Proposal to register e-bikes welcomed

The proposal to mandate the registration of electric bikes was among a series of recommended rules for mobility devices presented to the Transport Ministry last week by a 14-member expert advisory panel.
The proposal to mandate the registration of electric bikes was among a series of recommended rules for mobility devices presented to the Transport Ministry last week by a 14-member expert advisory panel.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

But extent to which it deals with errant riders rests on enforcement, say retailers and users

Retailers and users of motorised bicycles have welcomed a proposal to mandate the registration of electric bikes, though they say the extent to which it deals with errant riders will depend on enforcement.

It was among a series of recommended rules for mobility devices presented to the Transport Ministry on March 17 by a 14-member expert advisory panel chaired by Dr Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, an MP for Nee Soon GRC.

Dr Faishal said the move aims to deter illegal bike modifications and would be an extension of the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) current approval process, under which e-bikes must meet weight and power limits that cap their top speed.

Panellist Francis Chu, co-founder of cycling group LoveCyclingSG, said such a process would not be a "major headache" for retailers.

"The shop would take down the details of the (e-bike buyer) and submit them to the LTA," he said, adding that clamping down on illegally modified bikes could take years.

Mr Ong Beng Teng, who runs Singapore Bike City, said registration would protect e-bike retailers who do not perform illegal modifications. "If someone gets caught with a modified bike, he cannot say he bought it from the shop (in that state). It puts more responsibility on the buyer."

MORE RESPONSIBILITY ON BUYER

If someone gets caught with a modified bike, he cannot say he bought it from the shop (in that state). It puts more responsibility on the buyer.

MR ONG BENG TENG, who runs Singapore Bike City, saying that registration would protect e-bike retailers who do not perform illegal modifications.

PENALTIES HELP

During the 1980s and 1990s, a lot of people modified their vehicles to have a louder exhaust or tinted glass. But because of fines, you don't see it as much now.

MR CHRIS KUAH, owner of A-Tech Bike Supply, who says he does not believe the registration process would be a hassle and that enforcement is key.

Mr Ifrey Lai, owner of Mobot, which sells e-mobility devices including e-bikes, suggested licence plates for them so that e-bike owners can be traced when incidents occur.

A-Tech Bike Supply owner Chris Kuah said: "During the 1980s and 1990s, a lot of people modified their vehicles to have a louder exhaust or tinted glass. But because of fines, you don't see it as much now."

The LTA said this month that stiffer penalties are needed for e-bike users who flout the rules. There were 1,863 offences involving e-bikes last year, up from 1,042 in 2014 and 11 in 2008.

While the LTA has strengthened enforcement efforts and imposed stricter penalties since 2011, it said there is a need to enhance the penalty framework. LTA enforcement officers conduct checks on illegally modified e-bikes during patrols and target hot spots. First-time offenders are fined $300, while repeat offenders are fined $500.

A former e-bike modifier, who declined to be named, said modifications range from adding batteries to changing motors to installing throttles, which enable an e-bike to go up to 100kmh, above the current 25kmh limit. Such modifications cost from $50 to thousands, he said.

The biggest burden of registration will likely be on users, through accountability and liability issues that arise, said SIM University senior lecturer Walter Theseira. Registered owners may be legally responsible for any offences committed, even if they are not the rider.

He said this could pave the way for an eventual liability and insurance framework. "(But) while that would be good for pedestrians, the costs have to be kept low for e-bicyclists."

Housewife and e-bike user Angie Kok, 46, said registration "will hopefully make pedestrians more reassured and willing to share the space, since you can track down users after an accident or dispute".

Long-time user Tim Wong, 32, said the proposed registry may legitimise e-bikes as a mode of transport. "The laws need to catch up if we are going to be a 'car-lite' city."

• Additional reporting by Dominic Teo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2016, with the headline 'Proposal to register e-bikes welcomed'. Print Edition | Subscribe