Scooter School: The Rules Of Riding Electric Scooters In Milwaukee

Aug 1, 2019

Updated on Aug. 5 at 10:15 a.m.

It’s been about a week since 500 Lime scooters legally emerged on Milwaukee streets as part of a Dockless Scooter Pilot Study. City officials report more than 100 complaints about improper scooter use in the first week of the pilot program.

As a result, the city of Milwaukee Department of Public Works (DPW) has restricted additional dockless scooters from Lime or additional e-scooter companies from participating in the city's pilot study.

Mayor Tom Barrett says the pilot program may be suspended completely in the near future if riders don't follow the rules. So, the 500 Lime scooters already approved by DPW are it until scooter users can show they can follow the rules. 

Here's how it works: Lime riders use an app to find and rent the dockless scooters. They can leave the scooters anywhere when they're done. The company picks up and charges the scooters, returning them to the streets for future use.

READ: Electric Scooters Take Over Milwaukee Streets, Legally This Time

City officials and representatives for Lime want the public to know — and follow — the guidelines for scooter use, as they determine whether scooters have a place in Milwaukee’s transportation landscape.

Many people are cheering for the zippy travel mode – the scooters go up to 15 mph. But there have been some complaints. A Milwaukee County Transit System driver had to clear parked scooters from bus stops so riders with disabilities could board, according to a WUWM listener.

Ruth Weill, of Riverwest, says she appreciates that dockless scooters may provide more access to transportation for users in traditionally underserved neighborhoods. But she’s concerned about people’s safety.

“I’m seeing sidewalks and others filled with the scooters. I’m seeing people way under the age of 18 riding them. I’m seeing some riders that I feel like it’s a safety issue,” she explains.

Speedy Scooter School

1. Safety is key: Lime encourages wearing a helmet, pumping the brakes to make sure they work before unlocking the scooter, and keeping hands on the handlebars unless signaling an upcoming turn.

2. Think like a cyclist: Scooters have the same regulations as bicycles. They’re supposed to be used on streets – not sidewalks. Always follow the rules of the road.

Choose bike-friendly streets, bike paths, and trails to start.

The basic hand signals used by cyclists and scooter riders to alert people of an upcoming turn or stop.
Credit Alesandra Tejeda

3. Park it wisely: Keep all pedestrian walkways clear. Look for locations that are out of the way, such as bike racks and sidewalk furniture zones.

4. Decked with tech: The scooters are locked and unlocked with a smartphone. They have automatic front and rear lighting.

The DPW is in charge of a scooter pilot program. It’s an attempt to allow dockless electric scooters after a different company — Bird — flooded Milwaukee with them without permission last year. DPW Commissioner Jeffrey Polenske acknowledges some complaints, but says, overall, it’s been positive.

“I certainly have observed some individuals probably not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. This is the first week, so I do expect that there probably is a little bit of a learning curve here,” he says.

READ: As Electric Scooters Proliferate, So Do Minor Injuries And Blocked Sidewalks

Polenske says the city is stressing to the companies that they need to be proactive and educate users. 

Dockless scooters are a welcome addition to the city, according to Kristina Hoffman, spokeswoman for the Milwaukee County Transit System. She encourages riders to learn and obey the rules.

“I think we could probably do some public outreach and education about making sure that people who are using the Lime scooters keep them clear of the bus access points," she says.

Dockless scooters are back in full-force on Milwaukee streets. And more are expected in 2019.
Credit Michelle Maternowski

Lime says it is taking steps to ensure people are riding and parking correctly. There are safety videos and a riding tutorial online. And Nico Probst, Lime's Midwest government relations director, says the company is holding free safety trainings in Milwaukee.

If you're thinking about going for a ride, keep in mind: People who don’t use scooters properly can be ticketed by police.

In Texas, there seem to be a few checks and balances to keep riders in line. 

"In Austin, your app will stop and charge you $20 right then and there if you park it in a parking spot that’s not permitted,” says Joan Lawlor. She and Josh Wood were recently visiting Milwaukee from Austin, Texas — they rented Lime scooters to get around.

She says the scooters are convenient, fuel-efficient, and a nice way to get around. Lawlor believes stand-up scooters can co-exist with other modes of transportation — and pedestrians — as long as scooter companies and officials to work together.