Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Bicycle Sharing Operators to be licensed to curb indiscriminate parking

Parking Places (Amendment) Bill tabled to license bike-sharing firms to curb illegal parking
Firms can apply for licence by middle of year; their fleet size to be reviewed every 6 months
By Adrian Lim, Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 6 Mar 2018

To tackle the growing problem of shared bicycles being parked indiscriminately, rental operators such as oBike, ofo and Mobike look set to be licensed.

Under this proposed scheme, the size of their bicycle fleet will be reviewed every six months, based on how well they manage the problem of illegal parking and how often their two-wheelers are used.

There are an estimated 100,000 dockless shared bicycles in Singapore owned by six operators. But only about half are actively used.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA), in explaining the proposed move yesterday, said: "The indiscriminate parking of shared bicycles has caused significant social disamenities despite LTA's efforts to increase parking infrastructure and encourage bicycle-sharing operators to operate responsibly."

The LTA statement also said it will start accepting licence applications by the middle of this year, and will award them by year's end.

Details of the licensing system were spelt out in the Parking Places (Amendment) Bill, which was introduced in Parliament by Senior Minister of State for Transport Lam Pin Min yesterday.

The Bill also requires operators to share data, including the locations of all their bicycles, with the LTA, and remove those parked indiscriminately in a timely manner.

Operators are also required to temporarily ban users who repeatedly park indiscriminately from renting the bicycles. The duration of the ban has not been decided.

Bike-sharing operators that fail to comply with LTA's standards and conditions will face sanctions such as financial penalties of up to $100,000, reduction in fleet size, suspension or even have their licence cancelled.

The companies debuted in Singapore early last year. As they run on a dockless system, the bicycles can be rented from and returned to any location using a mobile app.

The six operators are oBike, ofo, Mobike, GBikes, SG Bike and ShareBikeSG.

Since the middle of last year, LTA has issued more than 2,100 removal notices and collected about $180,000 in fines and administrative fees from the companies.

As the number of these bicycles swells, the authorities have been creating more parking spaces at MRT stations, bus stops, Housing Board estates and parks.

There are 174,000 bike parking spaces, and the LTA and public agencies plan to provide 50,000 more by 2020.

LTA will also install unique quick response (QR) codes at all public bicycle parking areas from the second half of this year. Operators will have to ensure that their users scan the QR code at the parking area before they can end their trip.

Operators interviewed said they will work with the LTA on the licensing requirements.

Most declined to disclose the extent of indiscriminate parking. SG Bike, however, said it makes up about 10 per cent of all its rides.

General manager Tim Phang of oBike Singapore said that while official guidelines are welcomed, a licensing regime "places a heavy burden on start-ups and this, in turn, means users will suffer".

First Reading of the Parking Places (Amendment) Bill -5 Mar 2018

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