Those darn scooters are officially coming back! Beginning in early August! And sticking around until at least the end of 2023!

Yes, following approval from the Public Works Committee on Monday, the full Common Council gave a thumbs-up to a third dockless scooter “pilot study” on Tuesday. The new study is set to begin no earlier than July 1, 2022, though Department of Public Works officials estimate that after an application and review process, scooters won’t actually return to Milwaukee streets until early August. (In 2021, scooters returned to Milwaukee streets on June 1.) Unlike previous studies, the new study will last more than a year, ending December 31, 2023.

“Incorporating new technology with multiple modes of transportation adds vitality to Milwaukee, increasing public activity, and connecting people to neighborhood businesses,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson, who is expected to give the final approval for the new study. “This scooter pilot aligns with that vision, and I thank the Common Council for approving this program.”

Similar to past studies in 2019 and 2021, no more than three companies will be allowed to operate in the city. In the past, the three companies in Milwaukee have been Bird, Lime, and Spin. (Due to the then-new COVID-19 pandemic, scooters never materialized in 2020.)

Each company will be allowed to deploy up to 600 scooters throughout seven city-defined zones, for a total fleet of 1,800. The downtown zone, Zone 1, carries a cap of 100 scooters per company, or 300 scooters in total.

The downtown zone was off-limits most of last summer. The “ban” was triggered when a consultant determined that more than 10% of riders were riding on the sidewalk—a big no-no. That “trigger ban” isn’t part of the new study, though several areas remain off-limits for scooter riders. They include all sidewalks, the RiverWalk, Lakeshore State Park, and “other areas as directed by the Commissioner of Public Works.”

Several areas are off-limits for scooter parking, too. They include bridges, the RiverWalk, Lakeshore State Park, the Hank Aaron State Trail, the UWM and Marquette campuses, and “other areas as directed by the Commissioner of Public Works.”

The DPW recorded a total of 481,706 scooter rides in Milwaukee during the 2021 study. There were 2,452 average rides per day, and 2.6 riders per scooter per day. In 2019, during the first study, 350,130 rides were recorded.

A 2021 survey revealed that 74% of trips were non-recreational, 47% of respondents replaced a car trip, and 70% of respondents thought scooters should be allowed.

The DPW received 89 emails or phone calls about scooters in 2021, virtually all complaints. Thirty-eight percent of the complaints were from repeat individuals.

The Milwaukee Police Department, meanwhile, reported 15 scooter crashes in 2021.

Companies looking to deploy scooters in 2022 will have to pay a series of fees to the city: $50 per scooter, $0.25 per trip (billed monthly), and $25 per “relocation by the City of Milwaukee or any other public agency operating within the City of Milwaukee.”

So will Milwaukee ever have a permanent scooter program? “We’re in the process of creating a permanent program, but there are some logistics we still have to go through,” the DPW said at Monday’s meeting. “If the permit program somehow comes to fruition before the end of the pilot, we would terminate this pilot program and go into a full permanent program. The intention is to get scooters on the streets as quickly as possible.”

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About The Author

Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.

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