Wednesday 7 August 2019

PMD rules tightened to boost safety, lower fire risk; Ban on PMDs at void decks, common areas to kick in on 1 Sept 2019

Parliament: PMD safety certification deadline brought forward to July 1, 2020; mandatory inspection for all e-scooters from April 2020
By Toh Ting Wei, The Straits Times, 6 Aug 2019

Regulations on e-scooters are being tightened to minimise the risk of fires and step up safety for pedestrians on shared paths.

The Land Transport Authority is bringing forward by six months - to July 1 next year - a deadline for devices to comply with mandatory safety requirements. And there will be compulsory inspections for registered e-scooters from next April.

In addition, $50 million is being set aside to widen footpaths and install speed-regulating strips and warning signs in the next few years.

The 15 People's Action Party town councils will also require PMD users to dismount and push PMDs in void decks and common corridors of Housing Board blocks.

And four town centres in Ang Mo Kio, Bedok, Bukit Batok and Khatib, along with a neighbourhood centre in Tampines, will take part in a trial of pedestrian-only zones, where PMD users will have to dismount and push their devices.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min announced these measures in Parliament yesterday in response to questions from MPs concerned over recent fires involving motorised personal mobility devices (PMDs) as well as over accidents involving pedestrians.

Dr Lam said his ministry is "deeply concerned" about the risks posed by PMDs and their irresponsible use, but it is also mindful that the devices benefit "tens of thousands of Singaporeans" daily.

"The vast majority of them use PMDs responsibly," he stressed.

"A PMD is just a machine. It is the rider who decides whether it is beneficial or detrimental to our lives."

Deadline to certify PMDs safe advanced by 6 months to 1 July 2020
All PMDs must undergo inspection from April 1; Govt to spend $50 million on boosting infrastructure
By Toh Ting Wei, The Straits Times, 6 Aug 2019

The deadline requiring personal mobility devices (PMDs) to be certified safe has been brought forward by six months to July 1 next year after a spate of PMD-related fires.

Also, all e-scooters will have to go for mandatory inspections from April 1 next year to ensure that they meet specified standards, including weight and speed.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min, who announced these fire-safety measures in Parliament yesterday, also said the Government will spend $50 million on improving infrastructure for these active mobility machines.

The plans include widening footpaths, installing clear warning signs and building speed-regulating strips on footpaths at selected hot spots where accidents occur, he said.

Singapore has about 90,000 registered e-scooters, and around 90 per cent of them do not comply with the UL2272 standard.

The UL2272 standard is a set of safety requirements covering the electrical drivetrain system of PMDs, including the battery system. Devices have to undergo rigorous tests at accredited testing centres before being certified.

Elaborating on the earlier deadline for PMDs to meet this standard, Dr Lam said it was necessary as all the PMD-related fires involved non-certified devices and possibly inappropriate charging practices.

The situation is worsening. Last year, there were 52 such fires, but there have already been 49 in the first six months of this year.

In one case on July 20, a 40-year-old man died in hospital two days after he was rescued from a fire at his Bukit Batok flat. The fire was linked to three burnt e-scooters found in the flat.

Besides fires, there were 228 accidents involving PMDs on public paths in 2017 and last year.

Many of the MPs who highlighted the hazards of PMDs also called for measures to ensure the safety of pedestrians and riders.

Dr Lam acknowledged their concerns, but said it was not feasible to impose the measures immediately.

"As many Singaporeans rely on PMDs for their livelihoods and their commuting needs, we think this is the earliest reasonable deadline,'' he said, referencing the July 1 deadline next year.

"This will also give retailers time to bring in sufficient stock of UL2272-certified devices."

The decision requiring all devices to be UL2272-certified was announced in September last year.

And since July 1 this year, retailers have been banned from selling non-certified devices.

However, users who had registered their devices by end-June this year were originally allowed to use them on public paths until Dec 31 next year.

But from April 1 next year, it is mandatory for all devices to be inspected for, among other things, a top speed of 25kmh and a maximum weight of 20kg.

Existing users will be notified and scheduled to have their devices checked at stipulated centres. New owners registering their devices from April next year will have to get them inspected before their registration is approved.

The Government is also looking at ways to encourage users to dispose of their non-certified devices early, in a safe and convenient way, Dr Lam said. The Land Transport Authority (LTA) will give implementation details later.

Enforcement and education are also key to ensuring the safe use of PMDs, he added. The LTA has been beefing up its enforcement team, increasing it from 50 in May this year to about 200 by year's end.

