Where does a Low Speed Vehicle Belong on a Complete Street?
By Mary Anne G. Bowie, FAICP, Sustainability Leader, Eco Trans Alliance
The proposed Energy Economic Zone in Sarasota, FL is including electric Low Speed Vehicles (LSVs) as the newest mode of multi-modal transportation in the street designs, expanding the “complete” street conversation.
Low Speed Vehicles are officially defined through federal regulations as being street legal on roads with speeds of less than 35 mph. An LSV may look like a golf cart, but an LSV is required to have a top speed of 20 to 25 miles per hour, extra lights, mirrors, seat belts and other safety features. LSVs are also known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) because they are very useful for short trips to the local grocery store or around the neighborhood. Golf carts are sold with a maximum 13 to 18 mile speed limit without federally mandated LSV safety equipment. Golf carts are not considered to be LSVs, as they do not meet the safety requirements mandated by Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations, sections 571.500 and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gross weight limitation of 3000 pounds. Some states further regulate LSV weights and characteristics.
Street designs for Sarasota's Energy Economic Zone include: tree canopy, multi-use bicycle/pedestrian lanes, vehicular use lanes, and an electric vehicle lane, for both LSVs and golf carts. Although the LSVs will also be legal on roads under 35 mph, it is expected that some LSV travelers may be more comfortable on electric vehicle lanes, weaving through neighborhoods, sharing the paths with golf carts. The street design is part of the Energy Economic Zone approval process and is not yet final.
Eco Trans Alliance, with a mission of powering transportation with renewable energy, advocates a series of transportation policies that encourage increased use of LSVs and Micro Transit Vehicles. Although there is little documented information regarding LSVs, one Transportation Research Board study of LSVs in Lincoln California indicates that LSVs have traffic calming effects on normal streets and that one quarter of LSV two-automobile owner households studied decided to give up one of their automobiles.