Brooklyn Boro

Revel rides approach 500,000 — but most riders are still untrained

August 22, 2019 Noah Goldberg
This is what 1,000 mopeds look like. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

Brooklyn-based ride-by-the-minute moped app Revel is close to logging half a million rides since its expansion in May. This week, the company is expanding its New York City fleet by 100 new two-wheelers, the Brooklyn Eagle has learned.

More than 400,000 rides were taken on Revel’s 1,000-strong fleet in northern Brooklyn and Queens in the past 2 1/2 months, with approximately half of those happening since July 19, according to the company’s New York City general manager. Each of the 1,000 mopeds is being used about seven times per day.

The company wouldn’t disclose specific subscriber numbers, but said they have “tens of thousands” of users and some 500 to 750 people sign up each day.

Alongside its New York City expansion, Revel just sent 400 mopeds south to Washington D.C., its second city.

The announcement comes less than three months after the app left its pilot phase, rolling out 1,000 Vespa-like scooters to much fanfare and seemingly more controversy. Revel said the demand justifies adding more vehicles to Brooklyn’s dangerous roads.

“I’d say the demand has far exceeded our expectations. We’re over the moon with how many people have signed up for Revel,” said Lauren Vriens, Revel’s New York City general manager in an interview with the Eagle.

Revels are accessible throughout parts of Brooklyn and Queens. On the app, riders can see where all the available mopeds are, and start a ride on their phone. It costs $19 to sign up, $1 to start a ride and 25 cents per minute on the mopeds. Vriens said the company is focusing on the neighborhoods it already serves and does not yet have plans to expand to new neighborhoods.

Instructors with Revel hang out in Greenpoint Aug. 17 waiting to give a lesson. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg

Riders do not need any special license to hop on the mopeds, which top out at 30 miles per hour — something that has been a source of worry for the company’s critics. The free lessons offered by the company are only optional.

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Revel offers lessons to aspiring riders at its Gowanus facility, but wait-times for lessons that fit riders’ schedules can extend up to two months, according to an employee.

Despite having tens of thousands of subscribers, Revel has only given out “hundreds” of lessons, according to Vriens.

“We’ve had hundreds of people take our lessons so far. There’s quite a demand,” she said.

Riders simply need to have a driver license and a clean driving record — no previous moped experience is required.

“You’re talking about 90 percent untrained riders,” said Daniel Flanzig, a personal injury lawyer representing a cyclist who is suing Revel over a crash. The rider claimed a Reveler slammed him from behind in DUMBO, breaking his ankle, according to Streetsblog. “In concept, [Revel] is a good idea, just the environment we’re using them in is pretty shitty.”

“People need to have a true understanding of their operation before they get out in the city streets. The streets of Brooklyn and Queens are not a closed course where someone should be learning to ride one for the first time,” Flanzig said.

Flanzig believes all Revel riders should take lessons before riding.

To compensate for the long waits — and to bring lessons away from Gowanus and into other neighborhoods for riders’ convenience — Revel began offering pop-up lessons Saturday. Instructors hung out at the dead end of Greenpoint Avenue by the East River in Greenpoint showing eager, but cautious, Brooklynites the how-tos of moped riding.

A Revel instructor picks up a moped after a person getting a lesson dropped it. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg

Over the next month and a half, Revel will bring the pop-up lessons to 10 neighborhoods across Brooklyn and Queens. Next weekend they will be in Astoria and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“It’s very important that you understand how to operate the machinery,” said Brandon Gilbert, an instructor with Revel who was giving lessons in Greenpoint. “When you’re operating a moped, if it is foreign, because you’ve never operated one before, it does not hurt to break the ice so that you know what you’re skating on.”

A rider taking a lesson Saturday agreed.

“I’ve seen a lot of people [riding Revels] being really unsafe on the road,” said Jodi Langan, a teacher who wants to Revel to avoid taking the train in the summer. “Or just seeing people trying it for the first time and it was just really obvious they didn’t know what they were doing, so they were falling on the side of the street to get it going. I didn’t want that to happen to me.”

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3 Comments

  1. Nikolai Vanzetti

    While I agree to a certain extent with the sentiment, I just want to point out that Revel has the same requirements as Uhaul or Thrifty. The difference is that one rents out 100-lb electric mopeds and the other rents out 2-ton trucks.