Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Back to the future

Remember my past post, Stump the sergeant? Sunday, City Councilman Jonathan Cook sent me this email:


Can you please reply to the individual below as to how City or State law would need to be changed to accommodate such vehicles? I'd also be interested in your opinion about any safety or other issues that concern you regarding these vehicles. I don't know if other council members received the same e-mail, but I would guess some or all did, so please copy the council office on your reply.

Thank you.

Jonathan Cook
The "individual below" the Councilman refers to is a local resident interested in acquiring a Zap Xebra. She had contacted the dealer in Kansas, who advised her that he had been informed these vehicles are illegal in Lincoln. The prospective customer was seeking the Councilman's help in changing the law to allow such a vehicle. I'm not sure who this dealer actually talked to, but from the information in the chain of emails, it appeared that whoever it was had interpreted the City and State laws concerning "minibikes" as applying to this vehicle. I think that is not accurate, and I emailed the citizen (and Councilman Cook) back:

Councilman Cook asked me to respond to your email concerning the Xebra. The rapid and recent proliferation of alternative vehicles of various types has greatly complicated the task of determining which are legal for operation on the street and which are not. The Nebraska Statutes on such issues are lengthy and complex, and there are vehicles today that were never anticipated at the time these cumbersome definitions were adopted. You will probably get a variety of opinions from law enforcement officers when you ask about this vehicle.

I believe, however, that the 3-wheeled Xebra meets both the State Statute and City Ordinance definitions of a motorcycle, and hence, could be lawfully titled, registered, and driven on the street by a person who holds a Class M (motorcycle) operator's license and wears the required DOT-approved helmet. The vehicle is quite similar to the Cushman Truckster, which was manufactured here in Lincoln for a few decades, and driven by dozens of Lincoln police personnel. I still have about ten employees who spent some significant time in a three-wheeled police Cushman prior to the demise of the product in the 1980's.

The 14-inch wheel specification referred to in this chain of emails is based on the definitions in both State Statute and Municipal Ordinance of "minibikes." That definition, however, also specifically states that a minibike has two wheels. Since this vehicle has three wheels, I do not believe that it is a minibike.

Nevertheless, I am not a lawyer. I would not invest in one of these vehicles unless I had solid confirmation from the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles that the vehicle is street legal, and can be registered and licensed. Personally, I'd want something in writing, because I imagine that County Clerks are as confused about this as police officers.


Tom Casady
Chief of Police
Lincoln Police Department
575 S. 10th Street
Lincoln, NE 68508
I'm not sure you could get a straight answer from the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles about the Zap Xebra. They may be confused, too. Nonetheless, I can absolutely guarantee you that a group of quite experienced Lincoln police employees who still work here drove registered and licensed three-wheel Cushman Trucksters just like these when Clair, Sid, Ray, Doug, Dave A., Larry, Dave B., Greg, Scott, and Mark were police cadets. They had motorcycle operators' licenses and wore helmets. And I may be missing a few Cushman veterans. Anyone recognize the street in this 1970's advertisement? How about this one from the late 1980's or very early 1990's?


Yepper said...

12th and P St
8th and P St

Tom Casady said...


What took so long? And who's that cadet in the 12th & P photo? (I think the 7th-8th on P photo is a model).

Anonymous said...

But if you need a motorcycle license to drive something that really isn't a motorcycle, would they make you take a motorcycle driving test or let you drive your alternative vehicle?

I'm not sure what they require now for the motorcycle driving, but years ago when I applied, they had us run through an obstacle course in a parking lot that was highly unlike anything you'd encounter in street driving and most of us failed and several guys dropped their bikes in the attempt. It seemed like they were trying to discourage motorcycles by making it next to impossible to pass the driving portion.

Anonymous said...

Put a few of those on the street and the letters about slow traffic will increase.

Anonymous said...

With gas prices the way they are I am investing in a scooter, 100 miles per gallon sounds nice to me. Lincoln drivers will just have to adapt or quite driving and stay home please.

