Lincoln’s NEV plan paves way for green transportation

By: Judy Bennett, Special to News Messenger
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Editor’s note: This is the last in a monthly series on Sun City Lincoln Hills’ 10-year anniversary being celebrated this month. Go online to to see the previous columns in this monthly series. By Judy Bennett Special to The News Messenger Lincoln’s emergence as a recognized leader in environmentally friendly transportation alternatives was sparked in 1994. That’s when a five-year pilot project, authored by then State Senator Tim Leslie, was approved establishing golf cart lanes in Palm Desert. The bill, SB2016, also allowed the city of Roseville to adopt a Golf Cart Transportation Plan. The adage that timing is everything rang true as the city of Lincoln’s leadership quickly recognized this innovative transportation plan was in alignment with its planning commitment to develop progressive transportation systems incorporating non-polluting alternatives. In 1994, Lincoln was actively planning for future growth and this opportunity piqued the Lincoln visionaries’ interest big time. Sun City Roseville’s Golf Cart Transportation Plan allowed for golf carts to be driven internally. It was amended and adopted by the city of Lincoln as an approved method of transportation within the boundaries of Sun City Lincoln Hills. This was a critical step in the advancement of the city’s goal to establish a safe, sustainable community transportation network leading to the introduction of the low speed vehicle (LSV) onto Lincoln streets. Golf carts were a common sight throughout Sun City but cart owners wanted to expand their limits to downtown Lincoln. While the city was developing its groundbreaking transportation plan, a few Sun City Lincoln Hills residents were discovering the benefits and the fun of driving the newly introduced low speed vehicles. In October, 2001, residents Bob and Lillian Nawman invited those interested in this transportation form to a meeting. The LSV Group was founded as a result of that meeting, which was attended by 26 residents. “Now,” according to Bob Nawman, “we have close to 400 members with a shared mission to educate and promote safe LSV usage.” Nawman, working closely with city leaders to “gently push the plan forward,” recalled a specific turning point when the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce invited the LSV group to participate in the annual Fourth of July parade. The group, eager to accommodate the request, explained they could not legally drive the vehicles into town. The most direct route to town from Lincoln Hills was Ferrari Ranch Road to State Highway 193. The idea of mingling logging trucks traveling at 45 miles per hour with golf carts and low speed vehicles moving between 15 and 25 miles per hour greatly concerned the mayor and chamber officials. Police officials suggested escorting the vehicles into town and back to Lincoln Hills for this one-time special occasion. This positive experience resulted in a collaborative effort in 2003 between the LSV group, the city of Lincoln and Caltrans to lower the speed limit on Highway 193 to the LSV-legal 35 MPH from Ferrari Ranch Road to Highway 65. “The expansion of the plan to allow low speed vehicles access to downtown was founded on self interest,” City Council Tom Cosgrove said. “We wanted people to spend their money in town and people who drive LSV’s shop locally.” But the big picture included more than enticing local shopping. “We knew our long-range vision would be achieved in small victories,” Cosgrove said. “Safely combining traditional and electric vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians worked beautifully within Sun City and we were confident that success could extend throughout all of Lincoln.” To give neighborhood electric vehicles access to all parts of the community, the city of Lincoln drafted the landmark Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) Transportation Plan or Assembly Bill 2353 that was signed into law in January 2005. In August 2006, Lincoln City Council formally adopted the resolution to approve the NEV Transportation Plan in accordance with the city’s vision to provide safe and efficient access to the downtown area as well as to other commercial sites. The city of Lincoln’s plan has been recognized nationally for its innovation and environmental advantages. It has received prestigious awards, including the Helen Putnam Award in March 2007, and three months later in June, Caltrans’ Excellence in Transportation Award under its Transportation Innovations category. “The bottom line is, it works,” said Police Lt. Paul Shelgren. “I receive calls weekly from other jurisdictions wanting to know how we’ve developed this successful plan. Calls come in from Washington, Oregon, Hollister, the Bay Area, all