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Revel brings electric moped sharing back to New York City; helmets required

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Electric moped sharing company Revel on Thursday said it was returning to the streets of New York City with a new safety protocol, a month after it voluntarily suspended operations in the city following a string of deadly crashes.

Revel said it has struck an agreement with the city to resume service under enhanced safety protocols and increased accountability to weed out unruly drivers.

All New York Revel users beginning on Thursday will have to complete a 21-question safety training and watch an instructional video. The company will also require riders to take a selfie wearing a helmet, during which phones’ camera rolls will be locked so that users cannot reuse an old picture.

Company representatives review the images, but Revel is working on a machine learning tool to automatically verify helmet use, a spokeswoman said.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the moped service became a popular commuting option among New Yorkers wary of using public transportation. But the company recorded 330 crashes with injuries in the first seven months of 2020, according to New York City’s Department of Transportation. At least two riders died.

Revel operates some 3,000 mopeds in New York City. They are available throughout the Brooklyn and Queens boroughs and parts of Manhattan and the Bronx.

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement the city was pleased with Revel’s new safety measures.

“The City will closely monitor Revel’s operations during this relaunch and, going forward, plans to work with all interested stakeholders to promulgate rules to govern the operation of shared moped services in New York City,” Trottenberg said.

Venture capital-backed Revel said the training and helmet-wearing protocol will also be required for users in Oakland, California, Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, even though Texas state law does not require helmet use. Service in Miami, Florida, remains temporarily suspended.

Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by David Gregorio

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