From West Allis to Shorewood, Lime seeking to roll into Milwaukee suburbs

Communities considering their own dockless scooter regulations

Lime scooters in the Historic Third Ward.
Lime scooters in the Historic Third Ward.

Last updated on September 19th, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Scooter-share company Lime is looking to expand its presence in the Milwaukee area by rolling into some first-ring suburbs.

Meanwhile, these same communities are determining regulations for the electric scooters that are driven within their borders.

West Allis Alderman Thomas Lajsic said the San Francisco-based company is interested in reaching an agreement with the city to bring its dockless motorized scooters there.

Nico Probst, a Lime spokesman, acknowledged the company is in talks with city officials to establish a presence there with a small fleet of scooters.

Probst also confirmed Lime is in talks with other communities, including the city of Wauwatosa and village of Shorewood. Lime is talking with others, but those three are further along in discussions than the rest, he said.

“Milwaukee has been a great city for us to operate in so far,” Probst said, later adding, “some of the surrounding suburbs feel like a natural interconnect.”

Even though Lime doesn’t have an official presence in West Allis, its scooters can already be found on its streets at times. Lajsic said there were instances of people driving them to Wisconsin State Fair Park, and he has even seen a couple scooters lying out in his neighborhood. He said people can ride them to West Allis but can’t take them back into Milwaukee, meaning Lime has had to collect them the next day.

Elected leaders will meet tonight to consider the creation of an ordinance that would regulate the use of scooters in West Allis city limits. The city currently has nothing in its code or ordinances addressing electric scooters.

Discussion will take place during a Committee of the Whole meeting. Lime representatives will also attend the meeting in West Allis to answer questions, said Probst.

Following the committee meeting, the Common Council may move to establish a set of regulations. Lajsic said he doesn’t know whether officials will reach an agreement yet with Lime, but they at least want to establish a set of rules.

“We want to at least regulate the use of the scooters and take it from there,” he said.

According to a memo to Common Council members from city attorney Kail Decker, the regulations of electric scooters on West Allis streets currently defaults to state law, though the state allows communities to establish certain restrictions.

State law allows scooters to be driven on any street, sidewalk and bike path, and to be parked on bike racks or sidewalks so long as they don’t block pedestrians. It also allows any company to rent scooters to the public.

A draft ordinance being presented to the committee tonight includes the city’s “most restrictive” options in regulating electric scooters, the memo states. These regulations would prohibit the use of scooters on all streets with speed limits over 25 mph, on all sidewalks and all bicycle ways. It would also bar the operation of rental electric scooters, such as Lime scooters.

Decker pointed out the ordinance is just a draft version being presented for discussion purposes. The end result may be far different.

“It is just a draft that’s being submitted for consideration, so it may be amended significantly tonight,” he said. “It’s going to be dependent on what the council has to say about it once they all get together.”

Officials of both Wauwatosa and Shorewood didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Wauwatosa recently passed its own set of electric-scooter regulations. According to the city’s website, scooters can only be driven on streets with speed limits of 30 mph or lower, and must be parked at bike racks or in a way that doesn’t block pedestrians or drivers on city streets and sidewalks.

Shorewood officials are also considering their own set of regulations.

The village’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Committee took up the issue at a meeting in August. Committee members recommended to allow rental scooters in Shorewood as a pilot program through the end of the year, according to the meeting minutes. They also recommended the village prohibit the use of scooters on sidewalks, but to allow their use on streets with speed limits grater than 25 mph. The committee meanwhile requested additional time to determine whether scooters should be restricted from being parked in certain locations.

Probst said while Lime users would benefit from uniform regulations, it understands each community has its own needs and desires.

“It really is a collective partnership approach,” he said.

Electric scooters first arrived last summer, after Bird launched its scooter-share program in Milwaukee. The city now has three electric scooters to choose from, with the third being Spin.

Bird and Spin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they have similar expansion plans.

Scooters navigated a bumpy road over the last year. Last July, Milwaukee took Bird to court over its operation in the city. While Bird argued the scooters were legal under federal law, the city said the scooters were illegal under state law and it needed guidance from the state Legislature to allow them.

The lawsuit was settled in May, and in July Gov. Tony Evers signed into law a bill that allowed the scooters to be driven on Wisconsin roads and streets.

Get our email updates

Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.