Revel Revel

Scooter company Revel is relaunching tomorrow and we're scared

Selfies proving helmet use and training videos won't fix the rent-and-ride scooter company's safety problem.

A rider with a helmet and face mask on can be seen riding a Revel scooter. Behind him is a car.
Noam Galai/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Beginning Thursday morning, the Department of Transportation is allowing the notorious Revel scooters back on New York's crowded and frequently accident-prone streets, The New York Daily News reports. This comes after the service saw three user deaths in quick succession, multiple safety complaints, and a temporary suspension of the service in July.

Signing up to use a Revel scooter is easy, as Input's Ian Servantes explained while sharing details of his own Revel mishap. The barrier is to entry is remarkably low. Download the app, upload a picture of a valid driver's license, add a credit card, and you can just jump on one of the electric scooters in the busiest streets of not only New York City, but also Miami, Oakland, Austin, and Washington D.C.

There's no training beyond recommended YouTube videos and the advice to use both front and rear brakes at once. Which is likely one of the reasons for the multiple fatalities. Riding a scooter isn't hard, per se, but riding one safely requires more than just a downloaded app, especially when there's no way to verify riders' sobriety. Despite these concerns, Revel scooters are returning to New York City streets.

How did we get here? — In July, Revel temporarily suspended its operations in New York City after lawmakers sounded the alarm following two deaths of Revel riders in 11 days. The company stated at the time: "NYC service will be shut down until further notice. 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."

What's different this time? — According to The New York Daily News, Revel will require riders to submit a selfie proving they're wearing a helmet prior to riding, and first-timers will need to complete a 20-minute-long safety training session through the company's smartphone app.

However, that review and "strengthening" of safety measures still seems extremely poor. Requiring riders to take a selfie of themselves wearing helmets doesn't guarantee a safe ride. People can easily ditch the helmet post selfie submission. Similarly, watching 20 minutes of videos or answering questions doesn't magically translate into real-world experience.

The problem of speed — These changes also don't address the issue of speed. Revel scooters can do more than 30 miles per hour. Making them slower than that would arguably introduce safety problems of its own, because Revel scooters are used alongside cars and motorcycles, and shouldn't be used in bike lanes. That means they need to be fast enough to keep abreast of the vehicles around them. But that's still more than fast enough to seriously — or fatally — injure a rider, pedestrian, or other road users.

As Servantes previously noted, the question we should be asking isn't really about riders' abilities, because under the current model they impossible to assess. Instead, the question should be whether these two-wheelers should even be on New York's streets. Despite Revel's assurances, the answer continues to lean toward a solid "no."