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Brooklyn Paper hits the streets on new scooter rentals

Reporter Kevin Duggan enjoys riding around the quieter streets of Park Slope.
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It’s time to scoot over Brooklyn!

A Bushwick-based transit business unleashed hundreds of low-powered motorbikes onto the streets of northern Brooklyn earlier this month, making the sight of blue-colored scooters near ubiquitous overnight. But where did these crazy scooters come from? How does it all work, and what are they like to ride? This reporter hit the streets — literally — and snagged what’s possibly the biggest scoot of his career!

Revel Transit’s so-called “shareable” mopeds debuted in August, when the firm installed 68 scooters in Bushwick, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and parts of Queens.

That pilot period proceeded a rapid expansion that kicked off on May 29, when the transit firm parked an additional 1,000 bikes in 14 Brooklyn neighborhoods — including Park Slope, Gowanus, Red Hook, Dumbo, Downtown Brooklyn, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Windsor Terrace, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Sunset Park, Brooklyn Heights, Prospect Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant.

The company’s founder hopes that Brooklyn won’t be too alarmed by the sudden proliferation of scooters, saying his bikes will provide stressed out straphangers with a breezy, fun, and fast transit alternative.

“We are thrilled to bring a fun and easy way to get around more of Brooklyn and Queens,” said company co-founder Frank Reig. “During the nine-month pilot, we learned what worked well, what needed fixing, and what users wanted from the service going forward, and we took those lessons to improve the service for everyone.”

But that may be wishful thinking, according to one Dumbo man, who said that one day the streets were scooter free, and the next day they were everywhere!

“They’re all over the place — they’re like fleas,” said Dumbo resident Steve West, who stood outside his tavern, the 68 Jay Street Bar.

Much like Brooklyn’s other blue bike-share program, CitiBike, Revel scooters are available to rent via app, costing $1 to unlock, with an additional 25c-per-minute fee. The scooters can be dropped off at any legal parking spot within the company’s home zone, which covers most parts of the aforementioned neighborhoods.

Would-be riders must be 21 years or older, and Revel requires a valid driver’s license on sign up. The scooters do not require any special permits to operate, and Department of Motor Vehicles classifies the bikes as “limited use motorcycles” due to their low speed, which — in this case — tops out at around 30 mph.

And, in the interest of bringing Brooklyn Paper readers the full story, this reporter — who hasn’t driven in years, and has never ridden a motorcycle — signed up for Revel’s app and puttered at low speeds toward his latest byline:

My first surprise came during the application process. Revel had accepted my Irish driver’s license — don’t tell them we drive on the other side of the road!

I’d never driven a motorcycle before either, and while the company offers free driving lessons, there was no time for that — I had a deadline to keep. I ignored another call from my editor, found an underpowered ride, and cupped my ears to the sound of silence as the scooters electric motor whispered to life. Soon I was zooming through the streets at speeds resembling a brisk jog. Sluggishness had never been so thrilling.

I immediately gunned toward the traffic maelstrom of Grand Army Plaza, taking several laps around Brooklyn’s Arc de Triomphe, and as I leaned into the roundabout surrounding Kings County’s ode to classical architecture, I found myself transported back to the old country, where cars are far and few between, and Vespas reign supreme on the narrow, cobble-paved streets of my youth. And just as I felt safe, my revelry was shaken by the cold hard realities of American capitalism, manifested in the form of a 20-ton box truck careening mere inches off my right side. These weren’t the cycle safe streets of Europe — these were the mean streets of Brooklyn.

I was terrified out there, alone among the heavyweight SUVs cutting into my lane on the busy roundabout. But, once I got to calmer streets, most drivers kept their distance, while gawking curiously at this alien means of transit.

I met a handful other Revelers along the way, along with several interested Brooklynites, including one Kings County barkeep, who hadn’t quite made up his mind about these newfangled scooters.

“They really don’t know how to park them, because a lot of people don’t know how to ride motorcycles,” said West. ”This is their first experience. I’ve had to help people out many times trying to park these things.”

A senior rep from the company told me they’ve instituted a few safety policies, including cutting service between midnight and 5 a.m., and issuing fines that range from $5 to $500 for bad behavior.

“We unfortunately had an incident last week in McGolrick Park,” said the company’s New York City general manager Lauren Vriens. “There were multiple reports that there were seven users riding through the park and yelling at pedestrians and causing a lot of havoc.”

And, while service remains in its infancy, Vriens claims that a brief adjustment period should be expected with any new transit infrastructure, and that people will soon be scooting along as if they were born in the saddle.

“It’s only been a month, but we might see better behavior in the future. I think it will get better,” she said.

That said, several Brooklynites remain cautiously pessimistic about climbing onto one of Revel’s humble hogs.

“It’s really dangerous when you’re riding those things and there’s all this traffic — I wouldn’t trust myself,” said Dumbo resident Henry Florsheim.

But one Midwood woman was willing to give Revel’s scooters the benefit of the doubt, admitting that the underpowered bikes would come in handy for those courageous enough to tame them.

“It’s great for people who think they can handle it,” said Anne Murphy. “You can take lessons but who’s going to do that. The whole point is to make it more convenient. Who’s going to take time out of their schedule and go, ‘I’m going to go for a training.’”

