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Collective ban, licensing regime for shared-bike users and operators in major bid to regulate industry

SINGAPORE — Those who park their shared bicycles indiscriminately may soon be billed continuously while repeat offenders could face a collective ban from the service providers, the authorities said on Monday (March 5) in unveiling the biggest attempt yet at addressing frustrations and grey areas in the growing industry.

Collective ban, licensing regime for shared-bike users and operators in major bid to regulate industry

An oBike is seen parked next to a bicycle park at Tampines. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — Those who park their shared bicycles indiscriminately may soon be billed continuously while repeat offenders could face a collective ban from the service providers, the authorities said on Monday (March 5) in unveiling the biggest attempt yet at addressing frustrations and grey areas in the growing industry.

Operators offering dockless shared bikes, personal mobility devices (PMDs) and power-assisted bicycles will also be regulated under a new licensing regime that gives the Land Transport Authority (LTA) more teeth to fine or sanction errant operators, such as by revoking their licences or curtailing their fleet size.

The proposed changes were tabled in Parliament on Monday (March 5) under a new Bill to amend the Parking Places Act.

"Through this licensing regime, we can better manage the indiscriminate parking of shared bicycles," LTA said in a Facebook post on Monday. "We will also be able to impose standards and conditions on operators, such as requiring them to remove indiscriminately parked devices in a timely manner."

The LTA, for instance, will implement geo-fencing technology by the second half of the year that requires shared bike users to scan the unique Quick Response (QR) code at designated parking locations as proof of proper parking before ending their trips. Those who fail to do so could be charged "continuously", the LTA added without giving further details.

It is unclear how a collective ban would be enforced, or for how long. The authorities have also not shared details on whether there are limits to how much a recalcitrant offender can be charged for parking a bicycle or PMD indiscriminately.

TODAY has reached out to the bike sharing operators for comments.

Applications for bicycle-sharing operator licences will commence in the middle of the year and will be awarded by the fourth quarter of this year. Unlicensed operators can be fined up to S$10,000, or jailed up to six months, or both.

There are currently around 100,000 such shared bicycles, across six operators: oBike, mobike, ofo, SG Bikes, GBikes and bikesharing.sg.

Under the proposed licensing regime, LTA can allow an operator to grow its fleet if the firm shows success in dealing with indiscriminate parking, and utilises its fleet well. Other factors that will be taken into consideration include user demand and availability of parking spaces.

The licensing regime will also give LTA the authority to impose industry-wide standards with regards to the timely removal of improperly parked bicycles, and the geographical range of the geo-fencing technology.

Failure to comply can result in operators facing financial penalties, such as fines of up to S$100,000, reductions in fleet size, suspension, or even a revocation of their licence, the authority said.

Currently, the LTA imposes a S$500 fine on operators for every indiscriminately-parked bicycle that is not removed within a stipulated time.

There are currently 174,000 designated public bicycle parking lots — located at various locations such as MRT stations, parks and at housing estates. The LTA is planning to add 50,000 more lots by 2020.

The issue of indiscriminate parking of shared bikes is a topic that regularly receives attention in the Parliament. Just last month, Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min told the House that about S$180,000 in fines and administrative fees, as well as more than 2,100 removal notices, had been issued since enforcement actions commenced last May. A total of 341 of such bikes had also been impounded, he told the House then.

Last October, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was inked by five bike sharing operators, with the LTA, the National Parks Board, and the 16 town councils, aimed at encouraging responsible bike-sharing behaviour.

As part of the MOU, the operators will have to adopt geo-fencing technologies by the end of 2017. Geo-fencing enables the operators to know whether their bicycles have been parked within designated bicycle parking zones.

Bike-sharing operators must also remove faulty bicycles within half a day, and provide public liability insurance for users.

Separately, the Bill tabled in Parliament on Monday will also give the LTA more powers to better gauge parking spaces in private developments.

Under the proposed amendments, the LTA can specify the range of parking lots and also specify, administratively, parking provision requirements for new private developments in "car-lite" precincts.

 

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