Bird Takes Scooters Off Milwaukee Streets, Agrees to Work With City

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Five weeks after Bird put a fleet of about 100 motorized scooters in Milwaukee, the company says it’s pulling the vehicles off of the city’s streets until a framework is established allowing them to operate legally there.

The City of Milwaukee and Santa Monica, CA-based Bird on Monday issued a joint news release saying Bird is in the process of removing all of the electric scooters it has deployed in Milwaukee. Bird says that once it has finished rounding up the fleet, the vehicles will not appear on Milwaukee streets or sidewalks until municipal and state law allow for “scooter sharing programs to be implemented throughout the city.”

“We are committed to working with Bird to develop a program that meets regulatory requirements, as well as the needs of people living and working in Milwaukee,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says in the release.

Bird has been a fixture in Milwaukee-area news coverage since June 27, when the scooters first showed up in the city’s Third Ward neighborhood. The following day, Milwaukee Deputy City Attorney Adam Stephens wrote the company a letter requesting that Bird immediately remove its vehicles from the city. Stephens said in the letter that anyone seen riding one of Bird’s scooters could face a fine of nearly $100, according to news reports.

Still, the scooters, which people can rent using Bird’s smartphone app, have been visible in Milwaukee—and in social media posts by people who live in or visit the city—in the weeks after Stephens sent the letter to Bird.

Bird is part of a group of rapidly expanding transportation services that allow users to rent scooters and bicycles without having to dock them after reaching one’s destination. Proponents of these services argue that because their vehicles don’t need to be docked in between rides, they’re more likely to serve neighborhoods that don’t have stations for existing bike-sharing programs.

Meanwhile, officials in other Wisconsin cities, including Madison, are signaling that Bird and other companies that provide dock-less transportation services would not be welcomed upon arrival.

Mike Koval, who is chief of the Madison Police Department, wrote in a blog post last week that according to the City Attorney’s office, the scooters qualify as motor vehicles under Wisconsin law. However, the scooters do not meet federal safety requirements, therefore they cannot be operated legally in Madison, he wrote.

“Any prospective flock of these [scooters] will have to choose a place to roost that does not include the City of Madison,” Koval wrote.