Registration, plates for e-bikes to boost safety

An e-biker riding against the flow of traffic in Geylang.
An e-biker riding against the flow of traffic in Geylang. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Move may extend to all motorised PMDs if effective in bid to curb illegal modifications

Electric bicycles will soon need to be registered to an owner and have registration plates, as the Government seeks to clamp down on those who illegally modify the devices.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo announced this yesterday in Parliament, which approved a new law to regulate the use of personal mobility devices (PMDs).

The Transport Ministry will give details later and amend related legislation under the Road Traffic Act.

The new registration regime could be extended to all motorised devices if found effective, Mrs Teo said. The move comes after a series of fatal e-bike accidents late last year.

The Transport Ministry had signalled last year that it intended to register e-bikes, but this is the first time it has mentioned that they will need registration plates.

 
 
 

Mrs Teo said e-bikes were being targeted as they "were prone to illegal modification to achieve high speeds on roads".

Speaking during the debate on the Active Mobility Bill, Mrs Teo said cycling and the use of PMDs were an "essential part" of Singapore's drive to go car-lite.

The Bill was passed after a vigorous debate, which saw 13 MPs flag concerns over the safety of pedestrians as these devices gain popularity with Singaporeans young and old.

To boost safety, they gave various suggestions - from improving infrastructure to mandating protective gear such as helmets.

Mrs Teo said the popularity of these devices was a positive development "as active mobility is a key pillar of our vision for transport in Singapore". Such modes of transport were green, convenient and efficient for short distances, she said.

"They are essential to Singapore's transition to car-lite mobility, centred on public transport," she said.

The new law was drafted based on guidelines by an advisory panel last year. It governs how and where bicycles and PMDs such as e-scooters can be used, as well as criteria they must meet, such as weight.

It also legalises the use of bicycles and PMDs on footpaths, cycling paths and shared paths. E-bikes will be allowed only on roads, and cycling and shared paths.

The new law also spells out harsh penalties for those who flout the rules, for example, reckless riders and retailers who sell non-compliant devices.

PMD users who do not stop to help victims in an accident could be fined up to $3,000, jailed for up to a year, or both. Sellers of non-compliant PMDs could be fined up to $5,000, jailed for up to three months, or both.

Addressing concerns over safety, Mrs Teo said the burden lies with cyclists and PMD users to show they can be "safety-conscious and responsible users of public paths".

"There is not a shadow of doubt that pedestrian safety is paramount," she said, adding that Singapore needed to develop a culture of graciousness and consideration similar to cycling cities such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Tokyo.

But this could take several years.

In the meantime, the Government will act to "reduce friction between the different users".

It will build more dedicated cycling paths where possible, establish a set of rules and norms for all users, and educate people and enforce the law actively, Mrs Teo said.

A-Tech Bike Supply owner Chris Kuah felt the move to register e-bikes will only force errant riders to switch to devices such as e-scooters. "We shouldn't penalise all e-bikers when it is only a few black sheep who break the rules," he said.

But Mr Denis Koh, who heads e-scooter interest group Big Wheel Scooters Singapore, said: "If you ride safely, you have nothing to fear. The licensing is just a formality."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline 'Registration, plates for e-bikes to boost safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe