Stiffer penalties expected as more flout e-bike rules

Need to boost punishment and enforcement as offences doubled from 2014 to 2015: LTA

A user of an illegal motorised bicycle being pulled over by an enforcement officer from the Land Transport Authority along Boon Lay Drive on Jan 6, 2016.
A user of an illegal motorised bicycle being pulled over by an enforcement officer from the Land Transport Authority along Boon Lay Drive on Jan 6, 2016. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

The authorities will be getting tougher on those who run riot on electric bicycles.

There were more than 2,000 offences involving such bicycles last year - almost double the number in 2014 - and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said the increase is proof stiffer penalties are needed.

"The growing PAB (power-assisted bicycle) population and increase in the number of PAB offences necessitates further raising of penalties and strengthening of enforcement efforts," an LTA spokesman told The Straits Times last week.

She did not specify how much further the screws would be tightened.

But the LTA's comments come barely a month after harsher penalties and tougher rules for those who sell or use illegally modified PABs, or e-bikes, kicked in.

These include a weight limit of 20kg for such bikes and stiffer fines. Under the new penalties, first-time offenders are fined $300, while repeat offenders are fined $500.

Responding to queries, the LTA said it took a "serious view" of those who flout the rules, pointing out that it has been imposing stricter penalties since 2011.

Last month, a pair of teenagers crashed into a car after they ran a red light on their e-bike. A video of the accident went viral and ignited safety concerns anew over the proliferation of illegally modified e-bikes, which can travel in excess of 70kmh. Current rules state that the e-bike's motor has to be cut when the speed reaches 25kmh.

In Parliament this month, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a written reply to Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan that government agencies had issued warnings, composition fines or took to court 2,027 e-bike cases last year.

In 2014, the figure was 1,096.

Most of the bookings were by the LTA. It issued 1,863 summonses last year - with the figure rising exponentially from 11 in 2008.

Eight retailers have also been taken to task for selling non-compliant PABs, said the LTA.

Mr Tan told The Straits Times that he has seen illegally modified e-bikes speeding along roads and park connectors in a very unsafe manner. "A lot of these users do not follow traffic rules and don't wear helmets. They can be a safety hazard to themselves and other road users."

He suggested that the authorities confiscate the illegally modified e-bikes of errant riders when they are caught. Now, only repeat offenders have their e-bikes seized.

Mr Ang Hin Kee, an Ang Mo Kio GRC MP and deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said the penalties need to target three groups of people - retailers who import illegal e-bikes, those who modify them, and customers.

Mr Jason Koh, operations manager of MKP Bikes, which sells PABs, said errant retailers who modify or sell illegal e-bikes give all in the industry a bad name.

While many want speeding PABs to slow down, some e-bike users hope some of the rules can be relaxed, such as the one on the use of a throttle, which is now outlawed.

Arts director Robert Liew, who has been using e-bikes for 12 years, said the use of a throttle afforded more stability to elderly users.

The 67-year-old pointed out that e-bikes without throttles were prone to surging forward because the motor power cannot be modulated and kicks in once users start pedalling.

"A throttle gives a lot more stability... The increased penalties should be for those who modify their bikes (to operate) above the power limit," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2016, with the headline 'Stiffer penalties expected as more flout e-bike rules'. Subscribe