While new modes of urban transportation—motorized scooters, dockless bike share, and e-bikes—have been rolling out at a rapid clip in U.S. cities, New York City has thus far been slower to adapt. It was only a few weeks ago, after all, that the city’s dockless pilot launched in Queens, and laws on the books prevent electric scooters or throttle e-bikes (as opposed to pedal-assist ones) from being used on city streets.
Electric mopeds, however, have no such restrictions—and a new startup has a plan to bring those to Brooklyn. Say hello to Revel, which will launch today with 68 electric mopeds scattered throughout Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick. The company is the first of its kind in New York City, though moped-sharing startups already exist in other North American cities (including Atlanta and Pittsburgh).
How it works: Users can rent mopeds for short periods (via Revel’s app, naturally), with the first 20 minutes costing $4, and the price going up incrementally after that. (“Every minute after that costs 25 cents while moving or stopped in traffic, or 5 cents while parked,” according to the Wall Street Journal.) In order to use the service, users must have a valid driver’s license, and also have to pass a background check. The scooters must stay within Brooklyn and Queens (you’re not supposed to take them on bridges), and must be returned within the pilot area.
In terms of safety measures, Revel provides helmets with each bike, and newbies can take a how-to class in order to learn the ways of the moped. (The company also has a video showing curious parties how the scooters work.) Users are also expected to comply with the city’s regulations for cars—i.e. no riding on the sidewalk or in bike lanes, no going above the speed limit, and obeying alternate side parking rules.
The laws regulating mopeds are different from, say, throttle e-bikes, which are still illegal in New York City (much to the chagrin of delivery workers who use them to get around and feel they’re unfairly targeted by the city). Revel’s mopeds are throttled to 30 miles per hour, which is faster than the pedal-assist bikes that are now legally allowed on city streets.
“We appreciate that the company has clearly stated safety as a priority, and we will certainly be watching closely as the program rolls out on our streets this summer,” a spokesperson for NYC’s Department of Transportation said in a statement provided to Curbed.
But it’s unlikely that electric mopeds will become competitive with NYC’s public transit (or even Citi Bike) anytime soon. The service isn’t intended to be a true commuting option in the way that, say, Citi Bike is; one of the company’s co-founders told WSJ that “[i]t’s a way to get to other transportation.… It kind of fits in with other public transit.” (That WSJ piece posits that Revel could alleviate congestion during the L train shutdown, but the fact that it can’t go outside of Brooklyn or Queens might make that pretty difficult.)