SINGAPORE — The Singapore government has announced on Thursday (5 March) several measures targeted at making roads safer and public transport systems more inclusive for the country’s vulnerable pedestrians and commuters.
Some of the measures include more Silver Zones to enhance road safety for senior pedestrians; an expansion of a mobile app trial with assistive technologies for wheelchair users and visually-impaired commuters; and free booster seats for young children on SMRT taxis.
Announcing these plans during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in Parliament, Senior Parliamentary Secretary of Transport Baey Yam Keng said, “Where suitable, the government will continue to make our transport system safer and more inclusive.
“Commuters play a very important role too. We will continue to encourage individual commuters to be more understanding about those with different needs from ours, be more gracious in putting other people’s needs before ours, and even better, be more caring by going the extra mile for fellow commuters, especially the elderly and those with special needs.”
More Silver Zones for senior-citizen safety
The Silver Zone Scheme, first announced in 2014, involves implementing a series of traffic-calming measures and senior-friendly road safety features in areas with a high proportion of senior residents, and where there have been past accidents involving seniors.
Silver Zones tend to be located in close proximity to basic amenities such as food courts and medical centres to allow seniors easier and safer access to these facilities.
From 2021, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) will be implementing 15 more Silver Zones to enhance road safety for senior pedestrians. Together with the 17 Silver Zones already completed, and another 18 slated for completion by 2021, this will bring the total number of Silver Zones islandwide to 50 by 2023.
The upcoming 15 Silver Zones will be implemented in estates such as Tampines, Ang Mo Kio and Hougang, and will be completed by 2023.
“Over the past six years, accidents involving the elderly have reduced by almost 80 per cent within these Silver Zones,” Baey said. “We are also constantly looking to improve upon existing results. For example, we will be trying lower speed limits at specific Silver Zones in the coming months to enhance road safety for our senior pedestrians.”
Expand mobile app for commuters with special needs
In 2019, LTA collaborated with SG Enable and the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped (SAVH) to trial a mobile app, leveraging assistive technologies to help bus commuters with special needs.
The mobile app, called MAVIS (Mobility Assistance for the Visually Impaired and Special Users), provides commuters with personalised journey guidance, such as the estimated time of arrival and notifications to board or alight the bus; alerts bus captains that commuters with special needs will be boarding or alighting, enabling bus captains to render assistance accordingly; and allows visually impaired passengers to activate the audio announcements at the boarding bus stop.
It began its first trial phase from January to July 2019, and involved three buses on Service 139 serving the Enabling Village, and Service 141 serving the SAVH.
Due to positive feedback from commuters, LTA will expand the trial to all buses on Services 139 and 141, for another three years starting progressively from the fourth quarter of 2020.
Booster seats for young children on SMRT taxis
With immediate effect, SMRT taxis will have booster seats for young children, which passengers can use at no extra charge.
This six-month pilot programme by SMRT Taxis is supported by the LTA and aims to encourage greater use of booster seats among children aged four to seven, who are under 1.35m, for safer journeys. While the use of booster seats in taxis is not compulsory, its use is recommended for young children to enhance their safety.
“For more inclusive travels, it is important that families with young children are able to travel safely during taxi rides. With this trial, we hope to not only reduce road risk factors, but also give parents peace of mind during longer taxi journeys,” Tony Heng, senior vice-president for SMRT Road Holdings, said in a media statement on Thursday.
Committee to show commuters how to care for others
Baey said that, over the last five years, the Ministry of Transport has invested about $200 million on various safety and inclusivity-related transport initiatives.
For instance, to improve pedestrian safety, it has replaced discretionary right turns with Red-Amber-Green (RAG) arrows at more than 300 traffic junctions. The ministry targets to have RAG arrows at 1,200 junctions by 2023.
However, Baey said that the government’s efforts alone are not enough to make Singapore’s land transport system safe and inclusive. Hence, the Public Transport Council has set up a new Caring SG Commuters Committee to help facilitate greater awareness of the challenges faced by commuters and show commuters how to care for others.
“Over the next six months, the committee will organise two series of engagements,” he said. “We will engage widely to gather ideas and views on how we as commuters can contribute to this cause. Then, we will engage commuters in targeted ways to pilot and co-create solutions that can help to grow the movement.”
The committee will submit a report to the Minister for Transport in a year’s time, on its findings and recommendations on how to work with commuters and other stakeholders to build and sustain a caring commuting culture in Singapore.
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