Electric bikes should be registered: Advisory panel

Recommendation made to tackle problem of errant riders and those who modify bikes illegally

The move is designed to aid enforcement against errant riders and those who illegally modify their electric bicycles. PHOTO: ST FILE

Users of motorised bicycles could soon be required to register their bikes, if recommendations made by an expert advisory panel are taken on board by the Government.

The move is designed to aid enforcement against errant riders and those who illegally modify their electric bicycles. It comes at a time when the numbers of electric bike users and accidents involving these devices are on the rise.

The 14-member advisory panel released its recommendations on rules to govern personal mobility devices yesterday.

The panel chairman, former Parliamentary Secretary for Transport Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, said registration would be an extension of the Land Transport Authority's current approval process under which bikes have to meet weight and power limits that cap their top speed.

"We find this way, the person who buys an e-bike would know that we have their details and this might deter them from illegally modifying (their e-bikes)," said Dr Faishal.

The scheme, if adopted, would rely on retailers to administer at least part of the registration process.

The panel also suggested that the use of all personal mobility devices except e-bikes - devices ranging from e-scooters to hoverboards and motorised wheelchairs - be allowed on footpaths, and cycling and shared paths.

E-bikes are restricted to the roads, and cycling and shared paths.

There will be strict speed limits that apply regardless of device - 15kmh on footpaths and 25kmh on cycling and shared paths.

The panel also specified the physical criteria that any device - except mobility aids such as powered wheelchairs - has to meet to be used in public spaces here.

They must have a maximum speed of 25kmh, and cannot exceed 20kg in weight and 70cm in width. The rules were calibrated to reduce damage in the event of a collision.

Dr Faishal said the panel sought to strike a balance between the needs of various users, and added that it is not possible to "maximise everyone's interests and space" in a small island such as Singapore.

He said: "The panel focused on developing a set of rules and a code of conduct which we believe are practical, clear, fair and, most importantly, safeguard the safety of all users."

But observers say the devil is in the details, particularly how these proposed rules would be enforced.

Mr Chris Kuah, owner of A-Tech Bike Supply, said: "If these devices can reach 25kmh but the speed limit is 15kmh, who is going to make sure they keep to the limit?"

He added that, while requiring retailers to register e-bikes might sound good in theory, the paperwork could be complicated.

Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan, who has raised safety concerns over electric bicycles in Parliament, said that the rules need to be backed by enforcement and education.

"If there is no effective, islandwide enforcement, these well-intended measures will never be adopted by many cyclists and accidents on footpaths will likely increase," said Mr Tan.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2016, with the headline Electric bikes should be registered: Advisory panel. Subscribe