Hearing to decide fate of Bird scooter rentals delayed, riders say it’s a good alternative

MILWAUKEE — A hearing set for Friday, July 13 to determine whether a California-based company can continue renting electric scooters in Milwaukee is being rescheduled. Earlier this month, the city sued Bird Rides Inc. for refusing to halt business in Milwaukee, arguing that the scooters are against the law.

In the lawsuit, the city is requesting $200 for every instance someone has operated a scooter. Bird says in the first two weeks of business in Milwaukee, the public exceeded 6,900 rides. That would total more than $75,000, which is why the case has been rescheduled and moved from Milwaukee County Circuit Court or federal court.

Chicago visitors were trying out the new way to get around Milwaukee Friday afternoon.

"We literally stumbled on the scooters. We were just walking by and we hopped on them and saw that you could rent them and we rented one," said Alessandra Lucente, lives in Chicago.

The company placed 100 scooters across Milwaukee's Third Ward area on June 27. To use one, first download the Bird scooter app. Activate the GPC which shows where nearby scooters are. Then scan the top of the one you want, along with your credit card and driver's license to unlock it. It costs $1 to start, plus 15 cents for every additional minute.

However, the city says actually riding one is illegal.

"I mean, why would it be illegal if it's just sitting out there," said Lucente.

According to a lawsuit filed against Bird, the city attorney's office is asking a circuit court judge to declare the scooters "motorized vehicles." Under state statute, motorized vehicles must be registered and meet certain requirements. Neither is true for Bird. The city argues it's therefore against the law to operate them.

In response, attorney's for Bird argue there are many vehicles that are exempted from the registration such as motorized bicycles and urges the city to work with Bird to "create and enforce common sense rules."

"I think if you're being safe about it, it's a good alternative," Lucente said.

The legal battle isn't discouraging riders from taking a spin, and for the time being it appears police officers aren't cracking down on riders anyway.

"I got a little nervous but they just looked away. So phew. They don't seem to be enforcing anything," said Lucente.

The Bird users FOX6 News spoke with did suggest the company puts in a disclaimer in the meantime that says operate at your own risk. The scooters are not city-sanctioned modes of transportation.

The company is renting scooters in about two dozen cities and other locations have also asked Bird to cease operations raising arguments similar to Milwaukee's.

A new hearing date has not been set.