Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the Active Mobility (Amendment) Bill (Bill No. 3/2020) and the Shared Mobility Enterprises (Control and Licensing) Bill (Bill No. 2/2020)
Sir, I stand in support of the two Bills.
The past five years have proven a challenge in our nation’s march towards active mobility. I am happy to say these Bills reflect some lessons we have learned along the way.
In response to dangerous riding, we are banning PMDs from footpaths, introducing competency tests, and mandating adult supervision of under-aged users. In response to careless parking, we are requiring bicycle, PMD and PMA providers to obtain a license and follow standards.
These measures together form a regulatory framework that places a premium on safety and spreads the responsibility among users and providers.
That said, I would like to seek clarifications on both Bills and discuss the need to go further in our pursuit of active mobility.
I will first discuss my three clarifications on the Shared Mobility Enterprises (Control and Licensing) Bill.
My first clarification is about information sharing between licensees.
Section 23 allows two licensees to enter into an information sharing agreement. Specifically, it allows them to do so for two purposes: One, to turn away bad parkers from hiring their vehicles. Two, to comply with directives from LTA.
The Bill’s explanatory statement states that such agreements are authorised “despite” other laws, such as the Personal Data Protection Act, or PDPA.
My concern is that Section 23 does not contain clear measures to deter organisations from over-sharing private user data.
For instance, is NRIC number an appropriate data point to share about a bad parker? How about passport number, photograph, phone number, email address, home address, or GPS locations?
The modern business collects huge amounts of private data on its customers, and this data can be worth huge amounts of money.
It is possible that some organisations will seek to acquire private user information under the pretense of identifying bad parkers?
It would be helpful if Minister could clarify:
Finally, will Section 23 apply to class licensees? Licensees and class licensees are mentioned in the same breath in most of the Act. For some reason, class licensees are not mentioned at all in this particular section.
My second clarification is on deposits.
Section 13(2i) empowers LTA to collect a security deposit from licensees for the sole purpose of regulatory compliance.
This means that customers who paid a deposit to shared mobility companies cannot hope to be repaid from the security deposits. Back in early 2019, SMS Lam Pin Min reiterated this point and suggested that disgruntled customers should sue to get their money back.
It does not seem realistic to ask hundreds or thousands of customers to go to court to get back what might be $50 or $100 sum.
Can the Ministry share whether its stance has changed? Why not allow the security deposits to be used to repay customers? What is the principle keeping us from doing so?
After all, I imagine any bike-sharing operators today will have trouble persuading customers to fork up deposits. Once burned, twice shy.
Legislation that provides customers with some assurance might then be a win-win for consumers and businesses.
My third clarification is on safety directives.
Section 26 enables the Minister to issue a safety directive to prevent death, serious injury, or serious property damage arising from the provision of any shared mobility service.
Section 26(2) specifies that these directives cannot be in force for longer than six months to start with, and the Minister can only renew it once for no longer than six months. In essence, a directive is capped at 12 months.
Can the Ministry clarify what happens at the end of the 12 months if the Ministry remains concerned about the subject of the directive?
Under this law, is the Minister empowered to issue a second directive? If that is the case, what end does it serve to cap the length and frequency of the renewal?
Given that these directives are used only in cases of serious concern, it would be helpful to clarify what we can expect when they do get used.
I will now discuss my two clarifications for the Active Mobility (Amendment) Bill
Private right of civil action
My first clarification is on the private right of civil action.
The Active Mobility Act imposes obligations on various persons.
For instance, the current Section 21 imposes obligations on riders to travel below their path’s maximum speed. The new Section 23C imposes duties on adult supervisors for under-aged riding.
Contravention of such sections are offences punishable by fines or imprisonment.
However, it is not clear whether the Ministry intends for breaches of duties under the Active Mobility Act to give rise to a private right of action.
In other words, it is not clear whether an individual injured in an accident involving a mobility device can sue another individual in tort for breach of their statutory duties under the Active Mobility Act.
Can the Ministry clarify whether its intention is to confer private right of civil action for the statutory duties imposed under the Active Mobility Act?
Imprisonment for under-aged riding
My second clarification is on the punishment for under-aged riding.
The new section 23A(2) provides imprisonment as a punishment option for under-aged riding of a motorised PMD on a shared path.
The typical sentencing consideration for young offenders is rehabilitation. Imprisonment will taint a young person’s record and seems like an unduly harsh punishment for under-aged riding of a PMD.
Can the Minister clarify the reasons for allowing imprisonment of an under-aged rider? Can the Minister also clarify in what situations will we call for imprisonment for an under-aged rider?
Facilitation of under-aged riding
On a similar note, the new Section 23B describes conditions in which a person is deemed to have facilitated under-aged riding of motorised PMDs.
One condition is that the person had been “reckless” as to whether their conduct would help an under-aged individual ride the PMD.
What does “reckless” mean here? Would it be reckless to trust a child to safeguard an unlocked e-scooter?
This is not an edge case. After all, the shared paths on which many young people spend their time are now the only place where PMDs can be ridden.
As we mandate good behaviour by PMD owners, we must also help them understand how to comply with the law.
To this end, it would be helpful if the Minister could describe scenarios or outline standards that exemplify “reckless” conduct.
A new Master Plan
Finally, I would like to talk more broadly about our government’s strategy towards active mobility.
The two Bills today deal, for the most part, with problems that have already come and gone. Most of it is directed at PMDs and bike-sharing services, both of which are barely visible in Singapore anymore.
Certainly, if these forms of mobility see a comeback, we will have built a robust regulatory framework for them. But our policy towards active mobility should be more proactive and less reactive.
I am heartened by the recent announcement that we will be accelerating our plans to triple the length of our cycling network. But as we spend time building the bike lanes, I hope we can start thinking about the next projects.
First, how can we integrate the use of bicycles with our public transit network? Unlike in many other major cities, you cannot bring a regular bicycle onto the bus or MRT. Even in countries with sophisticated biking infrastructure, there are many who will spend part of their commute on public transportation. We must find ways to integrate our new biking infrastructure with our world-class public transportation network.
Second, how can we make bike parking more secure? Many HDB flats have limited space, and cyclists need somewhere secure to park overnight. I am happy that LTA is focusing on building more bike-parking facilities. But how many of these spaces are unmonitored and unlocked? Most experienced cyclists will tell you to never park your bicycle outside overnight, even at supposedly secure spots like MRT stations.
What cyclists need are not overengineered, far-flung parking spaces like SecureMyBike, the automated underground system that recently closed down. What they need are affordable and accessible low-tech bicycle lockers and bicycle parking stations, ideally mapped on the MyTransport.SG app for convenience. Many cities around the world already have much success with these options.
Third, how can we go beyond incremental additions to our cycling network? Even with LTA’s new expansion plans, our cycling networks are currently a patchwork of local connectivity. But if we want cycling to become a true mode of transportation, we have to build ambitious infrastructure such as bicycle freeways, like the North-South Corridor. Will LTA be building more of these?
In conclusion, I am happy to express my support for a Bill that creates a robust regulatory framework for active mobility in Singapore. My hope is that this leads the way to more ambitious plans, as we not only build in recollection of past learnings but also in anticipation of future opportunities.
Sir, notwithstanding my clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here
Watch the response by MOT here