Scooters Are Returning to Milwaukee’s Streets

After a nearly yearlong hiatus, city launches its latest dockless scooter program with three participating companies.

Scooters are back in the city of Milwaukee again.

The city officially launched its 2022-23 dockless scooter pilot study this week, bringing the two-wheeled, standup devices back to Milwaukee proper for the first time since November 2021 – though fewer of them than during that last go-round.

Like programs in 2019 and 2021, the latest pilot allows scooter operators to offer public rentals in a program managed by the Milwaukee Department of Public Works. The city will observe, solicit feedback and evaluate the effectiveness of dockless scooters in Milwaukee to determine how to best incorporate them into the transportation landscape moving forward.

“This scooter pilot builds on our mission to explore ways that technology can expand transportation options for our city,” Mayor Cavalier Johnson said at an event at Zillman Park in Bay View on Friday afternoon. “From the Hop to Bublr bikeshare to dockless scooters, these opportunities connect people to businesses while adding more activity and vitality to our streets.”

Johnson strapped on a helmet and took a scooter for a brief spin along the streets surrounding the park, as several others joined him.


 

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Three operators have been selected to participate in the latest pilot program: Lime, Spin and Veo. A notable omission is Bird, the company that began the scooter era in Milwaukee by dropping hundreds of its scooters around the city in 2019 before the city decided on rules for them. Bird did not apply to participate in the new Milwaukee pilot, according to DPW.

“There is such a center of gravity here,” Veo Director of Government Partnerships Jeff Hoover said of the Chicago-based company’s desire to take part in the program. In addition to its stand-up scooters, Veo displayed a sit-down, or adaptive, scooter at the event. The sit-down scooters will expand the pool of riders to include those that aren’t comfortable or are unable to ride the stand-up versions, Hoover said. Veo plans to have about 50 sit-down scooters in its Milwaukee fleet.

A goal of the scooter program is to get expand transportation options and reduce congestion, said Michael Beck, a representative of San Francisco-based Spin. “This is a great city,” Beck said as he looked around at the bustling area of restaurants, bars and shops along South Kinnickinnic Avenue. “Our goal is to get people out of their cars.”

Scooters offer riders a “safe, affordable and sustainable way to experience the city,” said LeAaron Foley, director of government and community relations for Lime, which also has its headquarters in San Francisco. “We know what it takes to run a successful e-scooter sharing program here, and we are excited to implement our plan focused on equity and safety, especially with regard to preventing sidewalk riding and improper parking,” Foley said. “We look forward to the best year yet of serving Milwaukee with our safe, sustainable, and affordable shared electric vehicles.”

Interim Commissioner of Public Works Jerrel Kruschke said the scooter pilot is “yet another way the Department of Public Works looks to safely enhance community connectivity via our infrastructure improvements and programs.”

The pilot, which the Common Council unanimously approved, runs through Dec. 31, 2023 – unless the city establishes a permanent scooter licensing program before that. “We’ve been working to establish permanent regulations. It’s taken some time for us to that figure out,” Senior Transportation Planner Kate Riordan said.

She noted that the current program will run much longer than the earlier pilots, which lasted only a few months. “We’ll see how it goes,” she said.

Lime and Spin participated in the in the 2019 and 2021 pilots, with Veo joining this time around. Lime and Spin are beginning with a small fleet of scooters this month, with Veo starting deployment later in September. The operators’ scooter fleet size is expected to grow beyond their initial deployments.

The 2022-23 pilot builds upon observations and data from previous pilots, with the following changes:

  • A maximum of 1,800 scooters citywide (600 per operator), down from 1,000 per operator in the 2021 pilot
  • Revised fee structure for operators of $50 per device 25 cents per trip
  • As sidewalk riding is illegal, operators must have a plan to address the issue and must have the ability to “geofence” no ride zones on specified sidewalks

The 2021 pilot showed significant ridership, with a total of 481,706 rides, which accounted for 2,452 average rides per day, or 2.6 riders per scooter per day.

A public survey showed 74% of trips to be non-recreational; 47% of respondents stated that they replaced a car trip; and 70% thought scooters should be allowed on a permanent basis.

As with prior pilots, DPW will receive data on a monthly basis, including complaints and crash information.

The maximum speed limit for dockless scooters is 15 mph. Users must obey the rules of the road and park responsibly. Riding on sidewalks is prohibited, as is riding or parking on the RiverWalk.

More information is available at https://milwaukee.gov/DocklessScooters.

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.