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Mayor issues warning, freezes electric scooter program

Photo courtesy Milwaukee Business Times

MILWAUKEE, WI (WISN) — Milwaukee’s mayor is issuing a stern warning about electric scooters.

“I’m not going to have this be a city where these are littered all around the city,” Mayor Tom Barrett said at City Hall on Friday. “I’m not going to have this be a city where elderly people are threatened walking down the sidewalk.”

Barrett said scooter riders need to follow the rules if they want to use them.

He added that he has already personally told riders to get off of sidewalks.

“We expect the riders to do a better job, and I don’t want to say it’s everybody on a scooter, but we are seeing enough that we think it’s problematic and we’re getting complaints through various channels that this is occurring,” Department of Public Works spokesman Brian DeNeve said.

Barrett said that if things don’t change, the city will not allow other scooter operators to launch.

Bird and Spin have applications into the city for consideration.

Those are currently on hold.

In a statement to WISN 12 News, Spin representatives claimed the announcement was a complete shock.

“We are incredibly surprised and disappointed this decision was made by the Department of Public Works. Throughout this process, we have worked closely with the city to address their concerns. The city informed us that our application was complete, we even met with city officials on Wednesday to prepare for deployment next week and have invested extensive resources to support safe operations in Milwaukee. Regardless of the city’s rationale for this unexpected announcement, we find it odd that the city has allowed the existing company to continue operating in an exclusive arrangement. We hope to continue this conversation with the city and look forward to developing a solution that allows additional vendors into the market,” a Spin spokesperson wrote.

“Bird was very much looking forward to launching our service on Monday, and we are disappointed that the city has chosen to deny its residents access to our low-cost, environmentally friendly alternative to sitting in traffic,” a Bird spokesperson said. “For weeks, we have been preparing to bring our service to Milwaukee by actively coordinating with city officials on launch plans, conducting community outreach, and planning safety launch events. Most concerning, we have hired local staff who have been excited to work with us and may no longer have an employment option now that the city refused at the last minute to allow Bird in town. We plan to discuss this further with city officials so we can find a path forward that allows our service to come to Milwaukee.”

Lime’s current pilot program is for 500 electric scooters.

However, Lime representatives said they were attempting to bring more of their scooters to Milwaukee.

“We appreciate the partnership we have with the city and look forward to continuing our proactive efforts to educate riders, keep the community safe, and ensure micromobility can thrive in Milwaukee. From rider education events to community safety ambassadors to regular in-app messaging, Lime is committed to providing a safe environment for riders and pedestrians alike,” wrote a Lime spokesperson.

The first Lime scooters hit the streets of Milwaukee last Tuesday.

DeNeve said the city and Lime have received more than 100 complaints about improper riding since then.

“We want to make this work,” Barrett said. “We want to have this mode of transportation, but it has to be done in a very reasonable way and, unfortunately, the first week here has not been the start we wanted to see.”

He said the city will reevaluate the electric scooter program in the next few weeks.

Barrett said riders should be more responsible and stop dangerous behavior.

He wants to work with the police department on enforcing the current laws.

Milwaukee police have not said whether they will issue citations to riders caught breaking the law.