Jeramey Jannene

Electric Scooters Could Return This Year

Bill working its way through state Legislature to legalize electric scooters.

By - May 8th, 2019 05:13 pm
Bird scooter in Milwaukee. Photo by Alison Peterson.

Bird scooter in Milwaukee. Photo by Alison Peterson.

A proposal is working its way through the state legislature that would legalize the use of electric scooters on Wisconsin streets.

Rentable scooters from California-based Bird made a brief debut on city streets last summer before the office of independently-elected City Attorney Grant Langley filed an injunction, claiming the vehicles were being operated in violation of state law because they do not comply with established federal safety standards. But before the Milwaukee Police Department was authorized to begin impounding the hundreds of scooters sitting on sidewalks, Bird came to an agreement with city officials to suspend operating until state law was changed.

The legislative proposal has bipartisan support in the capitol. Assembly Representatives Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin), Cindi Duchow (R-Delafield), Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay), Lakeshia Myers (D-Milwaukee), Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee), Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville), Timothy Ramthun (R-Campbellsport), Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) and Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) are listed as sponsors. State Senators Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay), Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee), Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) are sponsors of the Senate version of the bill.

The legislation consists of two identical bills, Assembly Bill 159 and Senate Bill 152.

The proposal creates a framework for electric scooters that is similar to that of bicycles, often by simply inserting the word “electric scooter” into existing state law. Usage of the scooters would be restricted virtually everywhere that bicycles are, including freeways and the Kettle Moraine State Forest.

The vehicles, which must weigh less than 100 pounds and go no faster than 20 miles per hour, are explicitly defined as separate from pedestrians. As such, municipalities and counties would retain the right to regulate their usage on sidewalks, bicycle lanes or trails. The vehicles could also be banned by municipalities or counties.

As soon as state law is changed, Bird will be free to operate in Milwaukee. At the same time the city was moving to potentially impound the vehicles, the Common Council and Mayor Tom Barrett created a framework for the legal operation of the vehicles on city streets if they’re approved by the state. City officials also passed legislation directing the city’s lobbying team to support the statewide legalization of the scooters.

The pending bills, which had their first hearing Tuesday, have the support of Bird, Lime, Uber and government lobbyists from the cities of Milwaukee and Madison. Harley-Davidson has registered as “other” on the bill.

Bird and Lime both operate scooter rental services across the globe. The companies have found themselves with legal challenges in many markets across the United States. Police in Milwaukee ticketed one rider for a crash on a Lower East Side sidewalk.

Bird, the only scooter provider to operate in Milwaukee to date, offers vehicles that unlock using a smartphone for $1.00 plus 15 cents per minute. The scooters are intended for short trips around urban areas.

Unlike dock-based systems like Bublr Bikes, the scooters can simply be left wherever the ride ends. The company contracts with individuals to pick up the scooters every night.


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2 thoughts on “Transportation: Electric Scooters Could Return This Year”

  1. Daniel Adams says:

    That photo of Jeramey on a scooter should be the new permanent Urban Milwaukee header image.

  2. Duane says:

    ………the scooters can simply be left wherever the ride ends. The company contracts with individuals to pick up the scooters every night……

    Yea, leave the scooters wherever you want, we’ll have a “hobo” pick them up later. I wonder if Bird loses money on par with other venture capital companies like Uber and Lyft. Despite losing $3.3B in 2018 and $4.5B in 2017 companies like Uber have the advantage of seemingly unending investment dollars. (All while putting financial stresses on traditional, regulated, profitable companies and their employees). Disruptive, destructive capitalism at its finest.

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