SINGAPORE - A $7 million grant has been introduced to help food delivery riders replace their electric scooters, after the Government banned the devices from footpaths earlier this week.
Under this scheme, food delivery riders who trade in their existing e-scooters will each receive up to $1,000 to buy a power-assisted bicycle, or $600 for a bicycle.
The Ministry of Transport (MOT) on Friday (Nov 8) said the Government and three major food delivery companies set up this e-scooter Trade-in Grant for affected delivery riders to switch to bicycles, power-assisted bicycles or personal mobility aids. Riders can begin to trade in their e-scooters from next Friday.
The move comes in response to many food delivery riders raising their concerns over the footpath ban affecting their livelihoods. There are about 7,000 food delivery riders who use e-scooters, and groups of them have been meeting MPs since the ban took effect on Tuesday.
Grab, Deliveroo and Foodpanda will administer the new grant scheme, said the authorities, adding that the companies are also working with retailers to purchase in bulk "and bring down costs of these devices".
To qualify for the grant, which will be in place till Dec 31, riders have to be existing e-scooter food delivery riders as of Nov 7. They will have to surrender their e-scooters at disposal points located on Grab, Deliveroo and Foodpanda premises.
The grant is one component of what the MOT and Land Transport Authority said was a "transition assistance package" to help affected riders.
NTUC'S Employment and Employability Institute and Workforce Singapore are working with the three food delivery companies to provide career services and job search support under the Adapt and Grow initiative, for riders who want to look for other jobs, MOT said in its statement.
Riders who may have immediate financial difficulties can seek temporary financial help from the Ministry of Social and Family Development's and ComCare schemes, MOT said.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that while Singaporeans have largely welcomed the ban, the Government knew it would impact food delivery riders.
"As soon as the decision was taken, we had been in consultation with the food delivery companies," he said. "Discussions were intense but professional and productive."
He added that he was glad the trade-in grant was well received by the companies.
"We are returning footpath safety to pre-PMD days," Mr Khaw said. "This episode is a reminder to all that we must always be considerate and gracious to others. Always be alert and also be on the lookout for the more vulnerable members of the public when we move around our neighbourhood. Let’s go for zero accidents and zero casualty in Singapore: whether roads or public paths."
In a separate post, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said e-scooters were a boon for many when they were introduced, and very quickly became a popular first- and last-mile mode of transport.
"But with the benefits came the problems – reckless and inconsiderate riding and PMD (personal mobility device) fires," he said.
"Over the last 2 years, we tried hard to make it work for everyone: we passed laws to regulate PMDs on footpaths, we lowered speed limits, we introduced the Safe Riding Programme, and we required the UL-2272 fire safety standard. At the same time, LTA stepped up their enforcement against errant riders."
But the situation did not improve, he added, noting that nearly 300 people were treated at hospitals for PMD-related injuries last year
"When the safety of people is at stake, the decision is always clear. That is why after thinking long and hard, we decided to implement this ban to make our footpaths safer again," he said. "It was not an easy decision."
The footpath ban, announced in Parliament on Monday, is the latest and toughest measure yet to address public safety concerns surrounding the use of e-scooters.
Those caught flouting the rules can be fined up to $2,000 and/or jailed for up to three months if convicted.
From now until the end of the year, the authorities will mainly issue warnings to errant riders, but a zero-tolerance approach will be taken from next year.
After meeting about 50 riders at his Meet-the-People Session in Jurong Spring on Thursday night, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said their concerns are "genuine Singaporean concerns".
The riders had given him a letter, which included their alternative proposals to the ban, such as needing a licence and a minimum age of 18 to ride a PMD.
There were also several PMD retailers present who delivered letters of their own, asking for more shared paths and for PMDs to be allowed on roads.
Meanwhile, about 30 riders met Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Tuesday.
The Nee Soon GRC MP said after the meeting that he understood their position, and would convey their views to the Transport Ministry and the Cabinet.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.