Bird scooter case moved to federal court

City injunction hearing will not take place today


Attorneys for dockless scootershare company Bird Rides Inc. moved their case to federal court Thursday, citing the potential for nearly $1.4 million in fines. The action came a day before a Milwaukee County court was to consider removing the scooters from the city.

Bird scooters were distributed in the Third Ward today.

A hearing was scheduled for this morning regarding the City of Milwaukee’s motion for a temporary injunction requiring Bird to remove its electric scooters from Milwaukee streets within 24 hours. Milwaukee Deputy City Attorney Adam Stephens confirmed the hearing will no longer take place today.

In its notice of removal to federal court, Bird argues the city is attempting to prevent it from doing business in Milwaukee, which would result in “substantial damages” to the company.

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In its argument for moving the case to federal court, Bird contends its Milwaukee rentals have exceeded 6,900 rides, and since the city is seeking up to $200 per ride from Bird for violating state law, the fines would exceed $75,000 and would be eligible for federal court. The company also argues that since Bird and founder Travis VanderZanden are based in California and are being sued in Milwaukee, the case should be in federal court.

Santa Monica, California-based Bird distributed its scooters on curbs around the Historic Third Ward on June 27, and said it planned to add more scooters in Milwaukee over time. Bird is targeting “last mile” riders who are facing a long walk that is too short to drive. The scooters are rented via the company’s app.

On July 6, the City of Milwaukee sued Bird Rides in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, arguing electric scooters are illegal to operate in Milwaukee. The city and the company have different interpretations on whether the scooters are illegal or in a gray area.

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Bird is one of several bike- and scooter-share companies that have been formed recently to provide an alternative transportation option in cities across the U.S. San Francisco-based for-profit bike- and scooter-share company LimeBike has been attempting to work with the City of Milwaukee and gain public support to launch its dockless service here. Milwaukee-based nonprofit bikesharing company, Bublr Bikes, which provides bike rentals via docking stations around the city and suburbs, recently raised $100,000 to continue expanding and prepare for competition from LimeBike.

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