LTA delays decision on licences for shared PMD operators

Thirteen operators are vying for sandbox licences which will allow each of them to run a small fleet of up to 500 e-scooters. The Land Transport Authority said it needs more time to review imposing additional requirements on licensees in the wake of
Thirteen operators are vying for sandbox licences which will allow each of them to run a small fleet of up to 500 e-scooters. The Land Transport Authority said it needs more time to review imposing additional requirements on licensees in the wake of recent cases of reckless riding and accidents involving PMDs. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

It needs more time to review requirements to ensure safety of users and the public

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has delayed a decision on which companies can operate shared personal mobility devices (PMDs) in Singapore, in the light of safety concerns.

Thirteen operators are vying for sandbox licences which will allow each of them to run a small fleet of up to 500 e-scooters.

The LTA had said that it would announce the results in the second quarter of this year.

However, in an e-mail to applicants seen by The Straits Times, the authority said that the results will be delayed until the third quarter of the year.

"LTA requires more time to review imposing additional requirements on licensees to ensure the safety of users and the general public," it wrote in the e-mail. "This is in the light of recent incidents of reckless riding and accidents involving PMDs."

The authority added that it is stepping up enforcement to address the situation.

It also reminded the applicants that operations on public land without a licence is illegal. It said that operators should refrain from deploying their PMDs on private land if there is a high risk of the devices entering public space.

"LTA will not hesitate to take enforcement action should any shared PMDs be found hireable at public places," it said. "Such con-traventions will be considered in the evaluation of your licence application."

The LTA had said previously that in assessing licence applications, it would consider factors such as the ability and track record of operators in managing their fleets efficiently and minimising indiscriminate parking, as well as user demand and availability of par-king spaces.

It had also said that it would adopt a conservative approach in setting the fleet sizes for PMD-sharing operators to allow the dockless device-sharing landscape to grow in a responsible and sustainable manner.

 
 
 
 

The 13 firms vying for the LTA licences include existing players such as local start-ups Neuron Mobility and Telepod, as well as American e-scooter giant Lime.

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

When contacted by The Straits Times, Mr Samuel Chaves, director of Omni, confirmed the delay. He hoped that the LTA would issue the sandbox licences soon, and that data from actual operations would help in addressing its concerns about the business.

"It is a huge financial loss, but we are prepared to receive this hit and many more since we already know how things work in Singapore," he said, noting that the firm's planned offering of a seated design would help to make the device safer.

Mr Chaves added: "The authorities are building public bike lanes all over the country, but there are not enough shared-PMD and shared-bike operators.

"They need real data to deal with a real problem. Giving the results for the licence applications in Q3 won't solve the actual problem related to PMDs, but just delay it."

Mr Htay Aung, founder of one of the applicants, Anywheel, said he understood LTA's decision. A rushed process without ensuring all safety aspects are covered could backfire on operators.

There were 228 reported accidents involving PMDs on public paths in 2017 and last year. Out of these cases, there were 196 with reported injuries.

The sole fatal accident involved a PMD rider who skidded and died from his injuries.

Last month, questions were raised in Parliament about safety issues related to the use of such devices.

Last week, on the sidelines of the launch of the Land Transport Master Plan 2040, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min announced that town coun-cils are discussing with the Go-vernment the possibility of banning PMDs and bicycles from accident-prone zones within housing estates.

The LTA has also stepped up enforcement against errant PMD users. In the latest operation, it impounded 10 PMDs last Saturday night, and nine more from Monday to Wednesday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2019, with the headline 'LTA delays decision on licences for shared PMD operators'. Print Edition | Subscribe