Errant retailers will be severely punished, and 12 have been taken to task, said Dr Lam.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) asked for a temporary ban on the use of PMDs in the wake of the fires.

Dr Lam said he had thought of a ban, but PMDs have benefited tens of thousands of Singaporeans and most users are responsible.

"I am convinced that Singaporeans can be taught to use PMDs responsibly, as they have with bicycles," he said.

Ban on PMD use at void decks, common corridors at 15 towns to take effect on 1 Sept 2019
By Zhaki Abdullah, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2019

From next month, the use of personal mobility devices (PMDs) will be banned at the void decks and common corridors of Housing Board blocks in the 15 town councils run by the People's Action Party (PAP).

This is to ensure the safety of residents, PAP town council coordinating chairman Teo Ho Pin said in a statement on Wednesday (Aug 7).

He added that the move follows a review of the common property and open spaces by-laws of the town councils, though he noted that any amendments are subject to approval by the Attorney-General's Chambers.

Dr Teo's statement follows an announcement of the move in a ministerial statement delivered in Parliament on Monday (Aug 5) by Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min.

The use of the devices in such areas was first debated in Parliament about two months ago.

In his statement, Dr Teo noted the 15 town councils had received 190 complaints about reckless PMD riders over the past year.

The ban does not apply to personal mobility aids, such as motorised wheelchairs or mobility scooters.

The town councils will use the 70,000 police CCTV cameras and lift surveillance systems at the void decks and lifts to identify reckless PMD riders, said Dr Teo, adding that users found violating the ban will be penalised.

"PMD users are encouraged to practice safe riding habits by dismounting and pushing their vehicles at void decks and all common properties," he said, adding that the necessary fire safety prevention measures should also be taken when charging PMDs.

"We urge all PMD users and residents to keep a close community watch, promote a gracious and safe environment for all, and join in our efforts to reduce fire and safety hazards in our towns."

The Straits Times has contacted the Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, operated by the Workers' Party, on whether it is considering a similar move.

Authorities monitoring effectiveness of penalties; LTA steps up enforcement
By Toh Ting Wei, The Straits Times, 6 Aug 2019

Tougher penalties will be imposed on users of personal mobility devices (PMDs) should current rules prove ineffective in deterring unsafe behaviour, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said yesterday.

The authorities are now monitoring the situation closely, he added in response to Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC), who asked if present penalties were adequate.

Noting the range of penalties in force, Dr Lam cited a landmark case in February when a reckless PMD rider was jailed for seven weeks for knocking down a pedestrian, who suffered brain injuries.

"This will serve as a precedent for future cases," he said in Parliament.

Fines, community service and detention orders have also been imposed, he noted. Under such orders, offenders are jailed for a short time but will not have a criminal record after their release.

To arrest errant behaviour, the authorities are also stepping up enforcement efforts with technology and increased manpower.

But only a small number of riders are reckless, Dr Lam noted.

"We don't want to just ban the use of PMDs just because of this small group of irresponsible users, while affecting the rest who are responsible," he said.

He added that the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has stepped up enforcement efforts significantly.

In the last 15 months, its officers detected more than 4,900 PMD-related offences and impounded more than 2,100 devices that failed to comply with required standards.

Since May, the LTA has doubled its team of enforcement officers to about 100 people, said Dr Lam.

The number of ground officers is expected to double again to about 200 by the end of this year.

To tighten enforcement, the LTA recently started an 18-month trial of mobile closed-circuit television cameras at hot spots to assess the effectiveness of video analytics software and radar technology in detecting offences like speeding.

It has also upgraded its MyTransport.SG app to let people submit photos or videos of errant PMD users.

Errant retailers who continue to sell uncertified devices or provide illegal modification services have been punished too.

A dozen of them have been taken to task since July last year, said Dr Lam, adding that it is vital to tackle such problems at the source.

"It is essential to tackle non-compliant devices at the source. We will not tolerate such behaviour, and we will deal with them firmly and with the full brunt of the law," he said.

Parliament: Getting to the nub of the PMD problem
By Adrian Lim, Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 Aug 2019

Close to 10 hands shot up every time an opportunity to ask another question arose, seeking to be called next by the Speaker.

And so for an hour yesterday afternoon, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min faced a barrage of questions from MPs, who sought clarifications on his ministry's latest raft of measures to deal with the issue of personal mobility devices (PMDs).

