Common Council shuts down motorized scooters; ‘If Bird wants them back, they can go to the tow lot’

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Common Council officially grounded the motorized Bird scooters in the city on Tuesday, July 31. City leaders passed an ordinance making them illegal to ride on city streets.

The ordinance acknowledges that motorized scooters are illegal under state statute -- and that the city will not override or ignore the law. But the language does leave room for the scooters to operate legally -- if the law changes.

Flying into Milwaukee from their corporate offices in California, Bird employees rallied residents outside City Hall Tuesday morning. They voiced their support for the motorized scooter.

"To me, it's convenient because you can pick it up anywhere," said Thong Vang.

Common Council members voted 12 to 2 to declare the Birds illegal -- and give the Department of Public Works the green light to begin removing them.

"If Bird wants them back, they can go to the tow lot and pay $100," said Alderman Bob Bauman.

State law classifies the electric scooters, which riders can rent for cheap, as vehicles. All vehicles must be registered in Wisconsin. In a statement, Bird argues that federal law says the opposite -- stand-up scooters are "not motor vehicles."

"It's irresponsible for me to disregard the state law even if I want to see it changed," said Mayor Tom Barrett.

Barrett said he is all for this flock calling Milwaukee home -- legally.

Common Council members are on board as well -- unanimously approving a resolution that calls on leaders in Madison to amend the law.

"What I did with my resolution today was ask the State Legislature to pass a bill allowing the City of Milwaukee to have these scooters operate within their city limits," said Alderman Tony Zielinski.

While it is not the quick solution Bird backers had hoped for, they say it is a step in the right direction.

"I think it's just so new that everybody is just kind of in shock," Vang said.

The ordinance also removes penalty fees against the company for having the scooters on the streets. But Common Council members say riders can still be ticketed.

In regard to the ordinance that the City of Milwaukee passed on Tuesday regarding electric scooters, a Bird spokesperson released the following statement:

"The City of Milwaukee passed an ordinance today giving local law enforcement authority to impound e-scooters being operated as ‘motor vehicles’ based on an interpretation of state law. However, the Federal Government motor vehicle safety regulator NHTSA has affirmatively stated that scooters like those offered by Bird “are not 'motor vehicles.'" [See: https://one.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/FAQ%20Site/pages/page3.html#Anchor-59217]. We look forward to continuing our work with the city of Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin to resolve this matter and provide the people of Wisconsin our clean energy solution for short distance trips."