For anyone avoiding public transportation during the Covid-19 pandemic, services like Revel’s electric mopeds may seem like a godsend. But riders and health professionals say the shared mopeds bring their own safety risks, which are coming under greater scrutiny as lockdowns lift and Revel expands across the United States.
Riders who download its app, pay a small fee and provide a driver’s license can be riding the company’s blue mopeds within a few minutes. Revel, which launched in Brooklyn in 2018, has since expanded to Washington DC, Oakland, Miami and Austin. It will launch in San Francisco next month. In New York, there are nearly 300,000 riders, according to the startup.
DC resident Rachel Rizzo decided to try a Revel moped earlier this summer to get to a friend’s house. She signed up on the app and watched a YouTube video on how to operate the moped.
Rizzo said she rides bikes regularly, and has ridden other shared vehicles such as Jump’s electric bicycles and Lyft’s electric scooters. Revel had more of a learning curve, she said. She said the Revel mopeds were significantly heavier, and the throttle more sensitive than she anticipated.
She twisted the throttle to start her first trip and the vehicle sped forward faster than she expected. Rizzo said she tried to brake, but the moped flew out from under her and fell over. Rizzo said she wasn’t hurt, and reported the incident to Revel. She said she then found another Revel, and rode it successfully. But she said she probably wouldn’t be riding if streets were as crowded as before the pandemic.
“There’s something to be said about just hopping on a moped and immediately being in traffic,” Rizzo said. “It seems like that could be a recipe for disaster.”
Revel said in a statement that it’s investigating the incident and expressed condolences. “Revel extends deepest sympathies to Nina Kapur’s family and loved ones for their loss,” Revel said.
Health officials at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx told CNN Business they’ve seen an uptick in emergency room visits from Revel crashes since the second half of May. Falls from mopeds are mostly due to avoiding other vehicles and obstacles, according to Nanette Talty, a critical care nurse at the hospital.
Revels mopeds are so new that there’s little available data on electric moped safety, however. A Revel spokeswoman declined to comment on how the mopeds’ safety compares to other ways of getting around.
A spokeswoman for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation said that it recommends all riders of motorized two-wheel devices take a formal training class before riding. Revel has periodically offered in-person training classes in markets, but they aren’t required to use the mopeds.
Other riders have had an easier time at first, but encountered challenges later. This spring, Travis, a Brooklyn resident who asked to be identified by only his first name because he was involved in a crash, joined Revel. He wanted an alternative to public transportation. He downloaded Revel’s app, and said he was approved in a few minutes.
“I was little disturbed by how easy it was, realizing pretty much anybody could go through that process quickly,” Travis said. He said he was surprised how easily he got used to riding the mopeds.
He’s still using the mopeds, in most cases.
“I won’t be riding in any hailstorms anytime soon,” Travis said. “Or any storms, for that matter.”