Dr Lam managed to answer the queries of 14 MPs before Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin called an end to the discussion and steered the House to other parliamentary business.

PMDs, in particular e-scooters, have been a recurrent topic in the question-and-answer segment of House sittings in the last two years, which is also when these devices started becoming more popular among Singaporeans.

MPs have asked how e-scooters could be managed to protect the safety of pedestrians, and what can be done to prevent the risk of fires when their batteries are being charged.

The simmering issues came to a head with MPs filing a total of 16 PMD-related questions for yesterday's sitting - the most ever - prompting Dr Lam to deliver a 25-minute statement on behalf of Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan.

He announced several initiatives: Bringing forward the deadline for all e-scooters to comply with a set of safety standards by six months to July 1 next year, and also requiring these devices to go for mandatory inspections from April 1.

Enforcement will be ramped up to a 200-strong team by the year end, and closed-circuit television cameras are also being used. Penalties against reckless riders or errant retailers selling illegal devices will be monitored and toughened where necessary.

Infrastructure-wise, about $50 million will be used to widen footpaths and install warning signs and speed-regulating strips.

Going by the flurry of questions in response to the new measures, it was evident that MPs wanted more assurance of their efficacy.

Some called for sharper and swifter action, perhaps hinting that the current "nimble and responsive" regulatory regime - to use Dr Lam's words - is not getting to the nub of the problem.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) noted that after one to two years of discussing the PMD issue in Parliament, "the situation is not getting any better".

No doubt reflecting what other MPs are also experiencing on the ground, he related how he gets an "earful" from residents at every dialogue, with complaints about how dangerous footpaths have become for pedestrians.

He wanted a ban on PMDs from footpaths until infrastructure can be improved.

Like Mr Lim, Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) sought more far-reaching action.

He proposed an "immediate ban" on the use of the 81,000 PMDs which currently do not meet new safety standards.

As he put it, not unreasonably: If car and furniture manufacturers can recall massive batches of products over safety issues, can't the authorities do the same for PMDs?

Dr Lam patiently explained that the path of least resistance for the Government could have been taken at the outset - to ban PMDs from footpaths.

But these would have pushed users to the roads, and would likely lead to more accidents.

PMDs, he stressed, provide commuting options. They are also a means to livelihood, such as for those who deliver food.

Tens of thousands of Singaporeans have benefited from PMDs, and the vast majority use them responsibly, he said. Even non-riders benefit, such as people who get food delivered to them quickly.

Yesterday's debate shows just how challenging it is to manage PMDs, something governments elsewhere are also grappling with.

While the devices have their upside, attempts to rein in the minority of irresponsible users are proving harder than envisioned.

Dr Lam noted that a few years ago, there were calls to ban bicycles from footpaths. There is now greater acceptance of the two-wheelers after public education and infrastructural improvements.

"Similarly, a PMD is just a machine. It is the rider who decides whether it is beneficial or detrimental to our lives," he said.

What is clear is that PMDs are here to stay. While yesterday's new measures will go some way to making roads - and homes - safer, concerns remain, as MPs took pains to articulate.

For now, they will have to take comfort in Dr Lam's reassurance that the Government will not fail Singaporeans in safeguarding their lives and welfare.

New initiatives will be put in place quickly, Dr Lam said, their effectiveness monitored, and the ministry stands ready to introduce better measures.

Target the attitude of PMD riders

There has been much criticism in the media of personal mobility device (PMD) riders and the menace and danger they pose.

But there are considerate PMD riders and rude PMD riders. I have been riding an e-scooter for the past three years and have never got in any pedestrian's way, regardless of how crowded the place is.

This is because I do not ride my e-scooter at more than 25kmh, depending on the situation (Rig PMDs to go no faster than 10kmh, by Mr Seow Kian Wee, July 27).

If a pavement is completely clear with nobody in sight, I go faster. However, if human traffic is high, I slow down to way below 10kmh.

It has been recorded that many people tend to walk at a speed of around 5kmh.

Even if the speed of an e-scooter is capped at 10kmh, there will still be accidents, especially when inconsiderate riders do not care if human traffic is heavy or not.

It really is not about capping the speed of PMDs but more about people's attitude towards the safety of others.

Perhaps the authorities should impose a heavier fine or even more jail time on inconsiderate riders to set an example.

That should send a message that riders should put the safety of others as the No. 1 priority.

Francis Lee
ST Forum, 7 Aug 2019

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