Jeramey Jannene

Dockless Scooters Will Return in 2021, With Restrictions

Companies could be barred from operating if riders use sidewalks.

By - Apr 1st, 2021 03:22 pm
Bird e-scooters. Photo by Dave Reid.

Bird e-scooters. Photo by Dave Reid.

Electric scooters, rentable with a smartphone application, will be allowed to return to Milwaukee’s streets starting June 1st.

The Public Works Committee unanimously endorsed a second pilot study Wednesday morning.

But unlike the 2019 study, the latest version comes with the potential that specific companies could be barred from offering scooter rides in certain areas of the city if sidewalk riding is observed to exceed a 10% threshold.

“That was more complicated to memorialize in writing than first appeared,” said committee chair Alderman Robert Bauman. The alderman and Department of Public Works had hoped to complete a revision to the original 2021 proposal by the March 23rd council meeting, but didn’t meet that deadline.

As a consequence, the start date was pushed back from May 15th to June 1st.

Scooter users are to ride in the same places bikes are, which specifically excludes city sidewalks. The scooters can go up to 15 miles per hour, and their use on sidewalks generated complaints the last time the scooters were allowed in the city.

“There were a good number of people that were riding scooters on the sidewalks,” said Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske. “It did get better as that pilot moved from the summer into the fall.” At least two people were hit, with one collision resulting in a citation.

The concerns are greatest in the downtown area, what the city calls Zone 1. That includes the East Town, Westown, Historic Third Ward, Walker’s Point (north of W. National Ave.) and Marquette University campus. The remainder of the city is divided into five zones, up from two last year.

The new study would have a consultant execute monitoring periods of specific intersections. If more than 10% of a company’s given scooters are found to be used on the sidewalks during those monitoring periods the company would be barred from offering rides in that zone (if it is Zone 1) or required to initiate remedial actions (for the outer zones).

After our early March coverage, a Lime spokesperson reached out to Urban Milwaukee to tout that the company now has sidewalk-riding detection technology.

Up to three companies will be allowed to operate in the city under the study. Each would be approved to deploy up to 1,000 scooters with a maximum of 160 in the downtown zone.

“A major goal of this is to try to get more scooter usage into the neighborhoods,” said Polenske.

DPW estimates that fees from the study could bring up to $350,000. A $25-per-scooter fee and $0.15-per-trip fee would be collected by the city. An additional $10 per scooter will be imposed to hire a consultant.

The resulting cost to the user, charged on a per-minute basis, is often slightly more than a bus ride but less than a trip with Uber or Lyft.

Parking is required to be on sidewalks that are more than five feet wide. The companies, using geo-fencing technology, are required to not allow scooters to be parked in Lakeshore State Park, the Milwaukee RiverWalk and other designated areas.

State law, enacted in 2019, gives municipalities the authority to enact a regulatory framework to enable scooters use on their streets

A total of 350,130 rides were taken in 2019, with the three participating companies reporting 67 crashes and 141 citizen complaints being submitted to the city. An average of 3.6 riders per vehicle per day were taken. A DPW survey conducted at the end of 2019 generated 7,658 responses.

What happens if the latest study goes well? The city could adopt a permanent licensing structure or implement yet another study in future years. The current one expires December 31st.

The full council must still approve the pilot study.

Categories: Transportation, Weekly

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