“Neighborhood Electric Vehicle” Exemption OK’d for Fresno
On a unanimous vote, the state Senate approved a bill August 18 that would allow the city of Fresno to crate a “neighborhood electric vehicle” plan.
Low-speed vehicles, like golf carts, are prevented from being driven on roads with speeds above 35 miles per hour unless the state issues an exemption.
The measure, AB 1781, which would add Fresno to the list of other communities exempted, is one of two pending in the Legislature. The other, AB 584 by Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, a Lodi Democrat, would allow the Gold Rush area cities of Sutter Creek, Amador and Jackson the power to create such a plan.
State law requires such plans contain “routes and facilities, identification of parking facilities, creation of separate and mixed used travel lanes, trails, street crossings, and charging stations,” according to an analysis of Huber’s bill.
A “neighborhood electric vehicle” or NEV is defined as a “a motor vehicle that is four-wheeled, can attain a speed in one mile of more than 20 (miles per hour) on a paved, level surface and has a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 3,000 pounds.”
Huber’s bill is “double-joined” with AB 1781 by Assemblyman Mike Villines, a Fresno Republican, making it likely both bills will pass on lop-sided bipartisan votes.
Previous legislation has exempted a planned community in Orange County and the cities of Lincoln and Placer County on the NEV prohibition. Lincoln, which adopted its plan in 2006, is the site of a large Del Webb retirement community, which contains numerous lanes and crossings for golf carts.
In its report to the legislature, Lincoln says “while a large majority of the proposed plan is pending implementation of signage and stripping, it is meeting its goal of maintaining safety and acceptable levels of traffic while increasing mobility to its residents.”
The city suggests a more thorough analysis of its effectiveness when it’s completed.
Opposing both bills is the California Council of the Blind.
The analysis of Villines’ bill says the council objects to the measures because they do not address the “safety issues that NEVs pose for pedestrians and especially for visually impaired pedestrians.”
NEVs and other electric vehicles emit little sound which blind pedestrians depend on tell when its safe to cross the street.
The analysis notes that the council would drop its opposition if the NEVs were required to “emit sufficient sound for blind pedestrians to audibly detect” their presence.
Neither measure appears to include such a proviso.
August 18 is the 49th day of the new fiscal year for which no budget has been enacted. The Legislature is required by the constitution to send the governor a spending plan by June 15, two weeks before the start of the fiscal year.
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