Wednesday morning, just as the virtual ink was drying on the umpteenth guide to all 8,000 Summerfest picnic tables or whatever, the Milwaukee media received a press release: Bird, an electric-scooter-share company based out of Santa Monica, California, had landed in Milwaukee. The company had surreptitiously installed a small fleet of their dockless electric scooters throughout the Third Ward, finally giving Milwaukee yet another way to avoid walking or just taking the bus. Here’s a brief rundown of the subsequent media coverage that really leaned into the whole “landing” thing:
Totally fun! Also: totally illegal!
Late Wednesday night, the Shepherd updated its story with a statement from the City Attorney’s Office. That statement read, in full:
The public should be aware that BIRD’s Motorized Scooters may NOT be lawfully operated on any public street or sidewalk in the City of Milwaukee, per current state statute.
Whether defined as a vehicle (Wis. Stat. Sec. 340.01(35)), motor vehicle (Wis. Stat. Sec. 340.01(35)) or a play vehicle (Wis. Stat. Sec. 340.01(43m)), under no circumstances may motorized scooters operate on a public street because they are not designed for on-street use. If motorized scooters were designed for on-street use, they would be subject to federal safety standards and manufacturer certifications. Further, regulations pertaining to operation of motor vehicles apply equally on sidewalks and streets as both are part of the public highway right-of-way.
Consequently, any operator of a BIRD motor scooter on a City street or sidewalk is subject to a $98.80 citation for Operating an Unregistered Motor Vehicle upon a Highway contrary to Wis. Stat. Sec. 341.04(1).
Urban Milwaukee included some legal questions in its piece, too:
A representative of Bird tells Urban Milwaukee the company is complying with all regulatory requirements for deploying the scooters. The Department of Public Work’s Sandra Rusch Walton says the city is still investigating the legality of deploying the scooters.
“Bird works closely with the cities in which it operates so that Bird is a reliable and affordable transportation option for people who live and work there,” Bird said in its original press release. “Not close enough!” said Milwaukee.