NYC moped startup Revel is eyeing Philly. My test-ride proved how thrilling/scary that would be.

Revel offers registered vehicles through an app. It runs a $19 check of your driving record before unlocking anything. And no wheels if you’re under 21.

Riders cruise through Brooklyn on Revel mopeds. (Courtesy of Revel)

Riders cruise through Brooklyn on Revel mopeds. (Courtesy of Revel)

The idea of sharing a helmet with Lord knows how many people in a 22-square-mile area of a densely populated city grosses me out. I’ve seen the bald spots of ringworm and have been warned about the itchy nuisance of head lice. Plus, some folks are just nasty.

But when I saw Revel electric mopeds available for rent in Brooklyn on a hot summer day, I felt it my duty as a transportation reporter to put my precious curls at risk.

These are nothing like the dockless e-scooters that seem to be all the rage (or the cause of it), lying all over the sidewalk available to any schmuck with a credit card and a smartphone.

Darryl Murphy poses in his helmet after riding a Revel moped. (Darryl Murphy/WHYY)

How to unlock your ride

Revel offers registered vehicles rentable through an app that lets you locate and reserve your ride. The app runs a $19 background check of your driver’s record before unlocking anything,  and no wheels if you’re under 21.

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Unlike shared e-scooters and bikes, these bad boys have license plates, so riders are subject to the rules of the road. No riding on the sidewalk or in bike lanes, and think twice before you go through that red light, because you will get a ticket.

Same rules apply for parking.

The black and blue Vespa-like moped comes with a helmet riders are required to wear. There’s even an extra for a guest.

According to the startup’s website, Revel provides disposable hair nets in the helmet case, and it cleans the helmet with disinfecting spray “several times a week.”

I wish I knew that beforehand.

I reserved a moped parked in Bed-Stuy with a helmet hanging off the side, though it is supposed to be in the case behind the seat. I stuffed my head inside and got ready to roll.

If you move your Revel before unlocking it through the app, an alarm will sound. It’s annoying, so make sure you’ve found the vehicle you reserved and follow the directions on the app.  To activate the throttle, hit a switch to signal the moped is ready for ignition.

Philadelphia’s on Revel’s radar

The ride is surprisingly smooth and quiet. But since you’re in the middle of traffic, it’s a bit dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. It took some time for me to get the hang of it because my throttle, on the right handle, wouldn’t kick in right away. This made for awkward stops on the side of the road, where I was walking it from the seat like a Flintstone. Traffic cruised by.

Whenever it was working, I maxed the moped out at around 30 mph. It was a good pace for moving through the brownstone blocks of Bed-Stuy.

Revel did its homework before launching, according to CEO and co-founder Frank Reig. He said the company reached out to city officials and police for their blessing during the initial pilot phase.

“The entire Uber mantra — move fast, break things, ask for forgiveness later — that is not how you operate a transportation business in 2019,” Reig said. “That is not how Revel operates.”

The startup began with just 68 mopeds within a 4-square-mile radius in Brooklyn last summer.  Now, it’s up to 1,000 in a 22-square-mile radius between Brooklyn and Queens. As of July, Revel logged 200,000 rides, averaging more than three miles per trip.

Revel charges $1 per person to unlock a moped, 25 cents per minute to ride, and a dime per minute to pause the ride. My 28-minute ride cost me close to 9 bucks, with tax included.  It was worth every penny.

Reig said Revel is taking its time to expand. The company, which recently launched in Washington, D.C., has Philadelphia on its shortlist of other cities ripe for its bikes.

“I think a city like Philadelphia makes a lot of sense for a shared electric moped system,” said Reig. “Revel can really fit nicely into a city like Philadelphia.”

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