SINGAPORE - Open spaces such as courtyards and plazas will be designated as public paths later this year, enabling the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to take enforcement action against cyclists and personal mobility device (PMD) users flouting rules in such areas.
And LTA's approval will be required before any business or individual can import PMDs or power-assisted bicycles (PABs), with offenders facing a fine and jail time from the first quarter of next year.
These are measures introduced under two separate Bills passed on Tuesday (May 26) as the authorities take steps to strengthen the laws and enforcement as an increasing number of people use mobility devices to get around.
The debate for both Bills was held concurrently in Parliament, with 11 MPs speaking on the issues.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min told the House that the Active Mobility (Amendment No. 2) Bill will allow path-connected open spaces such as courtyards, plazas, squares and atriums to be declared as public paths.
Bicycles are allowed on public paths, but motorised PMDs such as e-scooters and PABs are banned.
Dr Lam said this will provide clarity to all path users and empower LTA to enforce public path rules in these areas to reduce potential conflicts.
"We understand that some of these path-connected open spaces are used for community or municipal functions, such as grassroots events, night markets or community roadshows. We will facilitate events and activities by allowing open spaces to be closed temporarily," he added.
The Bill will also let LTA immediately forfeit non-compliant devices posing fire risks and dispose of them once the 30-day notice period to submit an objection has lapsed.
Meanwhile, the Small Motorised Vehicles (Safety) Bill will make it illegal for anyone to import PMDs and PABs without LTA's approval from the first quarter of next year.
Any individual who flouts this rule can be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for up to six months for the first offence.
Businesses can be fined up to $10,000 for the first offence.
More details about the approval process will be announced at a later date.
Dr Lam said import restrictions were needed as some people had continued to use devices that do not meet required safety standards.
Last year, all 115 fire incidents involving PMDs and PABs were due to devices that do not meet the standards.
In addition, 972 users were found riding non-compliant PMDs and PABs on public paths and roads. Eleven retailers were caught displaying non-compliant devices and failing to display warning notices about device requirements.
Explaining the timing of the Bills, Dr Lam said there is growing use of active mobility devices worldwide since the outbreak of Covid-19.
"We have observed a similar trend in Singapore, where travel demand for active mobility devices appears to have increased, even as ridership for public transport, taxis and private hire cars fell drastically," he said.
"This has arisen because of the larger number of short trips between homes and neighbourhood centres."
Given the increasing number of people using the devices, and with even more people expected to do so in the coming years, stronger laws and enforcement are required, Dr Lam said.
With more areas now designated as public paths, LTA will mark out which path-connected open space is a pedestrian-only area, a footpath or a shared path, in response to questions from Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) and Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan.
But Dr Lam clarified that void decks and the space in front of commercial spaces in estates will not be reclassified as public paths. These areas will continue to be regulated under the town councils' by-laws.
Several MPs, such as Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) asked how the authorities will enforce the rules against errant retailers and people who illegally modify devices.
Dr Lam said in response that the Government will continue to come down hard on them.
This complements other existing requirements such as requiring retailers and users to send the devices for inspections.
He added: "The effectiveness of all our regulations boils down to enforcement... We are constantly improving our enforcement actions against illegal device usage. LTA has significantly grown its enforcement footprint to about 200 enforcement officers, allowing for more frequent patrols."