New rules passed to curb abuse of bike-sharing

Rental bicycles parked indiscriminately at Seletar North Link.
Rental bicycles parked indiscriminately at Seletar North Link.PHOTO: ST FILE

LTA will regulate operators' fleet sizes; cyclists have to return bikes to stop charges

Bicycle-sharing operators will have to apply for a licence under new rules passed yesterday to curb the problem of indiscriminate parking.

Under the new laws, bike-sharing operators will have to be licensed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which will regulate their fleet sizes.

The convenience provided by dockless shared bicycles has been "marred" by indiscriminate parking, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min.

"The bicycle-sharing operators have exacerbated this problem as they grew their fleets too quickly in a bid to capture market share," he told the House during the second reading of the Parking Places (Amendment) Bill.

In just over a year, the number of dockless shared bikes supplied by the six rental operators here has grown to more than 100,000.

Dr Lam said the LTA will take "a more conservative approach" initially and cap the number of bicycles each operator can have, based on how well the operators manage indiscriminate parking and how well their bikes are utilised.

The LTA will also set industry standards, including the use of geofencing technology and defining the amount of time operators have to remove illegally parked bicycles. Geofencing technology creates a virtual boundary that sends out an alert when a bike enters or leaves an area.

The operators will have to pay LTA a licence fee. The amount will be announced later.

Penalties include a reduction in fleet size, fines of up to $100,000 for each instance of non-compliance as well as the cancellation or suspension of licences.

"There are also inconsiderate and irresponsible users who leave bicycles outside of the designated parking areas," Dr Lam said, noting that cyclists who offend repeatedly will face a temporary rental ban.

Users who are caught parking their shared bicycles illegally three times in a calendar year will be barred temporarily from renting such bicycles from any operator, he said.

They will also not be allowed to end their rental sessions if they fail to return the bikes to a designated parking zone - meaning they will continue to be charged until they do the right thing.

Dr Lam said operators will also have to share information on recalcitrant users and the location of the bicycles, so the LTA can track indiscriminate parking more effectively.

Seven MPs and one Nominated MP spoke in support of the amendments to the law, airing the frustrations of residents who have had to deal with the consequences of badly parked bicycles.

MP Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) said: "The arrival of dockless bike-sharing services is both a blessing and a bane to many cities, from the US to UK, Australia to China. Singapore is not spared."

With the passing of the new laws, the LTA is expected to start accepting licence applications from the bike-sharing operators by the middle of this year. The licences will be awarded by the end of the year.

The new regulations also apply to sharing services for personal mobility devices and power-assisted bicycles. Sharing services operating only on private land, or which use docking systems or fixed rental and return locations, are exempted.

Amendments to the Parking Places Act were also passed yesterday to allow the LTA to more finely calibrate the car-parking provisions in private developments, such as by specifying the maximum and minimum numbers of parking spaces required. Currently, only a minimum number is specified, based on a development's gross floor area.

Dr Lam said: "This will in turn allow us to maximise the use of the limited land in Singapore, and free up space to improve our living environment."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2018, with the headline 'New rules passed to curb abuse of bike-sharing'. Print Edition | Subscribe