LTA delays decision on PMD-sharing licences, may impose more safety requirements

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

SINGAPORE - 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 to operate shared-PMD services, which will see each licensee running 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.

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

"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," the LTA wrote in its e-mail. "This is in light of recent incidents of reckless riding and accidents involving PMDs."

The authority added that it is stepping up enforcement to address the situation, and seeks operators' understanding on the delay of the results.

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

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

The LTA previously said 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 parking 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 ST, Mr Samuel Chaves, director of Omni, confirmed the delay. He hopes the LTA will 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."

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Mr Htay Aung, founder of one of the applicants Anywheel, told ST that he understood LTA's decision. He said 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 self-skidded and died from his injuries.

Earlier this 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 councils are in discussions with the Government on 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, with regular updates of its efforts posted on its Facebook page. In its latest operations, it impounded 10 PMDs last Saturday night, and nine more from Monday to Wednesday.

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