Thursday, 12 January 2017

New rules for cyclists and PMD users; Active Mobility Bill passed in Parliament on 10 Jan 2017

Registration, plates for e-bikes to boost safety
Move may extend to all motorised PMDs if effective in bid to curb illegal modifications
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2017

Electric bicycles will soon need to be registered to an owner and have registration plates, as the Government seeks to clamp down on those who illegally modify the devices.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo announced this yesterday in Parliament, which approved a new law to regulate the use of personal mobility devices (PMDs).

The Transport Ministry will give details later and amend related legislation under the Road Traffic Act.

The new registration regime could be extended to all motorised devices if found effective, Mrs Teo said. The move comes after a series of fatal e-bike accidents late last year.

The Transport Ministry had signalled last year that it intended to register e-bikes, but this is the first time it has mentioned that they will need registration plates.

Mrs Teo said e-bikes were being targeted as they "were prone to illegal modification to achieve high speeds on roads".

Speaking during the debate on the Active Mobility Bill, Mrs Teo said cycling and the use of PMDs were an "essential part" of Singapore's drive to go car-lite.

The Bill was passed after a vigorous debate, which saw 13 MPs flag concerns over the safety of pedestrians as these devices gain popularity with Singaporeans young and old.

To boost safety, they gave various suggestions - from improving infrastructure to mandating protective gear such as helmets.

Mrs Teo said the popularity of these devices was a positive development "as active mobility is a key pillar of our vision for transport in Singapore". Such modes of transport were green, convenient and efficient for short distances, she said.

"They are essential to Singapore's transition to car-lite mobility, centred on public transport," she said.

The new law was drafted based on guidelines by an advisory panel last year. It governs how and where bicycles and PMDs such as e-scooters can be used, as well as criteria they must meet, such as weight.

It also legalises the use of bicycles and PMDs on footpaths, cycling paths and shared paths. E-bikes will be allowed only on roads, and cycling and shared paths.

The new law also spells out harsh penalties for those who flout the rules, for example, reckless riders and retailers who sell non-compliant devices.

PMD users who do not stop to help victims in an accident could be fined up to $3,000, jailed for up to a year, or both. Sellers of non-compliant PMDs could be fined up to $5,000, jailed for up to three months, or both.

Addressing concerns over safety, Mrs Teo said the burden lies with cyclists and PMD users to show they can be "safety-conscious and responsible users of public paths".

"There is not a shadow of doubt that pedestrian safety is paramount," she said, adding that Singapore needed to develop a culture of graciousness and consideration similar to cycling cities such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Tokyo.

But this could take several years.

In the meantime, the Government will act to "reduce friction between the different users".

It will build more dedicated cycling paths where possible, establish a set of rules and norms for all users, and educate people and enforce the law actively, Mrs Teo said.

A-Tech Bike Supply owner Chris Kuah felt the move to register e-bikes will only force errant riders to switch to devices such as e-scooters. "We shouldn't penalise all e-bikers when it is only a few black sheep who break the rules," he said.

But Mr Denis Koh, who heads e-scooter interest group Big Wheel Scooters Singapore, said: "If you ride safely, you have nothing to fear. The licensing is just a formality."

MPs call for helmet use, courses to ensure safe public paths
Active Mobility Bill passed; LTA to look at speed guns, cameras to boost enforcement
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2017

The safety of pedestrians took centre stage in Parliament yesterday as 13 members questioned how this will be guaranteed, with a new law allowing the use of bicycles and personal mobility devices (PMDs) on public paths.

The Active Mobility Bill, which regulates the use of bicycles and PMDs such as e-scooters, was passed yesterday after a debate that lasted 2 ½ hours.

When the new law goes into force later this year, bicycles and PMDs can travel on public paths, together with pedestrians.

MPs gave a range of suggestions to boost safety such as mandating third-party insurance, and getting cyclists and PMD users to wear helmets and attend safety courses.

Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir) told the House that as the use of PMDs proliferate, pathways would get more crowded and "more accidents involving PMDs are bound to happen".

Mr Sitoh, Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) were among MPs who suggested mandating third-party insurance to cover accident claims from victims.

Currently, victims have to file a civil suit in order to claim compensation in the event of an accident. The courts can also decide if compensation should be paid if the offender is convicted.

In response, Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo said cyclists and PMD users span a broad demographic, and many of them use these modes as an "affordable means of getting around". Mandating insurance would come at some cost to them.

"Cities with a strong culture of active mobility such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen likewise do not mandate insurance, but instead focus on cultivating safe and responsible behaviours," she said.

Other MPs asked how enforcement efforts would ensure the safe use of bicycles and PMDs.

Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan said people need to understand the importance of riding safely and being considerate. "It will be down to the consistent enforcement efforts of the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to make the new regulations work."

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) said a key challenge was to educate the transient foreign worker community about these norms.

Dr Teo Ho Pin (Bukit Panjang), who is coordinating chairman of all 15 People's Action Party (PAP) town councils, said the town councils receive about 200 complaints annually relating to cyclists and PMD users speeding, riding recklessly and parking illegally. Closed-circuit television cameras could be deployed at high-risk locations to deter this, he suggested.

Mrs Teo said LTA currently has a team of 16 active mobility enforcement officers, but will increase the numbers progressively.

The team, supported by over 600 grassroots volunteers, targets "hot spot areas such as near crowded bus stops and traffic junctions". They are also deployed in response to public feedback.

"To complement their efforts, LTA will examine how best to deploy technologies such as speed guns and CCTV cameras," she said.

Several MPs suggested having a compulsory course for PMD users, like how those learning to drive motor vehicles have to pass the Highway Code.

Calling it a "good suggestion", Mrs Teo said the Government would be rolling out a Safe Cycling Programme this year - offenders could be made to attend the course in order to get their offence compounded.

Mr Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC) asked if enough was being done to improve the infrastructure. "Existing pavements are relatively narrow. It is essential that shared paths are neither too narrow nor too steep to ensure safety and ample space for every user."

Mrs Teo said new footpaths will be at least 1.8m wide, up from 1.5m today. For cycling paths, they will be 2m wide for intra-town paths, and 2.5m wide for inter-town routes. "It will take time, but we will certainly look into expanding the network of cycling paths and widening the pathways and also the options available in private or mature estates," she said.

Stepping up safety of e-bike users, others
Observers laud Bill on registration of devices but suggest more ways to educate their users
By Adrian Lim and Zhaki Abdullah, The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2017

Observers welcomed the registration of electric bicycles under the Active Mobility Bill, but said more could be done to ensure the safety of personal mobility device (PMD) users and those around them.

There are about 15,000 e-bikes in use here, figures from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) show.

Founder of e-bike community Power Assisted Cyclists SG Swen Einhaus said registration was only a minor inconvenience.

"It shouldn't take too much work or money for users to register their bikes," he said, adding that this may help repair the "terrible image" of e-bikes and possibly even encourage more people to ride them.

There were a number of fatal accidents involving e-bikes last year, most recently in November when 62-year-old delivery rider Heng Hock Kim died after he was hit by a tipper truck while on his e-bike.

Retailers said e-bike sales had fallen after stricter rules imposed in 2015 banned the use of throttles that allow the bikes to move without the user having to pedal.

The new regulations were unlikely to make them more attractive, said Mr Ong Beng Teng, owner of Ubi bicycle shop Esibike. "E-scooters are more popular now."

Transport consultant Gopinath Menon said licensing e-bikes will "add some teeth" to enforcement efforts by the authorities, adding: "If there's no registration and licensing, people may take things lightly."

Others have suggested additional ways to educate PMD users and encourage them ride safely.

Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay said PMD retailers can be made to hand out brochures on safe riding behaviour and basic highway code, along with the sale of their products.

"Once people are more educated about the risks, the accident rate will come down," Mr Tay added.

Mr Aloysius Fong, who founded road safety community website in 2014, said even as the authorities target errant retailers who illegally alter e-bicycles and PMDs, they should also go after those who do such modifications at home.

Mr Fong also raised concerns that the new laws - which stipulate the appropriate speeds and behaviour for PMD users - could lead to disputes, as pedestrians might now feel they have a right to tell PMD riders off for moving too fast.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the LTA said that registration of e-bikes was expected to begin in the middle of this year, adding that the exact date and details of implementation would be released "when ready".

Factsheet: Active Mobility Bill
Second Reading Speech by Mrs Josephine Teo, Senior Minister of State for Transport on the Active Mobility Bill
Written Reply by Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan to Parliamentary Question on Review Width of Footpaths Given Shared Usage by Pedestrians Cyclists and Users of Personal Mobility Devices

Allow bicycles, personal mobility devices on footpaths: Active Mobility Advisory Panel
New LTA unit to ensure safe riding on footpaths
Man rides electric scooter at 70kmh, overtakes bus in Mandai; More than 700 caught for unsafe cycling and riding since May 2016
Folding bikes, e-scooters allowed all-day on public transport in six-month trial from Dec 2016

E-bikes must be registered by 31 January 2018

Personal Mobility Device users caught riding on roads will face tougher enforcement action from 15 Jan 2018

Active Mobility Act: Reckless PMD riders face stiff fines and jail from 1 May 2018 as new law kicks in

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