Tech startup Revel deploys 1,000 electric mopeds for rent in Brooklyn and Queens
The number of mopeds on New York City’s streets has nearly doubled overnight thanks to a local startup.
Revel, a Brooklyn-based tech company, on Wednesday deployed 1,000 street-legal electric two-wheelers across Brooklyn and Queens, which can be rented by the minute.
To use them riders must download Revel’s app, snap a photo of their driver’s license and fork over a $19 sign-up fee. After that, they can be rented for 25 cents per minute on top of a $1 base charge.
The mopeds are made by Chinese manufacturer Niu, and top out at just over 30 mph. They are not allowed to be used on bridges, highways or tunnels, and Revel’s owners do not expect people to take them into Manhattan.
The company launched a pilot last July with 68 bikes, limited to the Brooklyn areas of Bushwick, Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Wednesday’s expansion widens that zone to cover areas up to Astoria, down to Red Hook and over to Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
While mopeds are wildly popular across Asia and Europe, they’re seldom seen in New York. Department of Motor Vehicles data shows there were some 2,100 mopeds registered across the five boroughs in 2017, 1,450 of which were in Brooklyn or Queens.
By making them more available, Revel’s owners think mopeds will become much more popular in the city.
“We’ve learned that this is a safe operation,” said Revel co-founder Frank Reig, 33. “We’ve had a great track record since we launched.”
That track record will be put to the test as the company increases the size of its fleet 15-fold.
While mopeds are less likely to injure pedestrians and cyclists than cars and trucks, research has shown that their riders are just as likely to be killed as motorcyclists.
A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine looked at emergency room records at the University of Louisville Hospital — it found that riders who were in moped crashes were just as likely to die as those who were in motorcycle crashes.
Another 2016 study out of moped-crazy Denmark found that 78% of moped accidents were the result of rule-breaking behavior on the part of the rider.
Reig and Revel’s other founder Paul Suhey, 27, say they’ve taken those safety concerns into mind. The bikes come with helmets that riders are required to wear, and the company’s app provides safety guidelines for users.
Street safety advocates think the influx of mopeds is a step in the right direction.
“For safety reasons we support anything that can replace our over-dependence on multi-ton motor vehicles,” said Marco Conner, a deputy director at Transportation Alternatives. “People are injured and killed on city streets because 4,000 pounds of steel are driving around.”
Still, Conner was concerned that Revel’s zone does not cover many low-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens — a criticism that’s also been levied against the electric Smart car-sharing company Car2Go, which operates in a similar area as Revel.
“All these companies have a responsibility to ensure that their services are provided in an equitable manner,” said Conner. “If they’re not, the city has a responsibility to ensure they do through regulation.”
Revel does plan to provide a 40% discount to riders who can prove they are on public assistance programs, including SNAP, and to NYCHA residents.
“At the end of the day it makes your life better if you start using this,” Reig said of his company’s service. “You find yourself smiling when you ride these and you don’t even know why.”