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 4:40 pm, June 28, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Wilbur D. Horse from Yourtown says:
Great. So now we have hordes of unlicensed and unskilled operators (I refuse to call them "drivers") unleashed upon the truck-filled city streets. These toy motorcycles cannot be insured, so if this joyriding reporter -- who is busy reliving her childhood -- had hit a pedestrian, perhaps a child, the victim would have to pay for her own hospitalization. Isn't that jolly. No training is required to ride one of these things in front of trucks and buses, but no worries -- if a joyriding scooter gets hit, it's automatically the TRUCK's fault, of course. Even this reporter admits that she was "terrified." Do us drivers and pedestrians really need hundreds of terrified, unskilled toy motorcycles, going 25mph without effort, skating from curb to curb, and running us over?
June 27, 5:55 am
Mustafa Khant from Atlantic Ave says:
They are very unstable. One tap when you are backing into the space and they fall over.
June 27, 6:59 am
Karina from Williamsburg says:
These are really great after a night out at the bar with your girlfriends. Cheaper than an uber, and you can drive them literally wherever you want! Street or sidewalk. I had the ride of my life! I thought I was going to fall over a few times, but somehow I made it home in one piece.
June 27, 7:04 am
Vision Zero® from Zero Vision® says:
Hard pass! Already saw 2 chicks riding without helmets, 1 dude salmoning down a major street, and several who did not know what the hell they were doing. This is fine in Goa, but this isn't Goa, it's NYC.
June 27, 7:55 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Congestion pricing can't come soon enough. Breaking car culture in NYC will make these even more attractive. The lead picture with this article reminds you of what a sewer of vehicles this city is and how nice it could be once we fix it.
June 27, 8:09 am
Local from Here says:
If you are looking for a job in Brooklyn, there will soon be a major need for additional EMTs. Of course this scooter company will sit back and collect the profits while taxpayers foot the bills for the mayhem to come.
June 27, 8:35 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
I have already seen many sitting on the street with their tires slashed. Hope to see more.
June 27, 12:03 pm
Dmitri S from Bensonhurst says:
Beware of this company, they are a scam. I started seeing these mopeds in Sunset Park, so I downloaded their app and signed up. Took one of these mopeds home in Bensonhurst, parked it, and when I clicked "end ride" the app informed me that I am out of service area, and can't end the ride, only pause it, while still being charged 10 cents per minute. I would have to ride it back to the service area (which basically only covers Sunset Park and Park Slope), pay for the ride back, and then find another way to get home. I called the support, and they claimed that somewhere on the bike there is information regarding where it can be parked. I checked and there isn't - in only says "Brooklyn and Queens only". The information regarding the service area isn't readily evident in the app either - there is not a word about it in the "how to ride" and "how to park" instructions. It is buried deep in the app. That evening it started to rain, and rained through the night and most of the following morning. I was charged $155 for that ride and overnight "pause", and all they offered is a measly $10 discount. Never using them again.
June 27, 1:15 pm
Frank from Furter says:
Seen a lot of teens and younger riding...Will be an enforcement nightmare. Also fyi federal law limits the companies liability if you get hurt by one.
June 27, 2:10 pm
Mathematician from Brooklyn says:
It's sad when someone doesn't want anybody to have a house or a car because he can't afford one.
June 27, 4:10 pm
Peter Pyle from Prospect Park says:
It may be fun ,but this is just another deBlasio special interest scam heavily subsidized and funded by the tax paying public. no wonder our mayor prefers to travel around outside our fair city
June 27, 7:09 pm
Mai Dai from Homecrest says:
A motorbike traveling at 30 miles per hour can cause plenty of damage and potentially many injuries ,even death. Does anyone really care?
June 27, 7:11 pm
Local from Here says:
Who said these are subsidized? Do you idiots just make $hit up because you don't like something?
June 27, 7:34 pm
Francis Marion from Kensington says:
25 cents a minute? Something is not kosher Doesn't sound possible to me. It has to be subsidized. If it does not sound right, it is probably because it is not true and deBlasio is capable of all kinds of lies
June 27, 8:10 pm
pushing the fun card! says:
Seriously! Wait till you see what someone looks like when they get run over on one of those things. It won't be a pretty site and that fun will be done!
June 27, 8:32 pm
Ro from Park Slope says:
Another danger to the safety of pedestrians as well as auto drivers--and bicyclists, too.
June 28, 9:42 am
Marion Frances from Brooklyn Heights says:
What are the bike riders going to say when these scooters end up in bike lanes going 25+ miles per hour.
June 28, 3:56 pm
Local from Here says:
Marion Frances, the same thing we tell all the lard asses parked in the bike lane. "Get the F@#K out of the bike lane!" Cyclists don't support this crap.
June 28, 4:31 pm
Andrew Burnette from cobble hill says:
More than one poster is in extreme need of a valium at the least and maybe anger management at most with an intervention to go along with it. Profanity and vulgarity should never be tolerated in normal society
June 29, 10:42 am
Local from Here says:
Andrew Burnette sounds like he gets his ass kicked on a weekly basis. Keep clutching those pearls, Nancy.
June 29, 12:34 pm
Nicole from Prospect Heights says:
As an experienced motorcyclist I enjoy this service very much. Basic traffic rules apply, like don’t ride in bike lanes, don’t zig zag, don’t drink and ride, you will get fined or go to traffic court, cops are waiting for you! Obviously if you don’t feel comfortable riding you shouldn’t, scared and inexperienced riders are a danger to others and themselves. Practice first and don’t throw yourself in heavy traffic right sweat, take the scenic route, it is more fun anyway. Just like being a pedestrian, bicyclist or car driver, there are risks. Ride safe, pay attention and enjoy
July 5, 9:58 am

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