On Nov. 12, around 150 personal mobility device (PMD) riders gathered for a dialogue session with Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam at Chong Pang Community Club.
Shanmugam arrived at the session at around 9:25pm, along with fellow Nee Soon GRC MP Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, and began a roughly 70-minute long session with the riders.
During the session, he spent most of the time taking and answering questions from affected residents, as he stated that he wished to focus on how the government can help them, rather than to debate on the new regulations.
Have to be fair to everyone
During the dialogue session, Shanmugam stressed on multiple occasions that it was important to be fair to all stakeholders, as he cannot simply take the side of either the PMD riders, nor the pedestrians.
"Sometimes, what one side wants is different from what the other side wants. This is one of those cases," he said.
"Now, many of you tell me, you are responsible, this is because of some people who are not responsible. True. But how do I know who is going to responsible, or who is not going to be responsible?" asked Shanmugam.
"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."
In response to a PMD rider who voiced her complaints and said she was very unhappy about the changes, Shanmugam had this to say:
"I can't make you happy. I can only try to be fair. "
Not fair to only allow delivery riders to use PMDs
Several PMD riders brought up their own situations during the dialogue, and asked for specific exemptions for the use of PMDs.
For example, one rider said that she used her PMD to bring her children to school, while another said that he worked for a food delivery company, and his PMD is vital for his job.
Both asked for the law to allow certain groups of people to continue using PMDs on footpaths, but Shanmugam pointed out that this was not fair.
"Can I say food delivery can use PMD, nobody else can use PMD? Is that possible? If I did that, what do you think would happen? Is it fair? Or can I say parents can use their PMDs to send their children to school, nobody else can? You will complain. Not fair right?"
The session allowed people to express their views and unhappiness in a constructive way
After the dialogue, Shanmugam told Mothership that the session was a constructive one, where people could express their views and their unhappiness.
Although he recognised that emotions were "obviously quite raw", as their livelihoods were at stake, he said that the session allowed them to get a better understanding of the issues at hand.
He said that the current situation was the case of two different interest groups: the large majority of residents who rightfully wish to feel safe on the footpath, and the people who use PMDs as a source of livelihood.
Shanmugam stated that over the last few months, he and his colleagues have received a lot of feedback from residents, saying that the footpath was for people to walk on, not for riders.
He went on to say that the safety of people who are walking are given the priority, because people cannot accept the large number of accidents that have occurred from PMDs.
Shanmugam then said that the government would have to find solutions for those who use PMDs for their livelihoods, and see how they can help them.
"It's something for the government to work with different groups of residents," he said.
Too many delivery riders
A Grabfood delivery rider that Mothership spoke to after the dialogue felt that the delivery companies have a part to play in reducing the number of accidents.
The rider, who introduced himself as Nicholas Paine, shared that after the new PMD regulations kicked in, the major food delivery companies began hiring more delivery riders to keep up with customer demand, since delivery riders on bicycles can make fewer deliveries on average.
He felt that such uncontrolled hiring would eventually lead to congestion on footpaths, which may lead to more accidents.
The rider claimed that when he was working for Uber Eats in the past, each location zone had a cap on the number of delivery riders, although such a cap no longer exists among the major food delivery companies today.
"This is why more accidents happen, this is why a lot of errant riders are appearing," he said.
He claims that he is neutral with the changes, and felt that whatever that was implemented was fair.
Paine said that as a delivery rider, he has to be mindful of the safety of the people as well, not just the PMD riders.
Top image by Lauren Choo.
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