The electric moped rental company Revel suspended its rental services in New York City after two people riding its vehicles died in less than two weeks.
“We’re reviewing and strengthening our rider accountability and safety measures and communicating with city officials, and we look forward to serving you again in the near future,” Revel tweeted after the second death early in the morning on July 28.
In that incident, 32-year-old Jeremy Malave was driving a Revel moped when he collided with a light pole on a Woodhaven Boulevard median in Queens. He was taken to the hospital with severe head trauma and later died of his injuries.
The first death of someone on a Revel moped occurred July 18 when CBS2 New York City reporter Nina Kapur, 26, died from head trauma after falling from the moped.
Ms. Kapur was riding on the back of a Revel rental scooter that was a 26-year-old man was driving. He “swerved for an unknown reason” in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and both he and Ms. Kapur fell from the moped. He suffered minor injuries but Ms. Kapur was pronounced dead at Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital.
Public safety concerns grow
The presence of mopeds throughout New York City has been a source of consternation for motorists and pedestrians alike, as well as public officials who have threatened to bar the rentable electronic scooters.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said after Tuesday’s accident that the spate of injuries and deaths on Revel mopeds was “an unacceptable state of affairs.” He added that Revel would not be allowed to resume operations in the city unless it could demonstrate that the vehicles could be operated safely.
Revel’s suspension in New York City is a disappointment and also an inconvenience to thousands of city residents who have taken to the rental mopeds during the coronavirus pandemic as a way of avoiding public transportation and maintaining social distancing.
Running red lights
Meanwhile, Revel continues to operate in other cities, including Washington DC, Miami, Austin, and Oakland, with more cities slated to open in the coming months.
Revel seemed to presage its troubles in New York City on July 16 when it sent an email to its customers in the city reminding them to drive the mopeds safely.
“We can’t believe we have to say this, but no running red lights,” the Revel email said, according to CNN.
Running red lights is just one of the safety hazards Revel’s moped culture seems to have inadvertently created. Driving mopeds in bike lanes and on sidewalks, not wearing helmets, weaving between other traffic, and a general unfamiliarity with the vehicles many new drivers have are some of the other safety risks.
One Washington DC resident who regularly rents Revel mopeds as well as electronic bikes and e-scooters to get around the city told CNN that Revel mopeds have a steeper learning curve than the other modes of electric transportation. She told CNN that the Revel mopeds had an unexpectedly fast and sensitive throttle and the vehicle was heavier to handle than the other modes of transportation.
To rent a moped, customers must download the Revel app, pay a small registration fee, and provide a driver’s license. After that, riders are required to verify that they watched an instructional video about 3.5 minutes in length. A case on the back of every moped contains two helmets, which riders are supposed to wear, yet many don’t, probably a measured risk between catching COVID-19 over suffering a head injury.
Rising injury and death rates
In addition to the two recent deaths, many Revel drivers and pedestrians have been injured, though it’s hard for officials to say how many.
According to CNN, St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx says it has seen “an uptick in emergency room visits from Revel crashes since the second half of May.”
The problem with Revel mopeds proliferating on city streets in many ways mirrors those faced by the e-scooter industry.
A study released last year by Portland, Oregon’s Bureau of Transportation found that e-scooter injuries occurred at a rate of 2.2 accidents per 10,000 miles – alarmingly higher than the rate of motorcycle and car accidents. Nationwide, electric scooters caused at least 1,545 injuries and deaths every year – a figure that many emergency room physicians and safety advocates say is almost certainly higher.
In one Austin, Texas, hospital, doctors documented 61 cases of severe trauma, including 18 head injuries, 36 orthopedic injuries, and 14 facial injuries linked to electric scooters in less than one year, and those numbers did not include a multitude of less severe injuries that doctors in the same hospital treated, according to the Washington Post.
People injured on or by scooters are finding it difficult to determine just who is liable for their injuries. A spectrum of scenarios involving e-scooter accidents can blur liability and compound the legal complications. E-scooter companies collect a lot of data from their devices and the people who rent them, including geo-tracking location, timestamps, and the user’s personal and payment information. But they may not be forthcoming in releasing their customers’ information, and it is unclear what laws may apply to requiring them to do so.