The scooter company Revel is facing what is believed to be its first personal injury lawsuit — and win or lose, the case is likely to raise enormous questions about the expanding company and have vast ramifications on an industry that’s trying to fill the city’s transportation gaps.
The suit against the Brooklyn-based company certainly won’t be the last — attorney Daniel Flanzig argues Revel has been ill-equipped at preparing its users for the city’s busy and poorly designed roads and how to safely share them with other users, especially bikers.
“The problem I foresee right away is that it’s a learning curve with this type of vehicle, it’s much different from a bike, much different from a car,” said Flanzig, who runs a personal injury firm and is a cyclist himself.
Revel popped up last summer with just 68 electric-powered scooters in Bushwick, Greenpoint, and Williamsburg. But this May, Revel rapidly expanded through Brooklyn and into Queens and now has 1,000 motorcycle-like vehicles on the street. They are not subject to any stricter rules or regulations than other motor vehicle in the city, but in order to ride one, users simply need to pay a one-time $19 fee, and must have a valid and clean driver’s license. Revel handles the insurance.
“All you have to do is upload your driver’s license to have access to a motor vehicle with no training or any type of background check to see if you can,” said Flanzig.
Flanzig filed his July 1 lawsuit on behalf of Paul Dicesare, who suffered a broken ankle that required surgery after he was hit by the driver of a Revel scooter from behind at a Dumbo intersection on June 12.
Dicesare was in the left lane, trying to make a left from York Street onto Gold Street, when the Revel rider, Matthew Horn of New Jersey, allegedly rammed into him as Horn also tried to turn left at the same intersection, according to Flanzig.
“He basically made a turn into my client,” Flanzig said. “My client was on the left hand side of the moped when the moped made a left turn into him.”
The police report differs from the suit’s claims, but Flanzig says cops never took a statement from Dicesare. Police claim that Horn was making a left turn from York Street onto Gold Street when Dicesare passed Horn on his right and also attempted to make a left turn when the two collided — the impact sent Horn and Dicesare flying to the ground. Dicesare ended up in the hospital with a severely broken ankle that required surgery, according to Flanzig.
Flanzig’s suit argues that Horn had no training prior to riding the Revel and was driving recklessly when he hit and injured Dicesare.
“The negligence of the defendants consisted of owning and operating the moped in a dangerous manner; failing to keep a proper lookout ahead; failing to obey and heed the road and traffic conditions,” according to the suit.
The suit also puts the blame on Revel for “failure to assure its users, including defendant Horn, had sufficient knowledge and skill to operate the moped; failed to ascertain previous experience in operating the moped.”
“Part of our claim is that they are putting people out there without proper training — it’s backlogged on courses, you can’t even get in,” said Flanzig. “It goes 30 miles an hour, faster than a bike. Forget about injuring yourself, you’re putting pedestrians and cyclists at risk.”
The results of Revel’s expansion have become somewhat of a wild west — riders are trying to navigate the city’s chaotic streets while pedestrians and cyclists are simultaneously trying to figure out their space on the road in juxtaposition to the electric scooters. The NYPD could not provide data on Revel-related injuries, or if it even tracks such injuries.
And it’s already clear that not everyone who does rent one of Revel’s scooters follows the rules — photos taken over the last several weeks show what looks like young kids, not wearing helmets, drive the scooters the wrong way down a street.
Bike advocates say that any form of electric-powered transit to replace the automobile is welcome, but Revel must do a better job of training users and making sure they are held to the same standards as car drivers — operators of super-powered, heavy, motorized vehicles. A lack of training, coupled with the mode of transportation’s free-wheeling spirit, is a bad combination.
A spokesman for Revel said the company takes safety very seriously and is hiring additional staff to offer more lessons.