City Sues Scooter Operator Bird
First courthouse showdown is scheduled for Friday the 13th.
The City of Milwaukee isn’t happy with the actions of private, dockless electric scooter provider Bird.
The California-based company dropped off approximately 100 scooters on city streets in late June just before Summerfest. The independently-elected City Attorney quickly wrote a legal opinion that the scooters violate state law when operated on a public sidewalk or city street and issued a cease-and-desist to Bird and alerted the public they could be subject to $98 fines for riding the scooters.
That didn’t deter Bird, which has a history of legal conflict when entering new markets. Thousands of rides have been taken on the scooters since being introduced in Milwaukee. The company has previously paid a $300,000 settlement in California, and encountered legal issues in a number of other markets.
In response to the legal ruling of Assistant City Attorney Adam Stephens, a Bird spokesperson told Urban Milwaukee: “Bird scooters are helping cities meet their ambitious goals of reducing carbon emissions and addressing the ever present car traffic crisis. We respectfully disagree with the city’s contention that operation of any electric scooter in the state of Wisconsin is unlawful. We look forward to working with the city to create and enforce common sense rules encouraging the safe use of our sustainable transportation option that the people of Milwaukee have begun to adopt enthusiastically.”
The city’s lawsuit includes an affidavit from Milwaukee Police Department sergeant Chad Raden that an operator told him “If you’re going to ticket me, you won’t be able to catch me.” The scooters have a maximum listed speed of 15 miles per hour.
The city’s suit contends that “If allowed to continue, irreparable harm to the residents and visitors to the City of Milwaukee, State of Wisconsin will occur. Bird’s deliberate and willful disregard for legal requirements for the registration of motor vehicles harms societal respect for the law and encourages its violation. Bird inadequately informs renters of their responsibilities to comply with other laws such as basic traffic safety and right of way, including the prohibition of operation while intoxicated. Bird also inadequately informs operators of the dangers of operating a motor scooter that can reach speeds up to 15 miles per hour, posing a risk to pedestrians and riders alike, while facetiously offering to ‘send’ a helmet to a renter but not requiring one prior to rental.”
The city is requesting an injunction that would remove Bird’s scooters from the street while the case is pending. That request will be taken up in a Friday morning hearing.
Dockless scooter and bicycle operator LimeBike continues to work with the city on creating a regulatory framework for their legal operation on city streets.
Urban Milwaukee first broke the news of the city’s lawsuit on Friday evening in a Twitter post that generated a substantial amount of feedback both for and against the electric scooters.
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