Revel resumes service with mandatory helmet selfie, safety questionnaire

Brooklyn Paper hits the streets on new scooter rentals
Reporter Kevin Duggan enjoys riding around the quieter streets of Park Slope.
File photo by Trey Pentecost

Brooklyn scooter-sharing company Revel resumed service on Thursday morning with newly-added safety features, ending a month-long shutdown that began after a string of crashes aboard the battery-powered vehicles — including three fatalities within a 10-day span.

“Revel was born and bred in New York City, and we’re proud to relaunch in our hometown with an even better service,” said Frank Reig, Revel co-founder and chief executive officer in a statement Aug. 27. “With support from partners like the NYC Department of Transportation, we’re coming back stronger than ever and providing continued access to the more than 360,000 New Yorkers who rely on Revel to get around their city.”

Revel had halted its New York operations on July 28 — which came after the deaths of two riders in Queens and Brooklyn, including a CBS2 reporter. Another man also crashed in Manhattan on July 25, and succumbed to his injuries on Aug. 4. 

The return of the scooters comes with a slew of safety upgrades intended to increase safety and accountability — including forcing riders to take a selfie of themselves and their passenger wearing helmets, which the company will verify before the electric motors can turn on. For those who prefer not to use the included helmets, riders can purchase their own federally-approved helmets for $35 from Revel, the company said.

Customers will also have to watch a how-to video, and complete an in-app multiple choice test with 21 questions about how to properly drive Revels while obeying basic rules of the road — including not riding in the bike lane, on sidewalks, through red lights, or on bridges and highways.

The company will continue to suspend service between midnight and 5 am for the first 60 days, and will work with the city’s Department of Transportation and local stakeholders to expand hours of operation for future service.

People can also report bad behavior on Revel’s website without having an account, the company said.

The startup, which first rolled out in Bushwick in 2018, spread to more parts of Brooklyn and other boroughs during the following years, and became even more popular this summer with many riders seeking alternatives to subways and buses for fear of contracting the coronavirus.

Its fleet across all boroughs except Staten Island counts 3,000 scooters and 360,000 riders, but its rising popularity coincided with more scofflaws behaving badly on the scooters, with Revel suspending 1,000 of its users in July.

One Bushwick legislator said he was glad the company took steps to address safety concerns during its pause and said that Revel has become part of Kings County’s transportation network.

“Over the past two years, Revel has become a part of life in Brooklyn,” said Councilman Antonio Reynoso in a statement. “They’ve helped improve transportation access in our borough, created jobs for our residents, and have been a good neighbor since the start. Revel did the right thing by taking time to strengthen their safety measures, and today I’m happy to welcome them back to the communities that need them.”