Lime approved for scooter pilot in Milwaukee

Scooters are already on the streets

Lime scooters in the Historic Third Ward.
Lime scooters in the Historic Third Ward in 2021.

Electric scooters are zooming down Milwaukee’s streets again today. The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works today approved the first company for its Dockless Scooter Pilot Study: Lime.

The San Francisco-based operator wasted no time in dropping scooters on city streets today. It plans to deploy 500 scooters on city streets this week, with a number already out and about. Of that total, 400 will be placed in Zone 1 (downtown, Bay View, East Side, Riverwest), and 50 in Zones 2 (northwest) and 3 (southwest). The company today began placing its scooters on Milwaukee streets.

Lime was required to educate users on responsible use of the scooters, including teaching them not to ride on sidewalks and that the scooters must be parked out of the way of pedestrian traffic. The company on Monday held a First Ride Academy in Milwaukee to prepare potential users for its expected launch here.

Two other operators, Bird and Spin, have applied for the pilot. Their applications are still under review.

“We expect Lime and all scooter operators to be community partners,” said Jeff Polenske, commissioner of public works. “In addition to having staff in Milwaukee, operators will also be responsible for communicating with users, encouraging safe use of scooters, addressing improperly parked scooters, and properly redistributing scooters.”

Earlier this month, Gov. Tony Evers signed dockless scooter legislation into law, and the Milwaukee Common Council approved an ordinance regulating motorized scooters, allowing the pilot to move forward.

Gabriel Scheer explains LimeBike at Startup Milwaukee Emerge in April 2018.

In April 2018, Lime (then called LimeBike) announced at a Startup Milwaukee event in Milwaukee that it was evaluating launching in the city and that it had not been able to secure a meeting on the topic with DPW.

Then in June 2018, Santa Monica, California-based Bird Rides Inc. dropped its scooters on Milwaukee curbs, and the city sued. In May, the City of Milwaukee and Bird settled their lawsuit over the legality of the scooters’ operation here. Bird argued the scooters were legal under federal law. Milwaukee argued the scooters were illegal under state law, and it needed guidance from the state Legislature to allow them.

The Common Council last summer approved the electric scooter pilot pending state legislation, and the company and city indicated they would remove the scooters and cooperate with each other.

The DPW pilot study will evaluate the impacts of dockless scooters on the access to the public right of way – a concern that has been raised by critics who have seen scooters obstruct sidewalks in other cities – with the aim of increasing transportation options and expanding access to transit.

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