The Mild Bunch: Electric Moped Sharing Arrives in BrooklynA local startup, Revel Transit, is starting with a few dozen scooters–but clearly thinking about a revolution
“We have bike share, we have car share, we have public transit, but we do not have electric mopeds and we believe that that is a missing link that the city needs,” said Paul Suhey, chief operating officer of Revel Transit, at a company press conference this morning with an unusual demonstration: the co-founders wheeling around on mopeds.
Suhey and his co-founder Frank Reig, Revel’s CEO, believe that electric mopeds have an important future in meeting New York City’s transit needs. This morning, Brooklyn-based Revel officially launched its pilot program in Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg, which will put a total of 68 electric mopeds on the streets.
The new service is app-based and touted by its founders as having many attractive qualities not always found in traditional transportation–they’re affordable, emissions free, easy to use, and fun. “Our generation isn’t going to car dealerships and dropping tens of thousands of dollars to buy a car. They’d rather hop on a bike, hop on an electric moped, hop in a car that they share with the rest of the neighborhood and other residents,” Reig said.
The launch of Revel comes at a boom time for Brooklyn companies that specialize in two-wheeled, ride sharing technology. Motivate, the company behind Citi Bike, was recently purchased by the ride-hailing company Lyft, and Jump, which makes dockless e-bikes, was bought by Uber.
Prospective riders of Revel bikes need to have a valid U.S. driver’s license, a clean driving record, a credit card, and be 21 or older. After you download the Rebel app and register–newbies can sign up for a free riding lesson–it will show you the location of the nearest moped, which you can reserve up to 15 minutes in advance. Once you arrive to fetch the moped, you unlock a helmet from the case in the back and hop aboard.
You’re free to range all over Brooklyn and Queens at this point in the program–sorry, not Manhattan–and all rides must start and end in Bushwick, Greenpoint, or Williamsburg. The mopeds are classified as Class B, low-powered motorcycles, which means they can’t go over 30 mph and are forbidden on highways and major bridges. Riders are expected to obey all traffic laws, something which frequent bicycle riders might need to remind themselves to do. Failure to yield, for example, could bring a $150 fine.
Revel’s rates are comparable to mass transit and cheaper than a taxi. Revel charges a one-time, $25 fee for a license check. After that, rides start at $4 for the first 20 minutes and 25 cents per minute after that. If a rider chooses to make a stop during the ride, the customer can park the bike temporarily for 5 cents per minute, or $3 an hour.
The mopeds are best suited for trips between 2 and 5 miles, Revel’s founders say, making them ideal for getting around neighborhoods, or from one to another. For example, “If you’re standing here in Bushwick and you need to go to Greenpoint, if you need to go from Greenpoint to South Williamsburg,” said Reig. If the program is a success, the company aims to expand to other neighborhoods, thus increasing the options. “From Dumbo to Crown Heights or Crown Heights to Bay Ridge, or wherever you’re going, this is another option to get you there,” he said.
The company is launching with a moped made by the Spanish scooter company Torrot–Spanish-born NBA star Ricky Rubio is a brand ambassador–that has proven popular in Europe. The current model gets about 50 miles per battery charge, which is indicated on the app. Workers for the company will replace the battery packs during hours when moped use is low.
One important virtue of the mopeds is environmental. City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, whose District 34 includes neighborhoods with some of the highest asthma rates in the city, has been a vocal supporter of Revel. “They’re here, they’re local, and they’re in our community,” he said at the event today. “And I want to make sure that we’re doing everything that we possibly can to support local businesses and local entrepreneurs.”
The mopeds could be helpful as well in the city’s transit deserts, where mass transit is a long walk from many homes and Citi Bike has yet to reach. They could be even more welcome when the dreaded L-train shutdown happens next year, when the mopeds could be used to reach alternative mass transit.
Revel already has a growing support system. “I have no doubt New Yorkers will fully embrace another two-wheeled transit option, especially one as affordable and fun to ride as Revel,” said Justin Ginsburgh, the former head of Citi Bike, in a press release announcing the launch.
While the founders are starting small, it’s clear they’re thinking big, talking in the language of scale. “If you take a step back and look at the shared-mobility market globally,” said Reig, “and you look at where it’s heading and the new generation living in cities, shared mobility is the future.”