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Credit: 臺東縣政府新聞傳播科/ Source: goo.gl/771pkq

Credit: 臺東縣政府新聞傳播科/ Source: goo.gl/771pkq

LTA to implement QR code-enabled geo-fencing solution for dockless bicycle-sharing

The Singapore Government is introducing legislation to address the problem of indiscriminate parking of shared bicycles from dockless bicycle-sharing operators.

The Parking Places (Amendment) Bill (“the Bill”) was introduced in the Parliament today by the Ministry of Transport (MOT). The key amendments to the Parking Places Act (PPA) proposed in the Bill will allow the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to implement a licensing regime for operators that provide for dockless sharing of active mobility devices (i.e. bicycles, personal mobility devices (PMDs) and power-assisted bicycles (PABs)) in public places

Dockless bicycle-sharing which provides a convenient and healthier alternative for first-and-last mile journeys is becoming increasingly popular in Singapore. Older bicycle sharing systems required users to return the bicycle to specific docks/ parking stations. But the new smart 'dockless' bicycle sharing apps allow users to park them anywhere. The next user can locate and unlock nearby bicycles using GPS features in the  service provider's app installed on their smartphone. This is more convenient but also results in indiscriminate parking causing significant social disamenities. This is despite LTA’s efforts to increase parking infrastructure and encourage bicycle-sharing operators to operate responsibly.

The new licensing regime will allow the LTA to manage the size of each operator’s fleet by setting a maximum fleet size for each operator. LTA will regularly review fleet sizes. Operators who are able to manage indiscriminate parking and show good utilisation of their fleets will be allowed to grow over time. Other relevant factors such as user demand and availability of parking spaces will be taken into account.

LTA will also be able to impose standards and conditions on operators, such as requiring them to remove indiscriminately parked devices in a timely manner.

In particular, LTA will implement a QR code-enabled geo-fencing solution in the second half of 2018. Geo-fencing creates a virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area and allows an administrator to set up triggers, so that when a device enters (or exits) the boundaries defined by the administrator, an alert is issued. Thus, geo-fencing would enable the operators to know whether their bicycles have been parked within designated bicycle parking zones.

Operators will require their users to scan the unique QR code at the parking location as proof of proper parking, before they can end their trip. Operators may also be required to continuously charge users who do not park properly.

(In October 2017, LTA, the National Parks Board (NParks) and 16 Town Councils (TCs) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the five bicycle-sharing operators (Obike, Ofo, Mobike, Gbikes, and SG Bike) in Singapore to encourage responsible operation of bicycle-sharing services in public spaces. As part of the MOU, operators are supposed to take action to further reduce indiscriminate parking by adopting geo-fencing technology.)

Operators that do not comply with LTA’s standards and conditions will face regulatory sanctions such as financial penalties of up to $100,000, reductions in fleet size, suspension or even cancellation of their licences. These penalties will be higher than the current $500 fine that LTA imposes on operators for each indiscriminately parked bicycle not removed within the stipulated grace period.

To ensure that users park responsibly, LTA will have the power to direct all operators to collectively ban, for a limited period, users who repeatedly indiscriminately park devices. This will ensure that recalcitrant users will not be able to use any device-sharing services.

LTA aims to start accepting applications for bicycle-sharing licences by mid-2018, and award the licences in 4Q2018. Unlicensed operators will be liable to a fine of up to $10,000 or jail term of up to six months, or both.

The Bill also amends the PPA to give LTA the powers to better calibrate the parking provisions in private developments to support a car-lite Singapore.

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