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Speech by Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health at The Ministry of Transport’s Committee of Supply Debate 2019 on Healthy Living Through Active Mobility

07 Mar 2019 Speeches

1.     During the recent public engagements for LTMP 2040, some participants I spoke to mentioned that they use their daily commute to squeeze in a bit of exercise by walking and cycling. They wanted to see more options for walking and cycling between destinations. Others expressed hopes for safer path-sharing and more harmonious interactions between path users.

2.     We support these aspirations by Singaporeans, and will enhance our transport system to facilitate active and healthy lifestyles and to ensure safety for all.

3.     To help more Singaporeans embrace active mobility, we will continue to enhance active mobility accessibility, while inculcating a safe and gracious path-sharing culture to address pedestrian’s concerns with path-sharing.

4.     First, we are expanding active mobility options through building more cycling infrastructure. By 2030, Singapore will have a comprehensive network of off-road cycling paths in every HDB town. In addition to the existing 120km of cycling paths it has built, LTA is constructing cycling paths in Bukit Panjang and Bishan, and expanding the cycling network in Ang Mo Kio and Tampines over the next three years. LTA will also build the Geylang-City and Queenstown-City inter-town cycling routes. When completed in 2020, they will connect cyclists and Personal Mobility Device (PMD) users directly from their homes to the city.

5.     With the increased popularity of active mobility, Singaporeans have expressed concerns about safety on paths shared by pedestrians and PMD users. These are valid concerns. As Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Ms Sun Xueling have pointed out, active mobility accidents have increased due to the increased use of bicycles and PMDs. The number of reported off-road accidents involving active mobility users increased from 132 in 2017 to 251 in 2018.

6.     To stem this worrying trend, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel (AMAP) conducted a review of active mobility rules in 2018. The Government has since accepted their recommendations.

a.     In January, we started the registration regime for e-scooters to deter reckless riding behaviour and facilitate enforcement efforts in tracking down errant riders. To date, over 40,000 e-scooters have already registered.

b.     We also reduced the speed limit on footpaths from 15km/h to 10km/h in February this year. To address Mr Lim Biow Chuan’s query, a slower speed gives active mobility users and pedestrians more time to react to unforeseen circumstances, and reduces the risk of severe injuries should accidents occur.

7.     Last year, the AMAP recommended against mandating third-party liability insurance so as to accommodate the diversity of active mobility device users and keep active mobility affordable. Nonetheless, we echo Er Dr Lee Bee Wah’s sentiments on the importance of third-party liability insurance, and strongly encourage users to insure themselves against third-party claims.

a.     To this end, LTA and AMAP have engaged the insurance industry and employers of large groups of active mobility users such as food delivery companies to spur the provision of insurance coverage. Similarly, we will require PMD-sharing licensees to procure and maintain third-party liability insurance.

8.     Er Dr Lee Bee Wah also asked that town councils be allowed to ban bicycles and PMDs for pedestrian safety. The Active Mobility Act allows pedestrians, cyclists and PMD users to use footpaths as they are crucial for connectivity. It is important that the same rules are applied consistently to all footpaths so that users will not be confused with different rules at different areas.

9.     I thank Ms Cheng Li Hui for her suggestions to improve active mobility safety. We will continue to review our regulations to ensure safety of all path users, and will take the suggestions into account for the next review.

10.    To safeguard pedestrian safety, we will consider infrastructural improvements where necessary, such as pedestrian priority zones which employ ‘SLOW’ markings, speed regulating strips and signages to alert cyclists and riders to slow down and look out for pedestrians.

11.    I fully agree with Ms Cheng Li Hui, Ms Sun Xueling, Er Dr Lee Bee Wah and Mr Lim Biow Chuan on the need for stronger enforcement to deter reckless riding behaviour. Indeed, we have stepped up enforcement actions. LTA’s team of Active Mobility Enforcement Officers has been carrying out regular checks at hotspots, using speed guns and weighing scales to enforce speed limit and device weight requirements.

a.    Since May 2018, LTA has detected more than 3,100 active mobility offences, which include unsafe riding on paths and riding of non-compliant devices.

b.    To complement its existing enforcement efforts, LTA will implement a trial later this year to place closed-circuit televisions at hotspots for better detection of active mobility offences.

12.    However, enforcement alone is not enough. As Mr Lim Biow Chuan has rightly pointed out, we also need to educate users on responsible behaviour.

a.    We have pressed on with the Safe Riding Programme (SRP), which educates active mobility device users on safe riding practices and proper use of active mobility infrastructure. In its first year, 39,000 participants from schools, companies and the community completed the programme. We will continue to offer the programme at a fully subsidised rate until the end of 2019, so that more will be able to participate.

13.    LTA has worked with the Ministry of Manpower and Traffic Police to issue a joint circular to food delivery companies to encourage food delivery riders to ride safely, and provide avenues for members of the public to report unsafe riding.

