The e-scooter empire spread into nearly every city in the country in the past year and a half, providing a fun way for people to zip around short distances, but also cluttering sidewalks and forcing city councils to create new infrastructure rules. But with top speeds capped somewhere between 10 to 15 miles-per-hour, and a (not always enforced) limit of one rider per scooter, the market has a hole for faster, roomier options.
Enter the moped.
Revel, a company that rents bright-blue electric mopeds, has appeared in two cities so far, first debuting in New York in June, and arriving this weekend in Washington, D.C. The 400 mopeds in D.C. just hit the city streets, but some have already raised concerns about safety and training for drivers, who may be unfamiliar with the rules of the road in a vehicle that falls ambiguously between a bike and motorcycle.
This isn’t the first time app-rented mopeds have appeared in the U.S. Last year, competitors of Revel brought mopeds to Atlanta and Pittsburgh, but in much smaller numbers, and in the case of Pittsburgh, they were removed after a few months when winter weather conditions made moped trips less feasible.
The D.C. Department of Transportation is now engaged in a four-month pilot program with Revel to assess whether mo
peds will work in the city, putting several safety measures in place. The DDOT is requiring Revel to provide classes on how to operate the throttle and brakes on the mopeds, which have a top speed of 30 miles-per-hour. The classes take about 15 minutes and are offered seven days a week. Mopeds riders in the city are also required to have a driver’s license and wear a helmet.
Several other safety requirements have been implemented by Revel itself, preempting the need for city regulation. Riders must be 21-year-old, and have to pay $19 for a background check that looks for DUIs, reckless driving, and speeding tickets, all of which automatically ban a person from the app-based service. Two helmets (one for each potential rider) are provided and required for use—though they’re only cleaned every two to three days, and come with hairnets to prevent the spread of germs. The mopeds can’t go on highways, but are otherwise treated like cars or motorcycles, meaning they can’t use bike lanes or sidewalks and must be parked legally on the curb, though they’re exempt from meter fees and parking time limits (improperly parked vehicles can be reported to the city).
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