You may have seen dockless rental scooters parked on sidewalks Downtown or being operated on local streets, but don’t plan on riding them to Summerfest – or anywhere else in the state, for that matter.
The smartphone-activated electric scooters, introduced to Milwaukee without notice on Wednesday by the public ride sharing program Bird, are illegal to operate on any public road or sidewalk in Wisconsin, according to the City Attorney’s Office.
The Department of Public Works received several inquiries about the legality of the suddenly arrived motorized mini-vehicles, and if permits to operate them were required and/or granted. In a news release Thursday, the City confirmed that Bird scooters are a violation of both state and local laws, regardless of how they are classified.
"Bird’s motorized scooters may not be lawfully operated on any public street or sidewalk in the City of Milwaukee. Whether defined as a vehicle, motor vehicle or a play vehicle, under no circumstances may motorized scooters operate on a public street because they are not designed for on-street use," the City Attorney’s Office said. "If motorized scooters were designed for on-street use, they would be subject to federal safety standards and manufacturer certifications.
"Further, regulations pertaining to operation of motor vehicles apply equally on sidewalks and streets as both are part of the public highway right-of-way."
Consequently, the City said, anyone riding a Bird motor scooter in Milwaukee will be subject to a fine of $98.80 for Operating an Unregistered Motor Vehicle upon a Highway contrary to Wisconsin statutes, adding that, based on circumstances, there may be other traffic law violations committed by the operator, such as OWI.
Alderman Robert J. Bauman, chair of the Public Works Committee, released a statement condemning Bird’s unauthorized influx.
"It’s irresponsible for this company to come into Milwaukee and place the unsuspecting public in legal jeopardy," said Bauman, who represents Downtown, where many of the electric scooters have appeared. "Quite simply these vehicles are not authorized for use on sidewalks or city streets and for good reason.
"Bird has been made aware that use of its scooters is illegal but they are choosing to proceed anyway. It has recklessly undertaken a publicity stunt which could victimize its own clientele by encouraging them to violate the law and suffer consequences because of it."
So, better safe than sorry, literally. All publicity may be good publicity for a company, but it'll be bad news for you. There are plenty of ways to get around our great city – and The Hop’s coming soon – so if you’re heading to Summerfest, check out our transportation guide.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.