14.    I also agree with Ms Sun Xueling on the need to introduce guidelines to improve the safety of PMDs and reduce fire risks. As I have previously shared in this House, we will prohibit the sale of non-UL2272 certified PMDs from 1 July 2019 to reduce the risk of PMD fire incidents. We have strongly advised PMD users to purchase PMDs from reputable sources, observe fire safety standards and avoid overcharging PMD batteries or modifying their PMDs.

15.    I would like to assure Ms Sun Xueling that today, footpaths in new public estates are about 1.8 metres wide and most footpaths in public estates are at least 1.5 metres wide. We will expand footpaths where feasible. However, there are some places where this is not possible. We will therefore need to strive for an ethos of gracious path-sharing where cyclists, PMD users and pedestrians look out for each other’s safety.

a.    Ground-up initiatives such as the Active Mobility Patrol (AMP) scheme will play a crucial role in harnessing the community to promote harmonious path-sharing behaviour. We now have more than 1,000 volunteers conducting patrols and organising outreach activities in their communities to educate cyclists and PMD users on how they should adjust their behaviour to accommodate the needs of fellow path-users.

16.    In recent years, operators offering active mobility device-sharing services have emerged. This is a new, growing sector – while it offers Singaporeans better access to active mobility devices at cheap prices, it also comes with its own share of challenges.

17.    Last year, we introduced a licensing regime for bicycle-sharing operators. The regime regulates the maximum fleet size for each licensee based on responsible operator behaviour, and aligns fleet growth with parking provisions and consumer needs. In January this year, we introduced measures to ensure that users park responsibly, such as the QR code parking system, and requiring operators to ban recalcitrant users from device-sharing services.

18.    We have stepped up the provision of bicycle parking spaces by implementing yellow boxes, especially in areas of high demand for bicycle parking. We now have more than 220,000 bicycle parking lots islandwide, with all public housing located within a 5-minute walk from a public bicycle parking facility. We target to provide a total of 267,000 lots by 2020.

19.    With these efforts, we have made great strides in bringing the indiscriminate parking situation under control. The number of shared bicycle trips ending outside a designated parking location has been declining steadily, and we will continue to work with operators to reduce indiscriminate parking.

20.    Ms Cheng Li Hui asked about what we learnt from the oBike incident. oBike’s sudden exit preceded our licensing regime, and deeply inconvenienced many Singaporeans.

a.    The licensing regime will help to address some of the disamenities caused by oBike’s exit. For example, when oBike exited, it was difficult to locate the individual bicycles left behind which did not have location-tracking features. Under our licensing regime, licensees are required to install location tracking devices on their bicycles, and prepare plans to remove their bicycles in a timely manner should they exit the market.

21.    I would like to assure Mr Yee Chia Hsing that under our licensing regime, responsible device-sharing operators will have the flexibility to grow their fleet sizes. This year, we opened a 2nd round of licence applications for bicycle-sharing services on 4 January 2019. This allows new operators to enter the market, and gives responsible licensees that are able to manage their fleets effectively the opportunity to grow their fleets.

22.    Ms Cheng Li Hui asked if PMD-sharing licensees will require users to put up deposits. Based on the licence applications we have received, no PMD-sharing licence applicant intends to require user deposits.

23.    Mr Dennis Tan and Ms Cheng Li Hui expressed concern over the operations of PMD-sharing services, and the impact of allowing PMD-sharing services at this time. I would like to assure them that we will proceed cautiously. LTA is assessing the first batch of PMD-sharing licence applications and will only license operators who are capable of managing indiscriminate parking and complying with fire safety requirements, and have clear plans to educate users on proper parking, safe riding and fire safety.

24.    We will start conservatively, with new operators restricted to small fleet sizes of up to 500 PMDs under a 1-year sandbox licence period. This gives LTA time to assess sandbox licensees’ ability to comply with regulatory requirements, before granting them a larger fleet size under a full licence. LTA may revoke the licenses of non-compliant sandbox licensees during the licence period.

25.    PMD-sharing licensees will be subjected to PMD-specific safety requirements. These include ensuring that shared PMDs are charged only by suitable personnel in proper environments, and requiring shared PMDs to be certified to the UL2272 standard. PMD-sharing licensees will also be required to procure and maintain third-party liability insurance, and to have identification stickers and tracking devices installed on devices to facilitate enforcement. I am confident that our licensing approach and regulatory requirements will allow us to start on the right footing for PMD-sharing services.

26.    Mr Chairman, we will continue to support Singaporeans’ aspirations for healthier lifestyles and safer journeys. As active mobility becomes more popular, we will continue to promote a safe path-sharing culture and ensure that device-sharing operators provide their services in a safe and responsible manner.