Jeramey Jannene

Lawmakers Legalize Scooters

City poised to update its regulations in response, clearing way for Bird to return.

By - Jun 25th, 2019 11:57 am
Bird e-scooters. Photo by Dave Reid.

Bird e-scooters. Photo by Dave Reid.

The Wisconsin State Legislature has cleared the legal road for electric scooters to return to Milwaukee streets in the coming weeks.

The Wisconsin State Assembly took the final steps to approve statewide legalization last week. The bill, approved on a voice vote, and approved last month by the state Senate, now awaits the signature of Governor Tony Evers.

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 bill 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.

In response to the pending change in state law, the city is poised to update its regulations. It previously passed an ordinance change to legalize the scooters through a pilot program once the state updated its statutes, but a proposal from Alderman Robert Bauman would streamline the city’s governance.

Under Bauman’s proposal both dockless scooters and dockless bike-sharing systems would be classified as “mobility devices” and required to participate in pilot programs administered by the Department of Public Works. The mobility devices would be subject to a $100 redemption fee should they be impounded for operating outside of the previously-authorized pilot program. Bird deployed the scooters last summer without notifying the city.

Bird and competitor 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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Related Legislation: File 190443

Categories: Transportation

One thought on “Transportation: Lawmakers Legalize Scooters”

  1. Kevin Germino says:

    >Police in Milwaukee ticketed one rider for a crash on a Lower East Side sidewalk.

    Interesting that Murray Hill is in the Lower East Side now 🙂

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