying for it via instalment repayments.
He heard that the dialogue session was a follow-up from the last meeting and he wanted to see how the MP will give solutions and feedback.
Another Foodpanda rider also shared that the food delivery riders' views ought to be heard, and they should be given "fair" treatment as they have been feeling discriminated against by this policy.
He said: "Just last week, on the street, you already can see the animosity among the people so what we actually hoping for is a more civilised and lenient way of dealing with this."
"Everything changed overnight. When I’m not riding, I’m a pedestrian as well."
The Foodpanda rider also said that he finds the S$7 million grant not so helpful as he has two PMDs.
He bought the new one just six months ago but he can only trade in one PMD.
He also raised the fact that the subsidies will not be sufficient to cover the full cost of the e-bike.
70-minute closed-door session
Shanmugam arrived and started speaking to the riders at around 9:25pm.
Most of them claimed to be Yishun residents.
At the dialogue session, no recordings were allowed, except for media that were allowed to be in the hall.
Focus on how to help riders adapt to the ban
The focus of the session was limited to how the government can help the affected residents instead of debating about the ban.
Shanmugam spent most of the time taking questions from affected residents.
He addressed individual situations and elaborated on what kind of assistance that the riders need.
Shanmugam assured the riders that NTUC is going to run a major exercise to make sure nobody will go without a job, together with food delivery companies.
At the same time, those who want to continue with food delivery can do so by switching to e-bikes.
Shanmugam highlighted that the government wants to be fair to both pedestrians and affected food delivery riders.
Citing accidents that happened over the years, he said that the government is aware of the polarising public sentiments on PMDs.
They wanted "to make PMD work" as a mode of transport but had to forbid the use of PMD now because of all the fatal accidents, and the majority of Singaporeans are angry.
"We have to be fair to them (victims of PMD-related accidents)... it can be your children, can be your mother, can be anybody, how do we help them? So, at the same time, we cannot say we help them, forget about you. So we have to help you also."
"We will work with you to see what we can help", Shanmugam assured.
But he also added frankly in response to a rider: "I can't make you happy, I can only try to be fair."
The closed-door dialogue session ended at 10:45pm and lasted about 70 minutes.
Top photo collage by Lauren Choo