LTA delays announcing results of review on licences for PMD sharing again, seeks feedback from firms on safety

Twelve operators, including Telepod and Neuron Mobility, are currently vying for sandbox licences to operate shared-PMD services. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Land Transport Authority's (LTA) review on which companies can operate shared personal mobility devices (PMDs) and bicycles in Singapore has been delayed again, the second time this year.

LTA said on Monday (Sept 30) that this is because it is consulting device-sharing and rental companies on additional regulations to improve public safety, although it did not say whether this was due to the recent spate of PMD-related accidents.

The authority noted that there have been suggestions to implement locally developed trackers to monitor the speed and location of PMDs, but that these need to be studied further.

While such technology exists, LTA said there are implementation difficulties, including ensuring that the speed-tracking device is tamper-proof, as well as ensuring the accuracy of the location data recorded.

The Straits Times reported on May 31 that the LTA had delayed its decision on the PMD-sharing operator licences from the second quarter of the year to the third quarter.

LTA had said in an e-mail then: "We regret to inform you that the results of the PMD-sharing licence will be delayed, as LTA requires more time to review imposing additional requirements on licensees to ensure the safety of users and the general public. This is in the light of recent incidents of reckless riding and accidents involving PMDs."

Twelve operators are currently vying for sandbox licences to operate shared-PMD services, which will see each licensee running a small fleet of up to 500 e-scooters.

They include existing players, such as local start-ups Neuron Mobility and Telepod.

There are also newcomers such as Omni Sharing, whose owners also own troubled bike-sharing firm oBike, and Moov Mobility, which was granted a sandbox licence to run bike-sharing operations here.

Singapore-based start-up Beam, one of the operators vying for sandbox licences, said on Monday that it was disappointed with the review delay and hopes it will be short.

A company spokesman said: "We hope that LTA will conduct meaningful consultations to address any concerns that have not been raised during the eight-month evaluation process.

"In Singapore, a Beam ride will ensure that every e-scooter complies to the regulated standards and that each rider is tracked and exposed to safe riding information before they step on a vehicle."

Another licence applicant, Anywheel, said it understood LTA's position as e-scooters are quite new here.

The company's spokesman said: "Every new device needs 'education' time for the public to be familiar with its safety (aspects) and the correct way of using it. Anywheel has always tried - to the best of its knowledge and financial ability - to make the device as safe as possible."

Omni Sharing said it will continue to pursue the licence and work on its e-scooters' safety measures in the meantime.

In its latest statement, the LTA did not say whether the consultation on safety regulations for PMD- and bicycle-sharing companies was prompted by the Active Mobility Panel recommendations issued last Friday.

Among the suggestions was that PMD users should be at least 16 years old, and that they must also pass a theory test before they are allowed on public paths.

The recommendations come after many PMD-related accidents.

There were 228 reported accidents involving PMDs on public paths in 2017 and 2018, with 196 of them resulting in injuries.

Of these, there was one death - a PMD rider who skidded and died from his injuries.

There were also 32 cases which involved major injuries, such as concussions or fractures.

Last Tuesday, a 30-year-old man died in hospital after he fell off his e-scooter in Tanah Merah Coast Road.

The next day, Madam Ong Bee Eng, a 65-year-old logistics assistant packer, died after she was seriously injured in an accident involving her bicycle and an e-scooter in Bedok on Sept 21. She had been in a coma at Changi General Hospital's surgical intensive care unit.

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