2021 to See More Scooters, More Evenly Distributed

Push for more equitable access leads to cap on number of Bird, Lime and Spin scooters Downtown, as well as Bublr stations in new neighborhoods.

Riders on electric scooters and Bublr bikes will be a more common sight on streets in several Milwaukee neighborhoods in the coming months.

Travel options for residents and visitors will expand with the city’s new pilot program for dockless scooters and an expansion of the Bublr bike share program.

The Department of Public Works selected three scooter operators – Bird, Lime and Spin – for participation in the pilot project that will run from June 1 to Nov. 15.

The pilot, which allows 1,000 scooters per operator, requires a broader dispersal of scooters throughout the city with fewer concentrated Downtown, compared to a previous pilot in 2019.

 

 

 

A total of seven zones to support wider distribution and use are designated for the program.

Zone 1 – which encompasses Downtown, the near West Side, near South Side and Lower East Side – allows a maximum of 300 scooters. The remaining six zones each require a minimum of 480 scooters.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

“With a greater number of scooters being spread out throughout Milwaukee compared to 2019, we are greatly increasing transportation options for Black and Latinx neighborhoods,” Public Works Commissioner Jeff Polenske said.

Six operators applied to participate in the pilot; Helbiz, Veo and Superpedestrian were left on the outside looking in.

The maximum speed limit for dockless scooters is 15 mph. Riders must obey the rules of the road and park responsibly. Sidewalk riding, which became a common concern during the 2019 pilot, is illegal.

In the summer of 2018, Bird ignored state laws and Milwaukee authorities when the company placed 100 scooters on Downtown streets. Frustrated city officials were set to shut down Bird’s business in Milwaukee, but the operator collected its scooters and left town.

Santa Monica, California-based Bird Rides Inc., Ford Motor Co.-owned Spin and San Francisco-centered Lime all took part in the 2019 pilot in Milwaukee.

Bird, Lime and Spin were selected to participate in this year’s pilot in large part because of their technology that can track sidewalk riding and provide notification to riders either via in-app messaging or on the scooter. This technology is anticipated to go live this summer, DPW officials said. 

Additionally, the operators plan to deploy at least 100 adaptive scooters.

Added safety measures for this year’s pilot include requiring each operator to host two monthly education events and conduct monthly targeted sidewalk outreach. The DPW is in the process of selecting a consultant to conduct sidewalk riding counts.

Photo courtesy Bublr Bikes

Beginning this summer, the DPW is also expanding Bublr, the city’s bike share system, by 26 stations and about 250 bikes with the support of a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant.

The DPW worked with community partners and residents to identify sites for expansion. Stations will be installed in the Bronzeville, Harambee, Midtown, Washington Park, Silver City, Clarke Square and Walker Square neighborhoods. About 200 of the 250 bikes will be new electric-assist bikes (e-bikes) that will greatly increase access to bicycling for people of various ages and abilities.

“The expansion of Bublr Bikes further into Milwaukee neighborhoods reaffirms the city’s and Bublr Bikes’ commitment to an equitable bike share system for all Milwaukeeans,” Polenske said.

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.