For several years I have spared no opportunity to preach to friends, neighbors, and conference panels about the virtues of car-free commuting. My morning routine, a typical suburban-to-urban one, relies on a combination of public transit and ride-hailing apps.
And while this approach has indisputably spared me both expense and aggravation, it is not a panacea. When my schedule forces me to head in at rush-hour, even though I am no longer burdened with driving, I still am forced to endure the soul-deadening frustration of congestion.
And so it was last summer as I sat in the back of a ride-hail vehicle lined up for the privilege of entering central Tel Aviv, when, just out the window, leaning against a light post, I spotted something I recognized from my Twitter feed — a free-floating, app-enabled, shared kick scooter from a startup called Bird. (Today, less than a year later, four global shared-scooter startups serve Tel Aviv.)
As the app downloaded to my phone, I ditched the car and headed towards the scooter. Moments later, I was buzzing by the stationary cars (though still breathing their emissions), and several minutes after that, exhilarated, I arrived at my office.
That impulse I satisfied — to escape the hopelessly congested urban streets and embrace a lighter, freer, more personal mode of transit — is an impulse that exploded into the public consciousness over the last 18 months as few things have before.
Scooter-sharing start-ups saw the number of trips scale at a rate that made the adoption of Uber and its ride-hailing cohort look static, propelling Bird and Lime to “unicorn” status (billion-dollar valuations) faster than any company before them.
As I dwelled on my personal experience, I concluded then and there that micromobility (as its guru, Horace Dediu has aptly coined it) was no passing fancy. Rather it is a huge part of the digital mobility future. In our ever-growing megatropolises, gas-guzzling, individual owner-operator 4,000-pound passenger vehicles simply are no longer practical.
And yet kick-scooters, like the one I rode that morning, have well-known drawbacks. The passenger-to-vehicle weight ratio makes them inherently unstable (indeed, on my second scooter trip, a crack in the sidewalk sent me toppling off one, luckily avoiding injury). They are well suited neither for pedestrian-filled sidewalks, where they interfere with foot traffic nor for automobile-clogged streets. There is no obvious place to park them, and no incentive for users to avoid cluttering pedestrian walkways. Their use on-sidewalk annoys and even endangers pedestrians (which has led to vandalism and other revolts in many places). Helmets are not provided, and therefore rarely worn. Under ideal circumstances, such as a protected bike lane, they can be practical for trips of one or two miles but are not comfortable enough to go much further. And while they beat walking, they are still limited to about 15 miles-per-hour at best.
What if we could take the best attributes of scooters — accessibility, cost-efficiency, practicality, and fun — in the form of a vehicle that was street-legal, faster, safer, much more durable, easy-to-park, more comfortable and more practical for somewhat longer journeys?
Maniv Mobility was proud to lead the seed round of Revel Transit, which this week announces the second phase of its launch with 1,000 mopeds across a wide swath of Brooklyn and Queens, New York.
Mopeds — sometimes referred to as Vespas (or, confusingly, scooters) — are more robust than an electric bicycle, but more refined than a motorcycle. With a top speed of 29 miles-per-hour, they are safe to operate, but still, easily keep up with city traffic, and get you to your destination at least as quickly as a cab or an Uber and at a fraction of the price. All of Revel’s mopeds are all-electric, zero emissions and come equipped with two helmets (required by law), enabling clean, convenient and safe mobility to two riders at a time. They all have state-issued license plates and are legal to park right at the curb — parking perpendicularly means they don’t even interfere with existing car parking. In most US states, anyone with a regular driver’s license can drive them.
And they are a ton of fun to ride.
When the Maniv team met Revel founders Frank Reig and Paul Suhey last year, a rare chemistry pervaded the air, and very quickly a deep conviction grew on all of our parts that together we could take a big step toward the vision on which we have built Maniv — a cleaner, safer, less expensive, more convenient mobility future.
Beyond vision, determination and flawless execution of a small pilot deployment last year, one of the things that impressed us most about Frank and Paul was their ability to effectively communicate their vision with city officials — from elected leaders to police superintendents. Revel, from inception, has striven to be an ally to commuters as well as to the public sector, and they have done a great job helping officials understand why shared electric mopeds are good for the city. And their overtures have thus far been extremely well received by the City of New York.
Almost exactly 100 years ago, my grandfather began his new life as a free man in Brooklyn. Today, I am proud to be part of a Tel Aviv-based venture team helping bring a new form of freedom to that same borough.
But this is just a start. As Sinatra said about New York “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” We look forward to bringing the safety, convenience, and fun of Revel to other cities in the near future.
Come ride with us!