A delay in getting an operating licence to rent out personal mobility devices (PMDs) has not stopped Grab from going ahead and making its own arrangements
Grab's e-scooter deployment raises concerns Grab has been making arrangements with small property owners to park and rent out personal mobility devices on their land. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE KIAT

A delay in getting an operating licence to rent out personal mobility devices (PMDs) has not stopped one prospective operator from going ahead and making its own arrangements with small property owners to park and rent out the PMDs on their land.

Grab has at least 230 e-scooters available at Singapore Science Park 1 and 2, and around Tai Seng, Joo Chiat and Somerset, even as the Land Transport Authority (LTA) delays its decision on issuing operating licences, on the grounds of safety.

The move has raised some concerns among residents in Joo Chiat, who say the places the PMDs are being deployed are not suitable for riding safely.

Without an LTA licence, however, Grab is not able to park and hire out devices on public land.

Instead, many are now parked on small private plots, where members of the public can rent them to ride where they like.

On Tuesday night, the Grab app showed that around Joo Chiat alone, about 120 e-scooters were available in 36 parking spaces, mostly outside shops.

LTA said in May it would delay issuing PMD-sharing licences as it needed more time to review if additional safety requirements are needed. It told applicants that they should refrain from operating on private land if there was a "high risk of the shared devices spilling over to public land".

The authority told The Straits Times on Tuesday that in cases of commercial collaborations with private land owners, like Grab's new deployments, operators must ensure that users start and end their trips within designated parking areas. It added that any PMDs found parked on public land would be impounded.

Grab said it expanded its GrabWheels service in April after positive feedback from users of its pilot offering at the National University of Singapore. It added that the devices help users to get to amenities quickly, especially in cases where public transport may not provide a direct route. It said: "These locations are under the purview of private land owners, who agreed to the set-up of parking lots for the shared e-scooters."

It also said the service was rolled out with a series of measures, such as safety notices at parking spaces and a device speed limit of 15kmh.

In visits to Joo Chiat on two occasions over the past week, ST found most of Grab's e-scooters to be parked within marked boxes outside shops.

Business owners and pedestrians in the area said they started noticing the e-scooters last month. Most had not seen people using the devices yet, but were concerned about safety risks.

Mr Brian Peh, 35, the owner of a shop in Joo Chiat Place, said: "Some people do ride the e-scooters on the walkways just outside the shops, which could lead to accidents with people coming out of these shops."

Joo Chiat resident Jeff Salleh, 42, a software engineer, said: "The sidewalks are raised in some parts and not in others, so there is no way that users can just stick to the pavement and they will have to ride on the roads."

Of the 13 applicants vying for a licence here, Telepod and Lime also have PMDs available under arrangements with large-scale private land owners, such as property developers.

Mr Denis Koh, an Active Mobility Advisory Panel member and chairman of PMD enthusiast group Big Wheel Scooters Singapore, advised operators to wait for LTA's decision before stepping up operations.

He said: "Some areas like Katong, Changi Road or even Tai Seng are not PMD-friendly; there is inadequate riding infrastructure like proper shared paths or even a footpath in many cases. Users may have no alternatives but to ride on roads and endanger themselves."