Let the Bird migration begin.
And the Limes, the Spins, the VeoRides, the Ubers and the Lyfts and all the other electric scooters that are champing at the bit to usher Wisconsin into the mini-mobility era and put their scooters out on streets in major cities to be rented through a cellphone app.
Urban scooters had a contentious start last year in Milwaukee when one of the scooter companies, Bird, put a flock of about 100 of the scooters out on city streets without asking permission from city fathers — and the city responded by saying they were banned on city streets under state law and threatened to seize them.
Wisconsin’s laws were, in fact, a half-step behind the trend line. Under state law the electric scooters — which have a top end speed of 15 mph — were lumped into the category of motor vehicles, which under federal law required them to have brake lamps and mufflers in order to be licensed. Electric scooters, of course, have no need for mufflers.
Last Monday, the ruffled feathers were soothed all around when Gov. Tony Evers signed a bipartisan bill that offers a flight path for the little electric vehicles.
Under the law, the scooters must weigh less than 100 pounds and abide by a top speed of 15 mph. Local governments can prohibit use on sidewalks or streets with speed limits above 25 mph and can set limits on rentals.
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The new law exempts the scooters from state vehicle registration requirements, but they do have to comply with lighting and braking requirements, and scooter drivers must obey the rules of the road.
Evers, at a signing ceremony at the Milwaukee Public Market, said: “Electric scooters can improve access to low-cost transportation options, actually reduce single-occupancy vehicle use and can serve as the first- and last-mile solutions to residents and visitors in communities all across the state.”
The signing came just a few days after Bird and the City of Milwaukee came to terms on a lawsuit filed in the wake of last year’s kerfuffle.
The law also clears a path for privately owned electric scooters. Vast flocks of the rentals will soon appear on city streets in Milwaukee, but both Madison and Milwaukee are requiring pilot programs for the rental scooters to judge their usefulness, effectiveness and safe operation.
That’s a good plan, and one that will give cities — perhaps Racine, and others — the ability to tailor the rules for electric scooter use to their needs.
Time will tell if the mini-scooters are just a fad, or if they will catch on and become a real factor in the urban transportation mix and add a bit of fun to it as well.