Jeramey Jannene

Three Scooter Companies Apply to Operate in Milwaukee

Lime, Bird and Spin could all have scooters on city streets in the coming weeks.

By - Jul 19th, 2019 04:09 pm
Bird scooter in Milwaukee. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Bird scooter in Milwaukee. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Three dockless electric scooter companies have applied to operate in Milwaukee.

According to Department of Public Works communications officer Brian DeNeve, Bird, Lime and Spin have filed applications to participate in a pilot program to operate scooter systems on Milwaukee streets.

“Lime is furthest along in the process and we anticipate them launching soon,” said DeNeve via email. “We recognize there is much enthusiasm around launch so we’re working expeditiously to make approvals happen.” DeNeve declined to identify specific details on the status of each application because the process is on-going.

The Milwaukee Common Council authorized the program on July 9th that would allow scooter operators to potentially bring up to 1,000 scooters each to Milwaukee streets. The move comes in response to a new state law that legalizes their use across Wisconsin.

The pilot program requires scooter companies to register with the city and comply with a variety of regulations including insurance requirements and speed limits.

The program allows companies, such as last year’s illegal entrant Bird, to place up to 350 dockless scooters each in an area east of Interstate 43 running from W. Oklahoma Ave. north to the city limits near W. Capitol Dr. that includes Downtown, the East Side, Brewers Hill, BronzevilleHarambeeBay View and a special cutout west to N. 22nd St. for Marquette University.

The companies would be able to place additional scooters, bringing each company’s total fleet size to 750, in two additional zones which encompass the rest of the city and are roughly divided by Interstate 94. Scooter fleets would be allowed to increase to 1,000 in size if certain performance metrics outlined in the pilot study, including utilization, are met.

Sidewalk riding would be prohibited as part of the pilot. An amendment introduced by Alderman Robert Bauman on the council floor institutes a fine ranging from $20 to $40 for the first offense. Second offenses would cost $50 to $100.

“Obviously a prohibition regarding sidewalks is only as good as the enforcement,” said Bauman, but he and others expressed skepticism at an earlier hearing that the police should spend time chasing down scooter operators.

Under the framework, control over the scooter companies, including allowing them in the city or revoking access, is solely held by the Department of Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske. Bauman said he’s taking a “wait and see approach” with regard to how things play out.

The city’s pilot study is scheduled to sunset on December 31st, 2019. A representative of the City Attorney’s office said the likely outcome is creating a license for the companies, with the pilot providing guidance on license cost and regulations.

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