SINGAPORE — A new $7 million grant was announced on Friday (8 November) to help food delivery riders switch their e-scooters to other modes of transport, three days after a ban of the devices on footpaths took effect.
The e-scooter Trade-in Grant (eTG) is part of three components of a Transition Assistance Package unveiled by the Ministry of Transport (MOT). The cost of the eTG will be equally divided between the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and the three major food delivery players: Deliveroo, GrabFood and Foodpanda.
Each rider will get a grant of up to $1,000 for a power-assisted bicycle (PAB) or $600 for a bicycle.
Delivery riders with mobility difficulties who are eligible to use personal mobility aids and want to continue working for their companies will also get a grant of up to $1,000.
To qualify for the grant, the riders must be food delivery riders using e-scooters as at Thursday (7 November).
The riders have to surrender their e-scooters at disposal points located at Grab, Deliveroo and Foodpanda’s premises. Those who work for more than one food delivery company are eligible for just one grant disbursement.
The food delivery companies aim to begin implementing the eTG scheme from next Friday, 15 November. It will operate until 31 December.
MOT said that while the majority of the food delivery riders use motorcycles and bicycles, about 7,000 of them used e-scooters. “They have approached MOT, LTA, and their Members of Parliament to express their concerns,” MOT added.
In announcing the ban in Parliament on Monday, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min said, “This ban of e-scooters from footpaths is a difficult decision. But it is a necessary step for pedestrians to feel safe again on public paths, while still allowing e-scooters to grow in tandem with cycling path infrastructure.”
Under the second component of the help package, for riders who plan to consider other job options, NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) and Workforce Singapore are working with the food delivery companies to provide job search support for the riders.
Lastly, for riders who may have financial difficulties, they can tap on schemes from the Ministry of Social and Family Development and ComCare.
Aftermath of the ban
The PMDs that are surrendered by riders will be disposed of by transport authorities, in order to avoid storage issues and potential fire hazards. Of the three major players, GrabFood is the most reliant on PMDs, with around a third of its riders using the devices.
In a statement, Dilip Roussenaly, Head of GrabFood Singapore, said that in addition to the grant, the provider is helping its riders in other ways. GrabFood is partnering five retailers to explore buying and renting of bicycles and motorcycles at preferred rates. It is also partnering motorcycle rental partners to roll out leasing plans for interested riders.
SMS Lam told reporters at the media briefing that the authorities had deliberated “long and hard” before banning PMDs on footpaths, and after numerous attempts to accommodate pedestrians and PMDs on footpaths.
He noted that from January to September, there were 184 off-road accidents involving PMDs, with 64 per cent of them taking place on footpaths. There have been three fatalities in recent months.
This includes 65-year-old cyclist Ong Bee Eng, who died in September after an e-scooter rider collided with her.
Asked why the eTG scheme had not been put in place before the ban was announced, Lam said that MOT had been working with other agencies on how to assist affected riders before the announcement.
“We also think that the information can be sensitive if it is leaked out prematurely. We also don’t want to cause undue anxiety to the public. So once the announcement has been made, we spare no effort, quickly work with the companies to come up with assistance scheme to help the PMD riders.”
Associate Professor Faishal Ibrahim, who chairs the Pedestrian and Cyclist Safety Committee, and labour MP Ang Hin Kee were also present at the media briefing.
Delivery riders speak
Full-time GrabFood rider Abdul Qadir, 33, told Yahoo News Singapore after the media briefing that while he had been initially “shocked” by the PMD ban, he found the eTG scheme to be “very useful”. He purchased a PMD about a year ago for more than $900 and plans to trade it in for an e-bike.
Foreseeing that PMDs might eventually be banned, the father of three had already purchased an e-bike a month ago. “I have been telling my friends to switch to e-bike. For me, it’s safety. An e-bike is big, you are riding on the road and there is a helmet and a light.”
Qadir, who has been a rider just over a year, added that an e-bike can be parked in the motorcycle lots of a car park.
Polytechnic student Mohd Fazuan, who has been a GrabFood rider since June 2017, was also at the briefing. He said that the grant was “better than nothing”.
Fazuan was among 30 riders who met with Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam at his Meet-the-People Session on Tuesday evening, the day that the ban was announced. He also helped submit a petition to A/P Faishal, asking that riders be regulated rather than banned outright.
“Put yourself in our shoes. We felt it was too sudden,” said the 21-year-old, who is studying for a diploma in environmental science. “I have been spat on by people. Doing this overnight just gives pedestrians weapons against us.”
“We as PMD riders ask that everyone abide by the law and show respect for everyone.”