Wednesday, 27 September 2023

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Josephine Teo: Safety is about practicing common sense other than regulation and enforcement

In light of the increasing number of accidents involving personal mobility devices (PMD), the Ministry of Transport (MOT) heard eight questions regarding the issue at Parliament on 10 October.

Senior Minister of State for Transport, Josephine Tan responded that in the twelve months to June this year, there had been 12 reported cases of on-road accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.

According to Ms Josephine, Police records currently do not distinguish between accidents caused by PMD or bicycles, and other offences causing hurt for off-road cases. Going forward, the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which is now the lead agency for active mobility, that will be tracking these cases.

Bicycles and personal mobility devices offer great convenience and benefits when used safely and responsibly. They are environmentally friendly, promote a healthy lifestyle, and affordable. In many cities around the world, there is growing interest to use bicycles and personal mobility devices to get around. City planners and administrators also see benefits in promoting their use.

She said, however, the careless behaviour of a small minority of users has caused accidents and led some members of the public to oppose their proliferation. She noted that it would be unfortunate if the careless behaviour that allowed of this small minority to prevent the larger majority of responsible and considerate cyclists and personal mobility device users from enjoying the benefits of such travel modes.

Ms Josephine said that the sensible approach is to adopt measures that will help prevent accidents. Earlier this year, the Active Mobility Advisory Panel, which comprises representatives from a broad spectrum of society, issued a list of recommendations on how this can be achieved.  The recommendations were accepted in full by the Government and will be tabled for debate in Parliament soon.

These are the key measures of the using of the PMD and bicycles :

  • Any device heavier than 20kg or wider than 70cm, or have a maximum speed that can exceed 25km/h are not allowed to be used on any public paths, because these devices have high propensity for serious accidents.  Power-assisted bicycles, even if they meet these criteria, will not be allowed on footpaths.
  • The behaviour of cyclists and personal mobility device users on public paths will be regulated. All must observe a speed limit of 15km/h on footpaths and 25km/h on cycling paths. They must also abide by a code of conduct. For example, cyclists and personal mobility device users must always give way to pedestrians, slow down and be prepared to dismount when approaching crowded areas, such as bus stops.
  • Stepped up the enforcement efforts. LTA had set up a dedicated team of Active Mobility Enforcement Officers, and since May this year, the team has been patrolling hotspots where many cyclists and personal mobility device users share paths with pedestrians. These enforcement officers have issued advisories to over 700 cyclists and personal mobility device users for unsafe behaviour. This is about 5% of those they engaged. What that means is that the vast majority of cyclists and personal mobility device users have been observed to be riding safely and responsibly. In addition, LTA has conducted close to 20 joint operations with the Traffic Police to clamp down on reckless riding behaviour, and will continue with such enforcement operations.
  • Stepped up the education efforts.  LTA launched the Safe Riders Campaign in April this year. The Safe Cycling Programme, which will start by February next year, will strengthen previous campaigns by also educating cyclists and personal mobility device users about the new rules and code of conduct. MOT is also partnering the community to roll out the Active Mobility Patrol scheme at more than 20 constituencies, where volunteers will be mobilised to join in the education outreach.

LTA has also engaged retailers of personal mobility devices to educate them about the new rules and the penalties. This is so that they are aware of the criteria for devices that can be used on public paths, and the consequences of selling illegal devices.

Ms Josephine said that some Members have asked if the Government should register bicycles and personal mobility devices and mandate third party insurance. In fact, these were suggestions that the Panel considered. For now, the Panel has assessed that registration and compulsory insurance would be too onerous and costly for the vast majority of cyclists and personal mobility device users who behave responsibly and safely.

However, power-assisted bicycles, which travel on roads and are more prone to modification should be registered. The Government concurred with the Panel’s assessment.

Ms Josephine stated that cities with a strong culture of active mobility, like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, likewise do not mandate registration or insurance. Like in those cities, pedestrians in Singapore who are injured in accidents can obtain compensation by initiating civil lawsuits or through private settlements. If the offender is prosecuted and convicted in criminal court, the court will consider if compensation to the victim should be paid.

She said, “The new rules and enforcement and education efforts will help to build a culture of responsible and safe sharing of space. In many cases, safety is also about practising common sense, for example, by moving in a single file when the path is narrow, slowing down in crowded areas, and not switching between footpaths and roads suddenly.”

Ms Teo concluded her speech by pointing out many densely populated cities, like Tokyo and Amsterdam, have demonstrated that cyclists and pedestrians can co-exist harmoniously in the same space. She said, “Clearly, we are not there yet, and it is still very much work in progress but with the co-operation and patience of all Singaporeans, let’s try to build a culture of safety and civic mindedness, so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of active mobility, whether it is walking, cycling or using personal mobility devices,”

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