The ban of personal mobility devices (PMD) on footpath was announced in Parliament on 4 Nov 2019. The Internet took no time to be divided into two camps. 

The For – Those who do not own a PMD and believe that safety for pedestrians takes priority. 

The Against – All PMD riders are obviously unhappy, but we see the most vocal reaction from the food delivery riders cos livelihoods are affected overnight.)

What exactly are they unhappy about? – The ban is with immediate effect. There was no runway for PMD riders and businesses to transit. – The ban was perceived as a “lazy” solution by Ministry of Transport (MOT), why can’t they just regulate with licenses? They did not ban cars too right? – The ban by MOT seems haphazard and badly executed. – Riders wasted money to get their batteries upgraded to an approved model, UL2272.- There is no help given to riders who lost their jobs overnight. 

So did MOT mess up with the PMD ban? 

It may seem like MOT did a bad job with all these riders losing their jobs. Did you see those angry posts and videos on social media?   I suspect not. It might actually be engineered this way despite knowing what might be the consequences. 

Who will be responsible? 

Imagine this. MOT announces the ban in November 2019 and the actual ban to take effect from 1 Jan 2020. Who is going to be responsible if anyone got hurt in between? Since the main reason for the ban is to ensure safety,  no time should be wasted on this. One life lost is one life too many.

Help is on its way 

The government has worked with NTUC and the major food delivery companies to roll out a comprehensive assistance package. 1. $7 million dollars E-scooter Trade-in Grant. This grant allows you to purchase a Power-assisted Bike (PAB), Personal Mobility Aid (PMA), or Bicycle. The money will come from service providers (Grab, Deliveroo, and FoodPanda), and the government will match it dollar for dollar. Yup, it is $3.5 million dollars each from the  private sector and the government. 2. Job Assistance & Career Coaching. NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and MOM’s Workforce Singapore (WSG) will assist those who wish to have a change of scenery to other industries. 3. Temporary Financial Assistance. The Ministry of Social and Family Development’s ComCare schemes are also available to help riders with financial difficulties.

No one is an expert 

Licensing the PMDs? I suppose the process will be a very long one. From tendering the project to someone like Comfortdelgro Training Hub who  currently administers driving licenses for cars and motorbikes. Not only is it going to be a long process, it will also be a costly one. Venue, formalising the syllabus, code of conduct, recruitment of trainers, purchasing of equipment, and eventually policing it. Can the safety of people wait this long? Maybe with the current ban on footpath in place, government might have enough time to plan for this? And the government can also consider other solutions like building bicycle/PMD paths.

Nobody saw it coming? 

The PMD conversation started as early as 2014. I guess selective memory is not uncommon when we choose to only remember what we want. Various options have been explored since then. From insurance, to minimum age, to banning it on roads. I think we have to give credit where credit is due. In fact, Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary, did say in Parliament last month that the use of PMD could be banned if the behaviour of riders does not improve. On hindsight, that sounded like a lot more than a hint. Not to forget, there was a strong call for the government to ban PMD on the ground.

Government made a tough call. 

I guess at the end of the day, it is a numbers game. The safety of 5.8 million Singaporeans vs the jobs of 7,000 PMD riders. I am pretty sure most Singaporeans are happy with the ban but keeping mum on the internet as they do not wish to be seen as the heartless people who caused the PMD riders to lose their job. From this case, the government has shown Singaporeans that they are able to make tough decisions with their interests in heart.

Do you still think it is a badly executed incident or a well engineered one?