SINGAPORE: The Government's main priority is to return safety to pedestrians on footpaths, said Dr Lam Pin Min on Tuesday (Nov 12).
The Senior Minister of State for Transport and Member of Parliament for Sengkang West SMC was speaking to reporters after a dialogue session at Anchorvale Community Club, which was attended by more than 300 people, many of them food delivery riders.
When asked if he had a message for those who have personal mobility devices at home they can no longer use because of the ban, Dr Lam said: "We understand that with the announcement of the ban, there will be people who will be affected. But our main priority is to return safety to pedestrians on footpaths. I think that is the main reason we are doing this."
"We don't want a situation where we do not do anything and (this results) in another fatality on a footpath. I think this is something that is not acceptable," he added.
Dr Lam said the e-scooter ban was a "difficult decision" for the Government, which has "always believed in active mobility".
"These past two years we have been trying to promote the use of active mobility ... but unfortunately, over the past year and months, the situation doesn't seem to have improved and we've seen a significant number of injuries and accidents," he said.
"After looking at the situation, we know that we have to do something to bring safety back to the footpaths and ... this very difficult decision to prohibit the use of PMDs on footpaths (was made)," Dr Lam added.
The dialogue session was held a week after e-scooters were banned on footpaths, and followed a series of Meet-the-People sessions that were attended by food delivery riders who wanted to talk to ministers like Mr Desmond Lee and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Although the session on Tuesday night started out calm, tensions grew and several attendees were seen shouting at Dr Lam near the end. When the session ended, riders could be heard shouting in frustration outside the hall.
One woman said: "We continue to fight, okay?"
Some food delivery riders told CNA as they left the hall that the atmosphere inside was "angry".
“He didn’t answer the question and just kept repeating the same thing,” said Mr Faris Yeo, 34, who has been a full-time GrabFood rider for a year.
He said he left the session early as there seemed "no point" for him to remain. Several others had also left before the session concluded.
“He just brushed us off. He could not give us a definite answer,” said Ms Serene Tan, 39, who has been working as a full-time food delivery rider for several months.
"We don't want to be enemies with fellow Singaporeans," she said. "He just needs to educate fellow Singaporeans (so we can) live in harmony."
Riders CNA spoke to before the session echoed the view that they were being unfairly targeted by the public.
Mr Mohd Azri, 25, said he had encountered many pedestrians walking on cycling paths and getting in the way of bicycles and PMDs.
"You have to blame the pedestrians too," he said.
He was also frustrated by the overnight ban, despite many PMD riders having followed the Government's instructions to convert their PMDs to UL-2272 certified devices and to drive within speed limits.
“I just think it’s not fair... Now we become criminals ... The Government should show us more transparency,” he said.
Full-time GrabFood rider Alam Mohd Nor, 54, said that the ban has affected his duties as the sole breadwinner of his family. When asked what he planned to do next, he said he would wait and see.
DR LAM URGES PEDESTRIANS AND PMD RIDERS TO BE GRACIOUS
On Wednesday morning, after the dialogue session, Dr Lam said in a Facebook post there was "no perfect solution".
In his post, he acknowledged that the ban has affected the livelihoods for some PMD riders who rely on the devices to deliver food.
"Every family has a different story to tell.
"Those with unique circumstances can also go to their respective MPs to have their issues looked into. I am sure my fellow parliamentary colleagues will try their best to provide tailored assistance, whenever feasible."
Dr Lam added that both pedestrians and PMD riders have a role to play, and urged for graciousness.
"As we move forward from here, I hope that pedestrians can also spare a thought for responsible PMD riders and keep to footpaths where possible, and for PMD riders to also play their part and look out for pedestrians.
"Graciousness is a two-way street, and key in a society that is learning to grapple with disruptive technologies in our lives. Only by looking out for one another can we overcome our current challenges and realise our original vision of active mobility."