New laws for bicycle-sharing companies in S’pore to kick in by mid-2018: What it means for you
If you use shared bicycles, you'll want to read this.
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If you’re a frequent user of bike-sharing services, you’ll want to hear about this new Bill tabled by the Ministry of Transport in Parliament on Monday, March 5.
The new Parking Places (Amendment) Bill, which concerns mostly shared bicycles and their operators in Singapore, if passed, will come into force by the middle of this year, and will require mobility sharing operators — bicycles, personal mobility devices, and power-assisted bicycles — to get a licence before being allowed to operate here.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) is beginning with bicycle-sharing companies, and licence applications will open from around the middle of this year, and will be awarded by the end of this year. Licence applications for PMD or PAB sharing operations will start next year, but they’ll still be able to operate in the meantime in private land.
And what’s the point of licensing?
A few things that will help make our lives better:
1. Controlling the number of bicycles each operator can deploy
This will result in some of the larger operators like oBike, ofo and Mobike having to reduce their fleets of bicycles, and also make sure none of these companies try to flood the market with bicycles with reckless abandon.
Why cut the numbers, you might ask? Just so you appreciate the bigger picture — according to estimates, there are about 100,000 shared bicycles in Singapore, but only half that number is actually used by anyone.
There is a perk to cutting bicycle fleets too — by reducing the number of bicycles each operator can put out for use, companies have a greater motivation to make sure all their bikes are in good working order, and are used actively (if they are not used for extended periods, chances are higher that they are either faulty or have parts missing, for instance) — because if not they won’t make as much money as they otherwise could.
And if operators behave (i.e. clear their indiscriminately-parked bikes/faulty bikes/bikes with missing parts promptly), they’ll be allowed to increase the number of bicycles they put out for rental in the course of reviews conducted by LTA. Everybody wins.
If they still don’t give a sh*t, they face fines of up to $100,000, as well as suspensions or cancellations of their licenses to operate.
2. Clamping down on operators who don’t bother to deal with indiscriminately-parked bicycles
This will include directing operators to collectively ban users who repeatedly don’t bother to park in designated bicycle-sharing parking space.
They’ll be required to hone and standardise their geofencing technology to ensure it, as far as possible, captures the specific areas covered by the parking spaces.
One of the new measures that will be implemented is unique QR codes at every designated bicycle-sharing space in Singapore, which you’ll need to scan before parking your bicycle so that you can end the trip.
These will be rolled out at all shared bicycle parking spaces by mid this year.
Yup, this means if you don’t bother parking your shared bicycle in the yellow box, and scan the QR code stationed there, your trip won’t end and you’ll just have to continue paying for your ride. And if you continually don’t bother to park your bicycle properly, you’ll be banned from all the operators here — not just the one you were using.
And again, they face similar penalties if they fail to be more proactive in clearing wrongly-parked or faulty bikes. Their fleets could be reduced too.
3. Collecting data from bicycle operators
This allows them to specifically track:
– how many bicycles exactly each operator has deployed
– where every single bicycle is at any given point in time — not just the ones officers can locate physically
– how frequently each bicycle is used, and where they are sent
– errant user profiles for coordination with other bicycle companies
The data submitted by operators will also be checked, and if they fail to submit complete or accurate numbers to LTA, companies are liable to a maximum $10,000 fine.
Memorandum of Understanding doesn’t seem to be working
From January to August 2017, LTA impounded 278 dockless bicycles that were parked indiscriminately. The bulk of it (212 bicycles) came from Obike. Another 65 bicycles belonged to Mobike, while Ofo only had one bicycle impounded.
And although all bike-sharing companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the LTA in October last year, which did actually provide for many of these things (like timely removal of indiscriminately parked and faulty bicycles, as well as geofencing technology and data sharing), the LTA said this didn’t work — companies have happily flooded the island with their bicycles without a care, and don’t bother to respond to feedback on wrongly-parked bicycles.
Hopefully with these new measures, things like this:
Won’t be happening anymore.
Top photo by Joshua Lee