For close to an hour after Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min delivered a ministerial statement on personal mobility devices (PMDs) yesterday, 14 MPs from both sides of the House sought clarifications on better protecting users as well as pedestrians. Here are edited excerpts from the exchange.
Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten): "Some countries have already banned PMDs from footpaths. Has LTA considered banning these PMDs from footpaths until our infrastructure is improved? Last month, I filed a question about park connectors and asked why NParks is not prepared to draw lines demarcating pedestrians from PMDs. But NParks says no, it is not prepared to do so, and that adds to the complication because pedestrians don't know. If I run left, I get knocked down. I run right, I also can get knocked down. So really, this situation is quite urgent and safety should be paramount."
Dr Lam Pin Min: "Safety is of paramount importance and we take all feedback seriously... If we had banned PMD use on pathways, we would have just pushed PMDs onto the roads, which would likely lead to more fatalities because of the higher speed of buses, cars and lorries travelling on the same road. Instead, what we have done is to implement a very comprehensive regime to ensure that PMDs are used in a safe and responsible manner.
"Currently, we are working with all the relevant agencies to see how we can enhance safety of PMD use on shared paths. We will also be working with local advisers to see how we can have infrastructure enhancement to tackle some of these issues on the ground."
Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok): "Given that there is likely to still be a high number of non-compliant PMDs after July 1, 2020, I wonder whether steps could be taken to prevent a secondary market of non-UL2272-compliant PMDs in Singapore. Perhaps we could consider providing value for scrapping such non-compliant PMDs."
Dr Lam: "For the 90 per cent of PMDs which are not UL2272-compliant, we will encourage owners to quickly change to the compliant PMDs as soon as possible. If not, we want to remind PMD owners on some of those safe practices when it comes to charging... Will there be a secondary market for non-compliant PMDs? I hope not, at least not in Singapore... If we do find out or if we do find the users who continue to use non-compliant devices, they will be taken to task."
Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC): "I have come across a few people who have bought e-scooters from Taobao and so on. I wonder how the Government is going to work with these online retailers that are headquartered overseas?"
Dr Lam: "We are cognisant of the fact that there are thousands of online shopping platforms, including Taobao. Many of them are outside Singapore, and it may not be possible for us to work with every online retailer. It is therefore important to have the mandatory inspection regime to ensure that PMDs used on our paths meet our technical as well as safety requirements."
Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC): "While I don't think 81,000 non-UL2272-certified PMDs will spontaneously catch fire, if it is a safety concern, why would LTA not call for an immediate ban on their usage? We see this in other industries. In the car industry, even though there are just one or two accidents, Toyota has recalled 2.2 million cars before.
"As for licensing riders, Israel requires a special permit for riders who do not already have a driver's licence. New Zealand also requires a driver's licence, as do certain provinces in Canada. While we may not have to go that far, would it not be possible to make the (LTA's voluntary) Safe Riding Programme compulsory?"
Dr Lam: "There are multiple factors that can lead to a fire incident. While we understand that there is a call to ban the use of non-UL2272 (compliant) devices immediately, we also are cognisant of the fact that there are many Singaporeans out there who rely on such devices not only for their daily commuting, but also as a way to sustain their livelihood... But at the same time, we want to remind PMD users who are currently not using compliant devices to exercise caution.
"As for licensing of riders, at this point in time, we do not have the intention to do so, but let us bring this back to study and see whether this will be necessary in the future."