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Opening Speech by Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Lam Pin Min on Second Reading of Small Motorised Vehicles (Safety) Bill and Active Mobility (Amendment No. 2) Bill

26 May 2020 In Parliament

1.     Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Minister for Transport, I beg to move, “That the Bill be now read a second time”.

2.     This Bill, together with the Active Mobility (Amendment No. 2) Bill (or the “Active Mobility Bill” for short) which will be read next, relates to small motorised vehicles, including personal mobility devices (PMDs) and power-assisted bicycles (PABs).

3.     Sir, with your permission, I would like to propose that the substantive debate on both Bills take place together, under the common objective of ensuring and developing a safe and sustainable active mobility landscape. This will allow Members to raise questions or express their views on both Bills during the debate. We will still have the formal Second Reading of the Active Mobility Bill to ensure that procedural requirements are dealt with. 

Introduction

4.     First, I would like to thank our delivery riders, who have been instrumental in providing delivery services to Singaporeans during this COVID-19 circuit breaker period. It is not an easy job; they brave the elements and are on the move all day. I am grateful for their efforts in making our lives more convenient, amidst this trying time for all of us.

5.     Let me first address why we are tabling these Bills now. In many cities around the world, we have seen an uptake in active mobility modes of transport after 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. This has arisen because of the larger number of short trips between homes and neighbourhood centres. With the expansion of the cycling path network in the years ahead, we should also expect use of active mobility devices to pick up again. With more users, it is all the more critical for us to strengthen our regulations and enforcement even as we deal with other COVID-related challenges.

6.     The Small Motorised Vehicles (Safety) Bill (or the “Small Motorised Vehicles Bill” for short) sets out an important import control regime to stem the inflow into Singapore of unsafe small motorised vehicles, which include PMDs and PABs. The Active Mobility Bill also allows LTA to shorten the forfeiture process for such devices which pose significant safety risks, and expands the public path network to include certain open spaces, so that active mobility devices can be used safely in accordance to our regulations. Let me now elaborate on the main provisions of the two Bills.

Small Motorised Vehicles (Safety) Bill 2020

7.     Let me first start with the Small Motorised Vehicles Bill.

Import Controls Regime

8.     Today, only active mobility devices that comply with device criteria on weight, width, and speed are allowed to be used on public paths. This is to enhance public safety on paths. Motorised PMDs and PABs are also required to meet the relevant safety standards, which is the UL2272 standard for motorised PMDs and the European Standard EN15194 for PABs. Devices which do not meet the relevant safety standards pose higher fire risks, and accounted for all 115 fire incidents in 2019 involving PMDs and PABs.

9.     We have introduced many measures to tackle the supply of non-compliant devices, including prohibiting the sale of non-UL2272 devices for use on public paths since July 2019, and mandating inspection of e-scooters from April 2020. LTA regularly enforces against retailers who display, advertise and sell non-compliant devices, and alter devices to make them non-compliant, as well as path users who ride such non-compliant devices on public paths. Despite our efforts, LTA continues to detect non-compliant devices being used on public paths, and fires involving non-compliant devices continue to occur. In 2019 alone, 972 users were detected riding non-compliant PMDs and PABs on public paths and public roads. Irresponsible retailers have compounded the problem. In 2019, 11 retailers were caught for displaying non-compliant PMDs and PABs and failing to display warning notices.

10.    In view of these challenges, we need to go upstream to stem the inflow of non-compliant devices at the point of import.

11.    Clause 5 of the Small Motorised Vehicles Bill requires all importers to obtain import approval from LTA before they can bring small motorised vehicles into Singapore. For a start, we will implement this requirement for motorised PMDs and PABs. This will ensure that we have oversight of the inflow into Singapore of all such devices. LTA will assess import approval applications based on the safety of the devices to be imported. It will be an offence to import motorised PMDs and PABs without valid approval from LTA.

