Home News Revel’s mopeds find a role during pandemic, but safety issues emerge

Revel’s mopeds find a role during pandemic, but safety issues emerge

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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.

Revel has attempted to distinguish itself from the scooter-sharing companies like Lime that have been criticized for growing recklessly and not taking enough steps to ensure their vehicles are ridden responsibly. Lime has said its learned from missteps and is working on safety and parking issues.
Revel requires users to pay a sign-up fee, and has said it does a background check on new riders. A spokeswoman declined to say whether Revel still performs the checks. Two helmets are available in a carrying case on the back of the moped, and riders are supposed to use them. New riders are required to say that they’ve watched a 3-minute-18-second how-to video from Revel.
But Revel riders have been criticized for bad etiquette and rule breaking, such as riding in bike lanes or sidewalks, running red lights, or not wearing the helmets Revel provides. The company is coming under additional scrutiny this week after a spike in crashes this summer, including one in which a 26-year-old woman was killed, the first known death on a Revel moped after three million rides, the company said. Some riders say they’re concerned with how easily the vehicles can be rented, and the safety risks that come with riding the mopeds.

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.”

This past weekend the first fatality occurred involving a Revel rider. Nina Kapur, a 26-year-old CBS reporter, fell off a Revel Saturday when the driver she was traveling with swerved for an unknown reason, according to the New York City police department. The department declined to say whether any other vehicles were involved in the crash. An investigation is ongoing. The operator of the Revel suffered minor injuries, according to police.

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.

Research from he Centers for Disease Control and Texas health officials found that one in three riders injured on stand-up electric scooters were hurt on their first trip. The researchers concluded that riders may need more training. Revel’s mopeds are different in that riders sit down while riding, the vehicle is heavier and faster, plus there are more controls to manage, such as turn signals, high beams and a throttle switch.

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.

A car stopped quickly in front of him, he said. He tried to brake, and the bike fell on top of him and he skidded on the ground. Travis’s arm and knee were scraped up. Revel doesn’t recommend riding after rain.

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.”

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