While the debate over electric scooters continues to be waged around NYC, a startup company has quietly expanded its fleet of electric mopeds to rent in the outer boroughs. The Daily News reports that the Brooklyn-based company Revel has deployed 1,000 street-legal electric mopeds across Brooklyn and Queens starting today.
Revel previously launched a pilot program in Brooklyn in 2018 with 68 of the mopeds around a pilot zone encompassing most of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick. The new expansion widens that zone to cover everywhere north up to Astoria and Long Island City, down to Red Hook, and over to Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Here's how you use them: first you have to download the Revel app, take a photo of your driver’s license and pay a $19 sign-up fee, and you'll be able to start using it within 24 hours (you won’t get approved if you have any DUIs or other significantly bad infractions in your driving record). After that, the mopeds can be rented for 25 cents per minute on top of a $1 base charge. You use the app to find the nearest moped, then you can drive anywhere in Brooklyn or Queens, as long as you eventually return it to a legal spot somewhere within the zone—and you can park perpendicular to the curb, so finding spots shouldn't be that hard.
Note: though the mopeds have a 50 mile range, they are considered Class B vehicles, which means you’re not allowed to ride them on expressways or other high-speed roads or bridges. They also top out at 30 MPH, more than enough for the 25 MPH speed limit on most New York streets, and enough to get you over smaller bridges like the Pulaski into Queens, but not something you’d want to try on the Williamsburg Bridge. (You also aren't supposed to take them into Manhattan.)
It's very similar to the car2go model—and Revel has faced similar criticisms to that company for not covering many low-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. To offset that, the company says it plans to provide a 40% discount to riders who can prove they are on public assistance programs, including SNAP, and to NYCHA residents.
Jake Dobkin tested out the scooter last summer, and found it straightforward and easy to figure out how to maneuver with it, despite having little experience with such scooters. "In terms of the environmental impact, the amount of space they take up, and their danger to pedestrians, mopeds are an order of magnitude better for the city than private cars, and everyone who longs for a less traffic-choked city should wish them luck with their trial," he concluded.