over, including Korea. The increased mobility and environmental benefits are huge and the concept has generated a great deal of interest and excitement.” Other cities are following Lincoln’s lead, including Rocklin. Rocklin’s NEV program was adopted in 2008 and the next ambitious plan in this region will likely be Davis and Woodland with plans to connect the two cities along a six-mile stretch with a combination of NEV, walking and bicycle lanes. Back in 1999, Shelgren and Gregg McKenzie, who was the vice president of community development for Del Webb’s Northern California Communities, were charged with working through everything, from the width of the Sun City streets and golf cart lanes, the signage to the licensing process and specifications. McKenzie and Shelgren finalized the details for approval on a very tight timeline. “We had eight months to get this done so Del Webb Boulevard could be built and all the lanes striped and signed before the first residents moved in,” McKenzie said. They were excited about neighborhood electric vehicles being used on Lincoln streets. “But it took a progressive city like Lincoln, with a long-range plan and commitment to alternative transportation, to recognize this could be so much more,” McKenzie said. “Lincoln embraced the vision more than any other city Del Webb had worked with up to that time.” The Nawmans are especially pleased with the positive results of the cooperative relationships between the Lincoln Hills LSV Group, the city of Lincoln and other organizations. “We’ve come a long way since that one-time escorted caravan downtown,” Bob Nawman said, “and we’re continuing to keep focused on Lincoln’s green future.” In recognition of the city’s green transportation expansion, the LSV Group was invited to be the first to cross the Joiner Parkway overpass during the ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 28, 2006. The LSV Group is also called upon by the city to provide shuttle service for special events, including the groundbreaking for the Highway 65 Bypass, and both the groundbreaking and the grand opening of the library on Twelve Bridges Drive. “We’re always happy to help out,” added Nawman who recently traded in his 2001-model low speed vehicle with an acid battery for a spiffy 2009 model sporting a gel battery … and doors. Shelgren pointed out there have been no serious accidents with the low speed vehicles, and while it is not legal for the vehicles to travel in golf cart lanes, he explained there is no active enforcement of that law as long as safety factors are being employed. Smiling, he quickly added, that the police department is actively enforcing any mischievous behavior, including NEV drag racing! He predicts that traditional golf carts will gradually disappear in favor of the low speed vehicle/ neighborhood electric vehicles. Shelgren also envisions more businesses using this mode of local transportation and foresees more charging stations in parks, stores and medical facilities. Green transportation is Lincoln’s commitment to the future and there is no doubt it’s going to gain in both momentum and acceptance. While the rest of the nation and the world catches up, Lincoln will continue to develop its sustainable community-wide green connections while having fun in the process. Judy Bennett is marketing project manager for the Sun City Lincoln Hills Community Association. Beginner’s guide to distinguishing a golf cart from an LSV/NEV By Judy Bennett Special to Lincoln News Messenger An LSV (Low Speed Vehicle) and an NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) are the same. LSV is the state of California’s vehicle designation; NEV is the federal transportation vehicle designation. A golf cart can only be operated within the golf cart transportation plan while a low speed vehicle/neighborhood electric vehicle can operate on any city street posted 35 miles per hour or under. Low speed vehicle/neighborhood electric vehicles can travel on streets posted more than 35 miles per hour if an NEV lane is provided. A golf cart cannot travel at more than 15 miles per hour. A low speed vehicle/neighborhood electric vehicle can travel at speeds up to 25 miles per hour. A low speed vehicle/neighborhood electric vehicle can operate as a golf cart but a golf cart cannot operate as a low speed vehicle/neighborhood electric vehicle. A golf cart only requires a city of Lincoln permit (registration) to operate. Low speed vehicle/neighborhood electric vehicles must meet state and federal motor vehicle regulations and must be licensed by the state. The California Department of Motor Vehicles offers a program that allows for a limited driver’s license within a clearly defined but restricted area. The Area Driving Performance Evaluation is customized for each person and can apply to low speed vehicle/neighborhood electric vehicle drivers.