Road Traffic (Amendments) Bill – Speech by Raeesah Khan

Delivered in Parliament on 10 May 2021

Mr Speaker, my speech will address two areas: improving infrastructure for cyclists, and the expansion of search and seizure powers on public transport.

The Bill seeks to introduce licensing and certification regimes for users of bicycles and power-assisted bicycles. Given the number of accidents involving cyclists, this could help ensure that cyclists are well acquainted with the relevant regulations, thereby improving road

safety for all users. However, apart from licensing and certification, perhaps we could also look into improving road infrastructure as another potential solution.

As the government seeks to promote active mobility among the public, it is crucial to ensure that our infrastructure will be able to keep pace with the expected increase in individuals opting for such modes of transport. The LTA has already started looking into converting some stretches of roads into cycling paths, to triple the cycling path network by 2030. As part of these efforts, could the Ministry also consider studying the possibility of repurposing car lanes into bike lanes? This could potentially improve connectivity for cyclists, while also contributing to improved road safety.

While the government embarks on projects to improve our infrastructure for cyclists, I hope that the Ministry can also factor in the needs of cyclists who are persons with disabilities (PWDs), to ensure that infrastructure in the pipeline is inclusive. For PWDs, cycling is often a much easier way to get around than walking, and it is estimated that about 40% of disabled cyclists use regular two-wheeled bicycles.

Thus, while their disabilities may be ‘invisible’ to us, research has shown that PWDs have a disproportionately higher need for protected cycling infrastructure and direct routes. Obstacles, uneven surfaces and gradients could potentially cause discomfort to disabled cyclists, or inadvertently exclude them from using the cycling paths, as they may not be able to lift or push their bicycle. Infrastructure should also be designed to be able to accommodate wider,

non-standard cycles such as tricycles, tandems, and recumbents.

On the expansion of search and seizure powers, while I understand the need for such measures to strengthen the preparedness of our public transport system against security threats, I have several queries for the Minister.

My first query relates to the training which will be provided to “approved persons”, especially for those who are not police officers or employees of an auxiliary police force. Could the Minister share more about the training which approved persons will receive before they are authorised to frisk search commuters, if any? More specifically, does the Ministry intend to provide training and introduce guidelines to ensure the appropriateness and proportionality of actions taken in relation to the assessed threat level? This could help prevent cases of abuse of authority, which include excessive behaviour, harassment, or even sexual assault.

Additionally, how would the Ministry minimise the profiling of minorities and marginalised persons which may inadvertently arise in the process of identifying commuters to undergo additional security screening? Such profiling may amount to over-policing, and could potentially be damaging to our social

fabric. Perhaps the ministry may consider publishing statistics pertaining to all frisk searches including information on searches by gender, ethnicity, time, location and justification.

The second query I have relates to public awareness and education. Given that security checks can be conducted by police officers who are not in uniform, as well as approved persons authorised by the LTA in writing, how would commuters be assured that officers who are conducting these security checks are legitimate? How would commuters know if officers are behaving in an appropriate manner?

Does the Ministry intend to provide avenues for commuters to seek recourse and remedies should they encounter inappropriate actions taken by these officers? On top of introducing safeguards to minimise the occurrence of such incidents, I hope that the Ministry will also consider conducting public education campaigns so that commuters can be aware of their rights with regards to security screening and frisk searches proposed by the Bill.

Mr Speaker, as we seek to expand the search and seizure powers beyond law enforcement officers, we should ensure that proper and comprehensive training is provided to authorised personnel, while ensuring that commuters are aware of the extent of measures they can be reasonably subject to. This would help maintain trust in law enforcement, while allowing us to remain vigilant against potential threats to our Public transport system.