Monday afternoon, outside of the Milwaukee Public Market, Gov. Tony Evers signed a bill that legalizes and regulates electric scooters in Wisconsin. “I’m excited to be in the great city of Milwaukee and signing this bipartisan bill that will expand transportation options for residents and visitors to Milwaukee and other communities across the state,” Evers said at the event. The legislation goes into effect this Wednesday. Finally, Wisconsin’s long-standing nightmare of walking a few blocks in the summer is nearly over.
It’s been a long, strange, app-required trip. Bird scooters illegally appeared in the city last summer, leading to all sorts of controversy and teeth-gnashing. The city subsequently sued Bird, and the scooters were removed; last week, the city settled the lawsuit, with Bird agreeing to pay the city $65,000 and pony up another $30,000 for generic scooter helmets and “scooter parking solutions.”
So now what? With electric scooters due to make their return to Milwaukee streets any day now, we’ve rounded up some pertinent info:
• Electric scooters will operate in Milwaukee as part of a pilot program
The new bill won’t allow companies to simply dump a bunch of dockless scooters in Milwaukee (again). Instead, it opens the door for a citywide pilot program that was approved by the Milwaukee Common Council on Tuesday. According to Urban Milwaukee, the pilot program “would require scooter companies to register with the city and comply with a variety of regulations including insurance requirements and speed limits.” The pilot program is scheduled to end on December 31, 2019. Barring a disastrous summer, permanent licenses would then be created for the companies.
• Bird, Jump, Lime, Lyft, VeoRide, and Spin have all expressed interest in operating in Milwaukee
Get ready to download a shitload of apps!
• The pilot program allows companies to possibly deploy up to 1,000 scooters each
The numbers break down like this: Companies can place up to 350 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, Bronzeville, Harambee, Bay View and a special cutout west to N. 22nd St. for Marquette University.” Two additional zones located throughout the city would allow each company to place 400 more scooters. Finally, companies can increase their individual fleets to 1,000 “if certain performance metrics outlined in the pilot study, including utilization, are met.”
• The things have to be light and kind of slow
Evers’ bill requires that scooters weigh under 100 pounds and obey a 15 mph speed limit. According to 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, “local governments will have the power to restrict rentals and prohibit use on streets with speed limits above 25 mph. Scooters must also comply with certain lighting and braking requirements.”
• It will be illegal to ride on the sidewalk
One of the big fears of electric scooters is the potential for accidents. Last summer, at least one pedestrian was struck and injured by a Bird scooter. How to solve the problem? Prohibitions and fines that probably won’t be enforced! The pilot program makes riding scooters on the sidewalk illegal, with a $20-$40 fine for the first offense, and a $50-$100 fine for a second offense.
• It won’t be illegal to ride a scooter while intoxicated—but please don’t do that
“As far as the state Legislature’s concerned, you cannot get an OWI on one of these things,” assistant city attorney Tyrone St. Junior said last month. But yeah, don’t do that.
• If things go south, say goodbye to electric scooters (again)
With everything finally on the up-and-up, expect scooters to appear any day now. After that, well, per 88Nine:
“In a perfect world, citizens who like scooters will acquaint themselves with the rules and will respect the rules,” Alderman Bob Bauman told TMJ4. “If they don’t, scooters will go away.”