Revel — the moped-sharing company which has blessed major cities with fleets of lightweight, cheap, zero-emissions minibikes but also cursed them with a brigade of untrained scooter jockeys — has returned to New York City’s streets this morning after three fatal crashes halted service in July. Whereas people over 21 with a driver’s licence could once jump on scooters and blow stop signs mostly unpunished, the company is laying down some (soft) rules.
The protocols, approved by the City of New York, still leave a lot of the safety prevention measures up to riders. Revel now ensures that riders wear helmets by mandating that riders submit a selfie in a helmet before the Revel is activated (at which point they could, you know, take them off). Riders, including those who’d already registered, will also have to complete a 21-question safety quiz, covering such topics as riding on footpaths and consequences of violating traffic rules. Each question must be answered correctly, twice. There’s a mandatory instructional video.
A selfie and an unproctored quiz are wimpy safety constraints, unlikely to satisfy more impassioned pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists who’d like to see the mopeds dragged through the streets and hurled into a volcano. Buuuut Revel might actually clamp down on the joyrides with a new detection system. The Revel app will track drivers’ adherence to red lights and stop signs, one-way streets, and “no-ride zones” such as parks, tunnels, and bridges. Breaking these (or any additional) rules will get Revelers temporarily suspended or banned. Plus if you, a pedestrian, are forced to flee a Revel ploughing through the footpath, you can email Revel and/or social media shame them, and Revel can use location, date, and time information to pinpoint the rider.
Unleashing 360,000 moped riders (a figure cited by Revel CEO Frank Reig, in a statement shared with Gizmodo), likely untrained onto the roadways is a pretty big responsibility, which Revel has handled in the past with some light scolding and suspensions. In July, just days before a 26-year-old CBS reporter died after falling off the back of a Revel, the company announced that they’d suspended 1,000 users and had sent customers an email: “We can’t believe we have to say this, but no running red lights.” According to CNN, hospital officials in the Bronx reported an increase in Revel-related ER visits in May, and CBS has reported that law enforcement has chalked up 25 collisions to Revels between January and July (though this represents a small percentage of overall motorcycle and scooter accidents).
Revel claims to have 3,000 vehicles in New York, and it’s been lumped in with preferable socially distant alternatives to Ubers and public transportation. They are incredibly fun but feel illegally so, and for good reason. The Revel accelerates fast with a sensitive hand-operated throttle, it’s dangerously quiet, balancing the weight of a passenger takes some getting used to, and the blue-and-black coloration doesn’t stick out in the darkness. The New York Times has reported that, according to authorities, all three people who’ve died in New York City Revel accidents “appeared to have lost control of the moped.” Revel CEO Frank Reig told CNN Business that the 48 km/h top speed will stay because riders need to keep up with traffic flow in order to remain safe.
Will Revel and its riders prove themselves to the streets? If not, Revel could go the way of its forbearers Bird and Lime, the electric scooters whose cabal of smuggest riders steamrolled through footpath pedestrians, trashed the walkways, divided the public, and generated outcry for state bans, to everybody’s relief.