Delivered in Parliament on 26 May 2020
Clarifications regarding the Bill
Mr Speaker, sir, I support this Active Mobility Amendment Bill’s intentions to extend the coverage of the law to include path-connected open spaces.
Clause 4 amends section 6(1) to allow for any such space to be declared pedestrian-only, footpath or a shared path by LTA whether be it in public land or private land. I would like to ask the SMS how would this be done in practice? Would LTA consult the local stakeholders before declaring any area to be a specific type of path?
I also support the Bill’s intentions to enable the earlier disposal by LTA of seized non-compliant active mobility vehicles for safety reasons
On the issue of the disposal of seized vehicles under the Act, may I know currently how many of such seized vehicles are being held by LTA?
May the SMS also share with this house how does LTA currently dispose the seized vehicles? Are they taken apart and sold for scrap locally or abroad?
How are the batteries disposed of bearing in mind the safety risks associated with illegal batteries?
Sharing of footpaths and inadequate public education
Mr Speaker, sir, during the circuit breaker, it was reported in the media that many people flocked to use our many parks and park connectors during the circuit breaker. I am a daily user of a popular park near my home as well as a park connector leading to the East Coast Park. I concur with those reports.
My use of the parks and park connector during the circuit breaker reinforce my previous views on the culture of footpath or park connector use by all users. Even without the large number of e-scooters in use as we have previously seen, we can do more to improve on the culture: keeping left, giving way or giving space to each other, riders reducing speed when approaching other users. I have previously spoken of how information needs to be piped to those who do not sign up for a course or who do not actively seek such information online including cyclists and device users as well as pedestrians. I hope MOT and LTA will look at how to enhance the public education efforts for shared use of footpaths and public connectors.
Next I would also like to talk about adequate enforcement, the other limb necessary for safe active mobility use. On 5 May, Straits Times reported that SMS Lam had said there has been increased use of non-compliant PMDs on roads during the circuit breaker period.
Even though we have seen much fewer e-scooters around, there is hardly a day for me when I don’t see any e-scooters on footpaths or on the road. There are still e-scooter riders defying the ban after so many months. These riders clearly think they can get away with it because they do not sense that they will be taken to task immediately.
I am really not sure that enforcement is indeed sufficient with spot checks on certain locations. For example, although I use the Siglap Park Connector daily, I have never seen enforcement officers in the vicinity of the Connector. Unless one pushes his e-scooter to the park connector, most riders will need to ride on the road or on footpaths to get to the park connector. And ditto the same for other park connectors e.g. the one along Hougang Avenue 7. I am sure I am not the only person who have recently seen e-scooter riders riding across that road at traffic lights.
Even if we think that these days we may not see as many e-scooters as we used to do before the footpath ban, we should not forget that when the expanded cycling path network is up, e-scooters may yet be popular again. So it is important that we get the issues of public education and adequate enforcement right or we will be kicking the can down the road.
Food delivery riders on e-scooters
Mr Speaker, sir, in the past few months from April to June I have seen on quite a few occasions food delivery riders in their uniforms using e-scooters on footpaths and on roads. They are mostly from Grab and on two occasions, FoodPanda.
In February this year, I have asked in a Parliamentary Question whether the Government will consider imposing legal obligations on food delivery companies to ensure that their delivery riders on e-bikes or e-scooters will comply with Active Mobility or Road Traffic regulations including but not limited to compliance with device requirements or proper usage.
Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in reply that under the Active Mobility (Amendment) and the Shared Mobility Enterprises (Control and Licensing) Acts, food delivery companies should be responsible for ensuring that their riders ride safely.
However, it is not clear as to how those laws will impose obligations. I raised the same concerns again at the Committee of Supply Debate for Ministry of Transport and also suggested the imposition of penalties on the food delivery companies in the event of any failure on the part of their riders to comply with the law.
SMS Lam said in response (and I quote): “…businesses have a role to play, which is why LTA has introduced regulations on companies and continues to work closely with companies to encourage responsible behaviour by their riders.” But no further details were given.
In view of the continuing use of e-scooters by a small number of food delivery riders, and their companies not able to stop them, I would like to ask SMS Lam to clarify explicitly:
- Besides taking actions against errant riders, can and will LTA take immediate action against their companies to stop such breaches of law?
- What penalties are available against the food delivery companies for failing to ensure their riders’ compliance with the law?
Status of construction of expanded cycling path network
Mr Speaker, sir, not long ago, we heard in this house that the construction of the expanded cycling path network for use by bicycles, e-bikes and PMDs would be ramped up. May I ask the SMS to provide an update on the status of the construction of the expanded cycling paths network and whether it has been affected by Covid-19 measures or by any of the foreign workers involved in the project being quarantined or prevented from working?
The nagging question I have about the expanded cycling path network is whether the cycling paths will be directly linked to HDB blocks, condominiums, houses, shophouses, office buildings and industrial buildings, etc, such that riders do not need to alight and push their PMDs or e-bikes along footpaths to their homes, work places and other destinations.
If riders need to pass a footpath or road en route to their destination, it may result in some e-scooter or e-bike riders continuing riding on the paths and take the easy way out. As e-bikes have become more commonly seen after the footpath ban for e-scooters, we also see more e-bikes on footpaths now. We may end up kidding ourselves, after spending so much money, that the expanded cycling path network will solve the problems created by e-scooters’ use of footpaths.
If this seem too expensive, impractical or ambitious, then MOT may have to reconsider e-scooters and other PMDs as a serious option for first and final mile connectivity.
However, if our cycling path network were to become sufficiently extensive such that PMDs and e-bike riders do not need to alight and push, it may in turn do away with the need for cyclists to share the use of footpaths, which is still currently allowed. This prospect may be welcomed by many footpath users who may not think that sharing footpaths with cyclists is a good idea.
I have asked the same questions earlier this year, at the first amendment of this Act and during COS. I look forward to the SMS’s clarification today.
Notwithstanding the questions and concerns I have, I support this Active Mobility Amendment Bill.