12.    We recognise that there are legitimate reasons to import non-compliant devices, such as for research, re-export, or commercial use exclusively on private land or land with restricted public access. For these specific cases, import approvals can still be granted after LTA has ascertained that these non-compliant devices will not be abused and eventually used on public paths where they could be a danger to other path users. Thus, Clause 8 makes it an offence for importers to allow non-compliant devices they have imported to be used for purposes other than what had been allowed under the import approval, or to fail to comply with a condition specified in the import approval. LTA will also affix tamper-proof tags on all non-compliant devices allowed to be imported, to facilitate downstream enforcement.

13.    We will take decisive enforcement against the provision of false information and imports without import approvals. Similar to other import controls regimes, ICA officers appointed as officers of customs will work with LTA to carry out random inspections at the checkpoints. LTA is also empowered to conduct searches of premises, or conveyances located within any premises, used for or in connection with the import of small motorised vehicles or the storage of such imported vehicles, in order to investigate an offence under the Bill. This could include premises suspected to contain motorised PMDs and PABs imported without valid import approval from LTA. Motorised PMDs and PABs found to be imported without valid import approval will be seized and forfeited, and their importers will be taken to task.

Active Mobility (Amendment No. 2) Bill

14.    Let me now move on to the Active Mobility Bill.

Shortening of Forfeiture Process

15.    Non-compliant devices pose fire risks even when not being used or charged. Since the Active Mobility Act (AMA) was passed by this House in 2017, LTA has seized PMDs, PABs and bicycles used in the commission of offences under the AMA or the Road Traffic Act (RTA), and stores these in holding yards pending the outcome of prosecution or the acceptance of a composition offer. Some are not UL2272 or EN15194 compliant, and others could have been badly damaged or have leaking batteries after being involved in accidents. It would be dangerous for LTA to retain custody of such forfeited devices.

16.    To mitigate safety hazards arising from the storage of such seized devices, this Bill amends the AMA and the RTA to allow LTA to immediately forfeit devices that LTA has assessed to be dangerous, prior to composition or conviction, and to dispose of them after providing a 30-day notice period for objections to be submitted. There will be no changes to the forfeiture and disposal process for non-compliant devices that are not dangerous.

17.    In addition to PMDs, PABs and bicycles, the process also extends to non-compliant mobility vehicles, or what we refer to as personal mobility aids.

Expand Active Mobility Act coverage to include open spaces

18.    Lastly, to improve clarity of rules for all path users, the Active Mobility Bill expands the public path network by allowing path-connected open spaces to be declared as public paths. Path-connected open spaces are generally indistinguishable from the existing public path network. This includes spaces such as courtyards, plazas, squares and atriums that are accessible to the public. This amendment will allow our public path network to accommodate the largest range of possible users. It will also enable LTA to extend the public path user rules to reduce potential conflicts between the motorised and nonmotorised users in these open spaces. The clarity will be useful to all path users.

19.    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.

Miscellaneous Amendments

20.    Lastly, clauses 29, 30 and 31 of the Small Motorised Vehicles Bill makes miscellaneous amendments to the Land Transport Authority of Singapore Act, Rapid Transit Systems Act and the Road Traffic Act to channel certain sums collected by LTA into the Consolidated Fund. This delinks LTA’s regulatory and enforcement functions from the associated revenues from these actions, and aligns LTA’s financial practices with the Whole-of-Government financial governance framework.

Conclusion

21.    We remain committed in promoting active mobility as a viable and attractive mode of transport and lifestyle choice in Singapore. When used safely, with the appropriate regulations and infrastructure, active mobility devices can be an affordable, environmentally-friendly, and convenient commuting option. This is why, even as we are heartened by the significant improvement in footpath safety since the use of e-scooters was banned on footpaths from November last year, we are pressing on to improve our cycling path infrastructure and to further strengthen our regulatory framework.

22.    Mr Speaker, our active mobility regulatory framework must continue to evolve to keep pace with new technology and new trends. It is timely for us to put in place a regulatory framework to ensure that active mobility devices being brought into and used in Singapore are safe. This is a key step in helping us put in place a safe and sustainable active mobility landscape in Singapore.

23.    Mr Speaker, I beg to move.