New law requires moped sharing services get city approval

Brooklyn Paper hits the streets on new scooter rentals
Reporter Kevin Duggan following all the rules of the road while riding a Revel scooter around Grand Army Plaza.
File photo by Trey Pentecost

Moped sharing services like Revel and Lime will have to get their battery-powered bikes approved by the city’s Department of Transportation after the Council passed a bill today tightening regulations on the omnipresent two-wheelers, according to the legislation’s sponsor.

“I believe it is crucial that we balance our goal of expanding access to alternative modes of transportation with concerns for the safety of all New Yorkers,” said the Council’s Transportation Committee chairman Ydanis Rodríguez (D–Manhattan) during a Wednesday virtual meeting.

The new law requires any operator of a moped share service to get the green light from city transportation gurus, while giving DOT the ability to fine operators or impound their vessels if they don’t comply.

The mopeds are already legal if they’re registered with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and only require a regular driver’s license because they don’t go faster than 30 miles-per-hour.

Rodríguez first introduced the bill in August after Brooklyn’s own moped startup Revel resumed service following a months-long pause due to after a spate of crashes aboard the vehicles, killing three riders within a 10-day span.

“Last summer we saw a string of moped crashes leading to the death and serious injury of multiple New Yorkers,” the Big Apple pol said at the May 12 meeting. “Currently DOT lack the authority to regulate these services.”

The lawmaker revived the bill this week after DOT failed to create a framework nine months after then-Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced the agency planned to set up rules and regulations, the New York Post reported.

Revel debuted its blue mopeds in Bushwick in 2018 and has since expanded to a 3,000-strong fleet in all boroughs except Staten Island. But the Kings County start-up is no longer the only player in town after California-based company Lime rolled out its own green fleet on April 30.

After the bill is signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, DOT has 120 days to come up with its regulations, which should consider things like safety; vehicle maintenance; rider accountability, including proof that drivers are wearing helmets; “parking considerations;” and community outreach.

Violators will be subject of penalties up to $25,000 and DOT or police will be authorized to impound any unauthorized shared mopeds.

Since its return last summer, Revel has introduced a mandatory “helmet safety” questionnaire” users have to take, and Lime boasts infrared sensors and artificial intelligence that can tell if riders have taken the head protection out of the back box and put it on, according to the Golden State company.

“We’re glad the council is focused on improving the safety of this increasingly popular transportation service,” said Lime spokesperson Phil Jones in a statement. “If moped sharing is going to succeed in New York City, providers will need to work collaboratively with City leaders and regulators, and ensure that safety is not an afterthought, but rather the foundation from which everything else follows.”

A Revel rep said the company welcomed the new regulations. 

“We are pleased the Council has approved this legislation and that the City can proceed with its official rule-making process. In the interim, we will continue to work closely with NYC DOT to provide transportation access to the 400,000 New Yorkers who rely on Revel to get around their city,” said Jennifer Blatus in a statement. 

The existing moped sharing companies won’t have to freeze operations, but will be allowed to go through DOT’s approval process while keeping their service active, provided that they don’t endanger public safety, according to the bill.

The Council voted unanimously to approve the bill at its full meeting Wednesday afternoon.