Revel’s Bronx exit proves tech can’t save cities


It’s been a long time since a company, let alone a woke tech company, has openly said that street crime drove it out of the Bronx. But that’s exactly what Revel, the blue moped company, quoted this month when announcing a “pause” of its service there.

Don’t blame Revel, who is oddly honest for our times of techspeak – it’s yet another sign that property crime is not without victims and the poor, as always, will bear the brunt of increasing crime.

Revel operates in two technological “spaces”. In Silicon Valley parlance, it’s a “sharing” business: it rents out mopeds to anyone 21 or older with a driver’s license. All you have to do is go to the app, find a moped on the street, unlock it and take it to another street.

It is also a “micromobility” company. It’s supposed to provide a different urban transportation solution to a subway or an old-fashioned bus and take you away from the car: “When I think of our competitors, I think of Uber and Lyft,” the co-founder said. Frank Reig three years ago. There are.

For the umpteenth time, however, the lofty goal of transforming urban tech is colliding – often quite literally – with reality on the mean streets.

Revel rents out mopeds to anyone 21 or older with a driver’s license through their app.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

Revel, or rather its customers, did not get off to a good start. Moped riders with no motorcycle experience have to zip through crowded streets at high speed – up to 28 miles per hour, far more than twice as fast as a regular bike – without any protection other than a helmet, which many don’t. don’t wear.

Three Revel drivers and one passenger have died in less than two years, in addition to a pedestrian, Helga Schnitker, 82, a Reveler killed in a crosswalk near Columbus Circle in the fall of 2020.

Revel riders also ride illegally in narrow bike lanes and through Central Park, joining the new army of speedy motorized bikes without pedals (an oxymoron) working for food delivery apps and making life harder for old riders. regular.

People ride a Revel scooter.
Moped riders with no motorcycle experience have to navigate the crowded streets at high speed.
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

There is no evidence that we have reduced one hazard to the benefit of another, from the point of view of pedestrians or cyclists, for example by reducing car and truck traffic. We just added a new element to the pre-existing chaos.

Now, however, we have something old school: “We’re suspending service in the Bronx due to a major spike in theft, which has rendered mopeds unusable,” the company told the Bronx Times just after Christmas.

Revel said the part you’re not Assumed to say. Yet that’s not untrue: Armed robberies in the Bronx, up 21% over the past two years, are barely below the 1993 level of 7,511 and only 21% below their peak. 1990.

People ride a Revel scooter in traffic.
Three Revel drivers and one passenger have died in less than two years.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

It’s funny that “small” property crimes are supposed to have no relationship to violent crime, supposedly discrediting the broken windows theory – but both are in place at the same time.

Revel’s cheeky honesty — obviously, he missed “You’ll never speak ill of the Bronx” day at tech-bro school — is good for New York. If the Gotham government fails to keep the streets safe, the city’s poorest residents will suffer.

If one accepts the argument that Revel scooters are another transportation “option,” they are no longer an option in the most needy borough of the city.

Revel scooter parked.
“We are suspending service in the Bronx due to a significant spike in flights,” Revel said.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Revel isn’t the only tech company caught up in the city’s rapidly deteriorating crime situation. A group of Indiana college students rented an Airbnb apartment in Bushwick in late 2020, believing the brand had secured it. One of them, Ethan Williams, was shot randomly on the porch.

Revel’s acclaim in the Bronx also shows that technology is never will replace, if not greatly supplement, public transport. Indeed, Revel also offers an electric e-hail service (blue cars) alone in midtown Manhattan.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority can’t stop bus service in the Bronx just because a gunman shot BX39 last week; nor can he stop the Tube service there because the first Tube murder of the year happened under Fordham Road.

A person drives a Revel scooter.
Revel aims to provide an urban transport solution different from a metro or a bus and saves you from having a car.
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Generations of minority taxi drivers have been branded racist for not wanting to travel to outlying neighborhoods. Some probably were, but fear also governed their decisions on the spot, with dozens of taxi drivers murdered each year in the early 1990s.

Revel can be a fun – albeit dangerous – thrill. Until he can offer his services without the blunt tool of crime-based geographic discrimination, considered a general no-no in New York for decades (ask bankrupt yellow cab drivers), it’s not a public transportation option. Tech can pick up and go; The people of the Bronx cannot.

Nicole Gelinas is editor-in-chief of the City Journal at the Manhattan Institute.

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