LTA delays decision on licences for shared PMD operators again

The Land Transport Authority's (LTA) review on which companies can operate shared personal mobility devices (PMDs) and bicycles here has been delayed for the second time this year.

It said yesterday 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.

LTA said there were suggestions to use locally developed trackers to monitor the speed and location of PMDs, but that these need to be studied further.

While such technology exists, the authority 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.

It was reported in May that LTA had delayed its decision on the PMD-sharing operator licences from the second quarter of the year to the third quarter.

LTA explained then that it needed 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," the authority said.

Twelve operators are currently vying for sandbox licences to operate shared PMD services.

They include existing players such as local start-ups Neuron Mobility and Telepod. There are newcomers as well 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, which is vying for a sandbox licence, said 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."

He added that Beam will ensure its e-scooters comply with regulations and that each rider is tracked and exposed to safe riding information before using one.

Another licence applicant, Anywheel, said it understood LTA's position as e-scooters are quite new here. "Every new device needs 'education' time for the public to be familiar with its safety (aspects) and the correct way of using it," it said. "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.

LTA did not say yesterday if 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 being 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 last year, with 196 of them resulting in injuries.

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, a 65-year-old woman died after she was seriously injured in an accident involving her bicycle and an e-scooter in Bedok on Sept 21.

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