Reckless users of personal mobility devices to face fines, jail time

Reckless users of personal mobility devices to face fines, jail time

There are also stiffer penalties for illegal device modification under the new legislation.

Shane Boey on a hoverboard sold by his company Dowhileloop

SINGAPORE: Electric bicycles have been banned from footpaths while Personal Mobility Devices (PMDs) like skateboards, kick-scooters, e-scooters and hoverboards cannot be used on roads after legislation was passed in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 10).

The legislation empowers the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and partner agencies such as the National Parks Board and the Traffic Police to regulate the types of devices permitted and the behaviour of users on public paths, putting into effect recommendations by an advisory panel which were accepted by the Government at last year’s Committee of Supply debate.

For instance, only motorised wheelchairs are allowed in locations with “No Riding” signs, such as pedestrian overhead bridges. Cyclists and PMD users must now ride below 15km/h on footpaths and 25km/h on shared or cycling paths. They cannot weigh more than 20kg or span more than 70cm in width.

pmd infographic

(Infographic: Rafael Estrada Calvar; source: LTA)

When cycling on the road, a maximum of two cyclists abreast will be allowed on all roads with at least two lanes in that direction, except those with bus lanes during bus lane operational hours. At night, bicycles and PMDs must turn on a white light in front and a red light at the back.

Retailers are also expected to display warning notices within premises and provide advice to customers on rules of usage.

New, stiffer penalties for contravening laws were also introduced. Those caught riding recklessly can be fined up to S$5,000, or imprisoned for up to six months, or both. For failing to provide personal particulars or render assistance in an accident, cyclists and device users can be fined up to S$3,000 or imprisoned for up to 12 months, or both. If they cause injury to others, they may also be charged under the Penal Code, and can be fined up to S$5,000, or imprisoned for up to a year, or both.

PMDs - stiffer fines (1)

In addition, those found illegally modifying or selling non-compliant bicycles, PMDs or power-assisted bicycles (PABs) can be fined up to $5,000 - up from S$2,000 - or imprisoned for up to three months, or both, for the first offence.

LTA can now also inspect businesses suspected of illegally modifying devices, seize non-compliant devices, demand identification information from suspected offenders and arrest those who refuse to cooperate.

The authority will also appoint volunteers to serve as “public path wardens”, who do not have powers to seize or arrest, but can obtain personal particulars of suspected offenders. They will patrol public paths to educate the public on safe practices.

“DIFFERENT USERS OF PUBLIC PATHS CAN HAPPILY CO-EXIST”

With the increasing popularity of cycling and PMD use with both young and old, pedestrian safety is paramount, said Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo.

“We are still some distance away from attaining the desirable level of graciousness and consideration. More regularly than we would like, we hear feedback about recklessness by cyclists and PMD users,” she said.

pmd infographic 2

(Infographic: Rafael Estrada Calvar; source: LTA)

“As it stands today, I’m afraid the burden lies more with cyclists and PMD users to demonstrate that the vast majority of them can be relied upon to be safety-conscious and responsible users of public paths,” Mrs Teo added. “However … I’m realistic that it may take several years before we get to a new balance, where the different users of public paths can happily co-exist with one another.”

Personal mobility infographic

(Infographic: Rafael Estrada Calvar; source: LTA)

“We should not ban bicycles and PMDs on footpaths because of the benefits they bring, but we must also act to reduce friction between the different users,” she said.

NO MANDATORY INSURANCE “FOR NOW”

While the House expressed support for the Bill, several Members of Parliament (MPs) also urged the Transport Ministry to install a compensation framework for victims of PMD accidents, with MP for Potong Pasir Sitoh Yih Pin calling the lack of such a mandatory scheme “perhaps the most controversial aspect”.

Mrs Teo had addressed similar remarks at a Parliament sitting in October last year by stating that compulsory insurance would be “too onerous and costly”, and said victims could obtain compensation through civil lawsuits or private settlements.

But Mr Sitoh on Tuesday highlighted the costs of civil suits as well as the possibility of hit-and-run incidents occurring. “Effort and cost should not be impediments,” he added. “Perhaps a fund could be set up to compensate victims.”

Ms Joan Pereira, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, agreed. “I hope the ministry will consider having such equipment sold with packaged personal accident insurance, and require such insurance to be tagged to the equipment and kept updated as long as in use,” she proposed.

But Mrs Teo said that for now, such insurance would not be mandatory, owing to a very broad range of cyclists and PMD users of different ages and levels of affluence.

“In accidents involving serious damages, the police will investigate,” she explained. “If a cyclist or PMD user is found to be at fault, he may be prosecuted and the court will consider if compensation should be paid - in addition to all the penalties the perpetrator is liable for. By laying out the rules and the code of conduct, this Bill will in fact facilitate the court process.”

“In addition, we do encourage users to buy third-party insurance which is already available in the market,” said Mrs Teo. “Insurance comes at some cost, which is not an insignificant amount, especially if you pay year after year, and it’s not clear who should be targeted for mandatory insurance.”

"UNLIKELY TO BE FINAL SET OF REGULATIONS"

Mrs Teo also reiterated that the ministry would require all PABs to be registered and carry registration plates as they are more prone to illegal modifications to achieve high speeds.

"We will monitor the situation and if justified, consider extending registration to all motorised devices," she added.

Online retailers of PMDs and PABs are subject to the same rules as brick-and-mortar shops, she told Parliament. "But we also acknowledge the practical challenges in enforcing them, especially those not based in Singapore ... the harsh penalties serve as a deterrent," said Mrs Teo.

She also responded to a query on why Singapore did not simply ban the import of non-compliant devices.

"Firstly, there's no reason to ban use of such non-compliant devices on private property, private land," Mrs Teo explained. "Furthermore, it may impede international trade. It may be excessive or hard to pass muster with the trade agreements we are part of."

She also revealed that Singapore's footpaths will be increased to at least 1.8m wide, up from 1.5m. And the network of dedicated cycling paths - slated to nearly double to 700km - will be around 2m wide for intra-town paths and 2.5m wide for inter-town paths. "It will take time, but we will continue to look into expanding the network and widening footpaths," said Mrs Teo.

"We will keep an open mind and continue to review our rules. This is unlikely to be the final set of regulations for active mobility," she concluded. "Over time, I believe we can build a stronger culture of safety and graciousness."

"It won't happen overnight but with determination and willingness to adjust the rules, the benefits of active mobility can become widely available for all Singaporeans to enjoy."

Source: CNA/jo

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