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Adriano Espaillat

City Pols Seek to Rein In Revel-Type Micromobility

12:01 AM EDT on August 21, 2020

They’re back! Photo: Revel.

Some northern Manhattan pols don’t want to let the shared-motorscooter company Revel resume operations in New York City without more regulation.

 Even as the embattled service is instituting its own safety requirements, after recently suspending its service because of several fatal crashes, the chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, Ydanis Rodriguez, hit the street in Washington Heights Thursday to argue that Revel and other e-moped companies must submit to further regulations for their users — including a helmet requirement, mandatory training and even a city-issued license or permit — before resuming operations.

"This isn't only about Revel," Rodriguez said. "It's about any company that wants a market opportunity in the city."

Standing at the site of the crash of the city’s most recent e-scooter-related fatality — a steep hill at the corner of Fairview Avenue and Wadsworth Terrace — Rodriguez tag-teamed with local Congress Member Adriano Espaillat for a press conference flogging the proposal, which Rodriguez said he would introduce as a bill in the City Council on Sept. 27.

“We shouldn’t wait for people to die before we add safety,” said Rodriguez, who said he was “open” to discussing the nature of the safety arrangements, which would be authorized by the Department of Transportation.

The proposed legislation would "require the Department of Transportation to establish procedures by which shared moped organizations may apply for approval to operate shared moped fleets in New York City," according to Rodriguez's announcement.

Rodriguez also said that Revel and other e-scooter companies should come to northern Manhattan to get input from locals, including community boards, because this was “one of the most impacted” areas. Revels are popular among the area’s Latino residents, many of whom are essential workers who have enjoyed discounted rides through the service during the pandemic.

The proposal was the latest effort to rein in Revel after three Revel riders died after crashes that happened in the space of 10 days last month — even though 3,000-pound cars are many times more dangerous to pedestrians than the e-scooters, a 200-pound device that a company safety report said are driven at an average of just 12.3 mph.

The company voluntarily suspended operations on July 28, under pressure from Mayor de Blasio, who questioned e-scooters’ safety. The city, however, has demanded no new safety requirements on automobile makers or car drivers — despite the fact that car crashes have killed or injured thousands on New York City streets since the mayor took office in 2014.

Revel is rolling out a new “safety course” in its app in a number of American cities, and also will require that users take a “selfie” photo wearing a helmet before they can unlock the vehicles. The requirements will go into effect on Sept. 1. The company's new safety measures are under review by Mayor de Blasio.

A spokeswoman for Revel said that the company had reached out to Rodriguez for information on the legislation. “We have been in close communication with Council Member Rodriguez since our early pilot program, and he worked collaboratively with us to bring Revel service to his community members in Washington Heights. We remain committed to partnering with him and his team,” she said.

Revel began operating in New York about two years ago in Brooklyn and Queens; each of the vehicles in its fleet is registered with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and has a license plate. The popular service has expanded to 3,000 vehicles in four boroughs that travel more than 100,000 miles a day, according to company literature. The service has been a lifeline for many during the pandemic who have become leery of transit, especially essential workers; the app-based service appeals to a younger demographic. CBS2 — whose reporter Nina Kapur was one of those who died in the recent Revel crashes — reported that the city never regulated the service at its inception because it thought that was the state's job.

Espaillat said he had seen moped riders conducting the vehicles on sidewalks and riding with small children and without helmets — “clear violations of the rules” that he said the scooter companies should “monitor” with their “technology.”

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