Riders capping e-scooter speed ahead of new rules

Mr Lee (left) of e-scooter retailer Falcon PEV (above) showing how the device's speed limit can be adjusted using a computer program. He estimates that there are 10,000 non-compliant e-scooters in Singapore.
Mr Lee (above) of e-scooter retailer Falcon PEV showing how the device's speed limit can be adjusted using a computer program. He estimates that there are 10,000 non-compliant e-scooters in Singapore.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Mr Lee (left) of e-scooter retailer Falcon PEV (above) showing how the device's speed limit can be adjusted using a computer program. He estimates that there are 10,000 non-compliant e-scooters in Singapore.
Mr Lee of e-scooter retailer Falcon PEV (above) showing how the device's speed limit can be adjusted using a computer program. He estimates that there are 10,000 non-compliant e-scooters in Singapore.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Many are having their devices reprogrammed to 25kmh limit to avoid penalties and confiscation

E-scooter users who own devices that can travel at excessive speeds have been tuning them back down to the speed limit, ahead of changes to the law expected to kick in next year.

A new Bill regulating these personal mobility devices (PMDs) was tabled in Parliament this month which will govern where and how they should be used, and what criteria they must meet, such as weight.

Under the Active Mobility Bill, those who use non-compliant PMDs - which include e-scooters - not only face stiff penalties but also risk having their devices confiscated.

These devices should not weigh more than 20kg, and the maximum speed is 25kmh.

Three major e-scooter retailers said they have had customers requesting that their devices be tuned down after seeing the harsh penalties written into the new law.

First-time offenders caught riding non-compliant e-scooters could be fined up to $5,000, or jailed up to three months, or both.

"Most customers gave feedback that they are worried about being fined, or having their scooter confiscated," said Mr Ryan Tan, who runs retailer Passion Gadgets.

 
 

Mr Victor Lee, general manager of Falcon PEV, estimates there are 20,000 e-scooter users in Singapore and about half of them use cheaper but non-compliant devices, mostly from China.

"Higher-end scooters are sold in Europe, which already have regulations in place similar to Singapore's," he said.

Non-compliant devices can be electronically programmed to have their speeds capped, said Mr Ifrey Lai, director of Mobot.

"A speed of 25kmh is just nice, any faster than that and the scooter can be difficult to manoeuvre in the event of an emergency," he said.

One e-scooter user who tuned down his device last week is personal trainer Andrew Deng, 50.

He paid $30 for the service, but said this was a small price to pay, considering the harsh penalties that would kick in next year.

"It has to be done anyway, I'm not going to risk losing my scooter to the new rules," said Mr Deng, adding that his e-scooter could previously travel up to 40kmh.

He uses his e-scooter daily to commute the 7.5km from his home in Serangoon to his workplace in Ang Mo Kio.

But not everyone is pleased that speeds have to be capped.

Engineer Joel Tan, 40, said the penalties are too harsh. "The majority are just using these scooters as a form of transport and are considerate to the people around them," said Mr Tan. He plans to tune down his scooter, which can travel up to 35kmh, soon.

But Mr Denis Koh, who heads the interest group Big Wheel Scooters Singapore, which has almost 13,000 members on Facebook, said the penalties are necessary.

They also show that the authorities would not tolerate attempts to flout the rules. "It is meant to be a deterrent - I don't think it is meant to discourage people from using e-scooters," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Riders capping e-scooter speed ahead of new rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe