As food delivery riders continue to lobby MPs to review the ban on riding PMDs on footpaths, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min reiterated that the Government is taking the impact on their livelihoods very seriously.
The $7 million assistance scheme announced last Friday is one way it is helping personal mobility device (PMD) riders switch to an alternative vehicle to continue working, he said.
Speaking with reporters yesterday after an hour-long dialogue in his Sengkang West constituency with about 300 people, including delivery riders, Dr Lam said the session helped explain to those affected the rationale behind the ban on PMD riding on footpaths, which he announced in Parliament on Nov 4.
"We also want to let them know that we take their livelihoods very seriously, and therefore the $7 million assistance package is one way we are helping them to work and support their families," he added.
The media was not allowed into the closed-door session at Anchorvale Community Club, but participants interviewed afterwards said they were dismayed at the sudden ban and unhappy that no further solutions were offered by Dr Lam.
They said the mood during the session was tense, with many people fighting for the chance to speak.
Topics raised included the difficulties in switching to bicycles and electric bicycles, and instalment plans for those who have bought e-scooters.
Mr Muhamad Noorizar Salleh, 35, an adult educator, said more could be done for PMD riders who are parents like him. He uses an e-scooter to take his three children to school. "I've never had an accident in the past four years I've been riding," he said. "Since it's usually the younger riders who speed, why can't we have measures like an age limit of 21 years, instead of a blanket ban?"
Also in the hall was opposition politician Goh Meng Seng, the secretary-general of the People's Power Party. He said in a Facebook post that he told Dr Lam the $7 million grant to help delivery riders switch to e-bikes puts their lives at higher risk of getting hit by cars on the road. Dr Lam later told reporters that bicycles have been on the roads, and motorists are more familiar with looking out for them.
Last Friday, the Transport Ministry announced a $7 million grant to help food delivery riders who trade in their existing e-scooters. They get up to $1,000 to buy a power-assisted bicycle, or $600 for a bicycle. The scheme administered by Grab, Deliveroo and foodpanda will be in place till Dec 31.
The authorities have said they will mainly issue warnings to errant riders from now until the end of the year, but will adopt a zero-tolerance approach from next year.
Asked what he would say to riders who believe their e-scooters are now useless, Dr Lam said the Government understood that with this ban, there will be people affected.
"But our main priority is to return safety to pedestrians on footpaths - that is the main reason why we're doing this," he added. "We don't want a situation where if we do not do anything, it results in another fatality on the footpath."
Riders have been turning up at Meet-the-People Sessions (MPS) to voice their concerns over the ban. On Monday, a group of riders met Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Tampines Central ward.
Dr Lam said yesterday that he understood not every delivery rider will be happy with the grant given, "but what we're trying to do is to allow them to return to the trade that they want to continue in".
He said for cases where the help is not sufficient, the ministry will work with local grassroots advisers and the community to see what more can be done.