Young man riding an electric scooter in Singapore with an amazing view on the city (Photo by Ingus Kruklitis from Shutterstock.com).

LTA once again delays in handing out PMD-sharing licences as it contemplates over safety measures

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) has once again put on hold its decision on whether to award licences to companies seeking to operate sharing services for personal mobility devices (PMDs). This is the second time in four months the agency has done so.

In the beginning of the year, 14 companies had submitted applications to operate PMD-sharing services in Singapore.

The application results were initially expected to be out in the second quarter of this year, but it had been postponed to the third quarter. That time, LTA explained that it decided to push back the announcement as it needed more time to review “imposing additional requirements on licensees to ensure the safety of users and the general public”.

However, on Monday (30 September), a spokesperson from LTA said that it will announce the results of the “PMD and bicycle-sharing operator licences at a later date”.

It added that it will consult device-sharing and rental companies on more regulations to improve public safety.

“This is part of a review to extend safety measures to all electric-scooter sharing and rental companies, as they provide devices that are more easily accessible to the public, including less experienced riders,” the spokesperson said while responding to media queries.

Additionally, LTA also revealed that it needs to look further into suggestion made by others, like to incorporate “locally developed tracker” in order to monitor the speed and location of the devices.

“While such technology exists, there are implementation difficulties that have to be studied further. These implementation difficulties include ensuring that the speed tracking device is tamper proof, and the accuracy of location data,” the Agency explained.

According to the law, PMDs which include electric scooters, hoverboards and unicycles cannot be used on roads. They are only permitted on footpaths and shared pathways, like cycling paths and park-connector networks.

Out of the 14 companies that applied for the licence to run PMD-sharing services, at least two – Chinese firm Mobike and United States-based Lime – have pull out their applications.

An applicant, Singapore-based Beam – which is currently operating in countries like Malaysia and Australia – said that it was disappointed that there’s another delay in issuing the licences.

“We are hopeful that the delay will be short and that LTA will conduct meaningful consultations with operators to address any concerns that have not been raised during the eight-month evaluation process,” said Beam’s corporate affairs vice-president Christopher Hilton to CNA.

Neuron Mobility, another company that applied for the licence, said that it was committed to work with LTA in order to find out what other regulations can be implemented to improve safety.

A spokesperson from the company said to CNA that she believes that technology would be able to address many safety concerns. For instance, one can use geofencing to detect and manage the speed of PMDs.

LTA’s announcement comes at a time when everyone in the country is worried on the safety of PMDs.

Just last week, an elderly woman succumbed to the injuries she sustained after her bicycle collided with an e-scooter at Bedok North. The 65-year-old woman was in coma after she suffered fractures to her ribs and collarbone and serious brain injuries, before passing away at Changi General Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit on Wednesday (25 September).

On Friday (27 September), the Active Mobility Advisory Panel – which handles the rules governing the use of PMDs, bicycle and other equipment – said that it is pushing the Government to mandate a theory test and ban the use of mobile phones while riding PMDs, unless they are mounted or used in a hands-free manner. The Panel also urged the Government to set a minimum age requirement of 16 for all e-scooter riders on public paths.

For those below the age of 16, they can ride under the supervision of adults.

Other recommendations that it highlighted included making it compulsory for businesses to obtain third-party liability insurance – which allows victims to file claims for damage – in order to cover e-scooter riders who use the vehicles for work.