Sunday 15 March 2015

Ex-motorbikers turn to e-bicycles, some illegally modified

Souped-up bicycles that go up to 120kmh being sold at some shops
By Lydia Lam, The Straits Times, 14 Mar 2015

MANY riders of electric bicycles here are former motorcyclists. And increasingly, it is this group of riders who are opting for illegally modified motorised bicycles that can go as fast as 120kmh.

Checks with several shops found two of them offering modification services despite knowing that such bicycles should not go faster than 25kmh.

Online listings selling modified bicycles that can travel up to 80kmh can also be found easily.

These vehicles retail for between $650 and $2,000.

The Straits Times called up two retailers said to be known for illegally modifying bicycles - one in Bukit Batok and the other with branches in Geylang, Yishun and Serangoon - and asked if they could modify a motorised bicycle.

Both operators replied that they could do so within a week for at least $1,000.

When asked if it was legal to do so, a staff member at the Bukit Batok store said that "Land Transport Authority (LTA) regulations say 25kmh, but if you want to modify to go faster, it's on you". "The user is responsible."

Regulations state, however, that anyone found illegally modifying a motorised bicycle, may be fined $2,000 or jailed for three months.

Anyone found using or keeping an unapproved motorised bicycle may be fined up to $1,000 or jailed for three months.

LTA said that only low-powered models of motorised bicycles approved by it are allowed for use on public roads. All new models must be approved by LTA-authorised vehicle inspection centres.

LTA said that it issued 1,042 summons last year to those who use or sell motorised bicycles that do not meet the requirements. This is slightly higher than the 978 in 2013.

Retailers who do not offer illegal modification services say they have noticed this trend among "black sheep operators".

Mr B. T. Ong, who runs Singapore Bike City in Ubi, said that illegally modified electric bicycles can go as fast as 100kmh.

He said that six out of 10 people who buy motorised bicycles from him used to ride a motorcycle.

"Some of these people had their licences revoked, others don't want to say why they no longer have a licence," the 62-year-old said.

"Sometimes, the certificate of entitlement for their motorcycle expires and they don't have the money to get a new one, so they buy an electric bicycle instead."

Mr Tay Sam Choon, 71, owner of RR Motor in Geylang, has also noticed this trend.

"Thirty per cent of people who buy e-bikes (from us) are those who lost their motorbike licences," he said, adding that he switched from selling motorcycles to mainly motorised bicycles to meet the increasing demand.

Mr Chris Kuah, owner of A-Tech Bike Supply in MacPherson, said that about 10 per cent of users modify their electric bicycles.

"Modified e-bikes can go as fast as 80kmh to 120kmh," the 44-year-old said, adding that he sells only LTA-approved vehicles.

"Small (engine capacity) motorcycles can also go up to about 120kmh, so modified e-bikes are as fast as motorbikes, but motorbikes are much heavier machinery and can absorb (greater) impact."

There were two fatal accidents involving power-assisted bicycles last year, and one each in 2013 and 2012, according to the Traffic Police.

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