Milwaukee bans dockless scooters in downtown, nearby areas

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People will no longer be able to take electric scooter trips in downtown Milwaukee after the city’s Department of Public Works initiated a ban on new trips today.

A third-party consultant discovered that 30% of all trips in Milwaukee’s “Zone 1” occurred on sidewalks, exceeding the 10% limit of sidewalk trips permitted in a legislative provision established by the Common Council earlier this year.

Scooter trips will be allowed in other portions of the city, but new trips in Zone 1, which includes downtown, the near west side, near south side and Lower East Side, will be prohibited until further notice. The DPW has also ordered electric scooter operators Lime, Bird and Spin to stop deploying scooters in Zone 1.

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The consultant monitored 15 intersections with high ridership for 15 total hours in Zone 1 throughout a two-week period in late June and early July.

Approximately 27% of the 298,000 trips taken in 2021 originated in Zone 1.

“DPW continues to fully support greater micromobility and multimodal transportation options,” DPW commissioner Jeff Polenske said in a statement. “DPW will continue to work with stakeholders, operators, elected officials and the public in hopes of safely resuming new trips and scooter deployment in Zone 1.”

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To comply with the city’s “pause” on scooter trips, DPW has advised the companies not to authorize rides inside of Zone 1. This means that a rider could pick up a scooter from another zone, but once they arrive at their destination in Zone 1, nobody will be able to initiate a new trip with that scooter, said Brian DeNeve, DPW spokesman.

“If they initiate a new trip, or if someone else grabs that scooter and initiates a new trip, that scooter ostensibly would not be operable,” DeNeve said.

The Common Council adopted a 2021 pilot study that included Lime, Bird and Spin. The study required all three operators to provide in-app messaging to address sidewalk riding and conduct monthly safety events in areas with high sidewalk riding.

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These electric scooter companies also committed to installing sidewalk riding technology on their scooters and have demonstrated or will demonstrate this technology to city staff.

The pilot study, which expires on Nov. 15, does not include a means to restore scooter usage when its provisions are broken. Common Council would likely need to take legislative action before scooter riding returns to Zone 1, DeNeve said.

“The Lime Milwaukee team is committed to reducing sidewalk riding and we have seen a marked reduction from 2019 to 2021, likely due to our robust rider education efforts and the implementation of our patent-pending sidewalk riding detection technology to change rider behavior,” Lime said in a statement.

Bird and Spin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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