Dockless bikeshare legislation in the works for Milwaukee

City has been working on model for a year

Dockless bikeshare company LimeBike has approached the city about launching here.

Milwaukee Alderman Robert Bauman is leading the creation of dockless bikeshare legislation that would allow the service to be offered in Milwaukee.

Dockless bikeshare company LimeBike has approached the city about launching here.

Bauman said the Department of Public Works has been drafting the law for about a year, since dockless bikeshare and scootershare startup LimeBike contacted the city about launching here.

“The file was opened a year ago, actually, and Public Works has been working on the subject over that period of time, looking at the experience of other cities, looking at the model,” Bauman said. “We have had some inquiries from companies looking to introduce dockless non-motorized bicycles.”

The alderman hopes to discuss the proposed legislation with the Public Works Committee at its meeting July 18.

LimeBike’s dockless bikeshare service may compete with existing Milwaukee-based bikeshare system Bublr Bikes, for which the city has garnered federal grant funding, Bauman said.

“We obviously have an interest in protecting what has already been a city investment with Bublr,” he  said, pointing out Bublr is a local nonprofit. “They’re truly operating in the public interest in a partnership with the City of Milwaukee to provide the best bikeshare service at the most reasonable cost.”

LimeBike, on the other hand, is for-profit and based in San Francisco. The company in April presented its service, which also includes dockless electric scooters, to the Milwaukee startup community at a Startup Milwaukee Emerge event during YP Week.

Gabriel Scheer explains LimeBike at Startup Milwaukee Emerge in April.

At that time, LimeBike director of government affairs and strategic development Gabriel Scheer said the company had reached out to the Milwaukee Department of Public Works in September, but had not been granted a meeting with the city. Representatives of LimeBike could not be reached today for comment on the development of the dockless bikeshare legislation in Milwaukee.

Bauman said the legislation would require a dockless bikeshare license, which would be obtained by submitting an application, plan of operations, service area, and meeting certain minimum requirements for the bikes’ equipment.

“(Limebike’s) whole pitch…is that they will serve areas of the city where Bublr does not now have a presence and we’re going to hold them to their word,” Bauman said. “That will be a license requirement, that they indeed provide service on the north side, the northwest side, the southwest side, the south side, areas where Bublr has up until now not had a presence.”

However, dockless scootershare is not on the table because the scooters are illegal for use on public streets or sidewalks under state law, Bauman said, though the city may work with the state on electric scooter laws when the Legislature is back in session in January.

The City of Milwaukee is currently suing dockless electric scootershare operator Bird Rides Inc. over its recent launch in the city.

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Molly Dill
Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.