Yepper said...


Now that is some GREAT technology.

Anonymous said...

See how hard it is to do anything that might save gas? The political crap is starting to rot.

Mike Roselius said...

With a top speed of only 36 mph, I would have to think these couldn't be licensed as a true motor vehicle.

Do we really want someone driving one of these down Hwy 2? O street? or another other major arterial where the posted limit is 40 - 45?

What's the over / under on the number of head-on collisions caused by someone trying to pass one of these on a 40 mph one lane before our councilman decides to answer his own question and specifically outlaw them?

Anonymous said...

Chief, Sorry this is off topic, but what is the exact number on the Lincoln Police Force, you included =)?


Anonymous said...


Now that theres ah bad apple

Tom Casady said...


317 sworn officers (self included)
100 civilian employees

Anonymous said...

Back in the late 80's I drove one of these retro-fitted with a dump box for garbage collection and all that was required to drive it was a class O DL. These were more powerfull and faster then the Cushman Scooter or may have been modified by the owner of the company I dont know. I do remember getting pulled over in the College View area back then as I went around the corner to fast and was told to slow down. I wish now I would have got a ticket ( Did I Write this) to show only a Class O DL.

They were alot of fun to an 18 year old working early AM hours, driving in and out of driveways keeping Lincoln Clean. 20 years later, still doing it but now, you have to bring the trash to the curb...

Neat story!

Tom Casady said...

Anonymous 6:12-

I remember when most of the haulers were using these--we were just talking about them the other day. What an efficient vehicle back when you had to get in and out of every driveway. I think they were pretty much identical to the ones the police used, except for the dump box. Do you know if they were manufactured by Cushman? Funny how what "goes around comes around" !

Mark Higley said...

I am the dealer in Kansas that you mentioned. I had heard from another person that the Xebra would not be legal. I always encourage potential customers to check for themselves to make sure the vehicle is legal before moving forward. I apologize for any confusion about your laws in Nebraska.
The Xebra is legal in Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota and Illinois as well as most Midwestern States. I have customers who drive in Kansas City with no problem. I have been driving mine in Leavenworth Kansas for the past two years and there have been no complaints. Owners of these vehicles usually stick to the slower roads to save energy and avoid the people who are in a big hurry in their SUVs. It keeps us safer and since we only pay about twenty five cents to fill up, we can afford to drive slower.
These vehicles have been on the road for two years now and I have not heard of one accident or complaint and I am part of the largest online forum for these vehicles on the net. These vehicles are a great way to avoid using gas and they are just a blast to drive. They are very stable and they are very visable as you can imagine. Everyone sees you.
Feel free to email me with any questions.

Mark Higley

Midwest EV

Leavenworth Kansas



Tom Casady said...

No prob, Mark. Looked perfectly legal to me (and to the City Attorney's Office), and I saw Beverly Neth, the Director of the State Department of Motor Vehicles, saying the same thing on the nightly news a few days ago. It's clearly a motorcyle under Nebraska's statutes.

Mark Higley said...

Chief Casady,
I have never heard of a Police Chief having this type of blog. This is really cool.

I am more of an electric vehicle supporter than I am a "car salesman" so my main interest is to get more EVs on the road. I pick my customers very carefully. I want to make sure the vehicle will work for how they want to use it. I don't see the streets being flooded with these vehicles. Most of my customers are gadget nerds as am I, or people who are sick of paying for gas. There are very few people will actually buy these vehicles. They should not cause you all any problems.

Mark Higley

Anonymous said...

I am the person who has inquired about the Zap car. For those skeptics who complain about slow vehicles, let me assure you that the Xebra is not allowed on Hwy 2, Cornhusker or any other fast-moving hwy. It is an in-town car and the streets of Lincoln, with few exceptions, only allow 35-40 mph. I plan on using the right lane and I don't have a 9-5 job, so I won't be on the streets during the rush hours.

I have been in touch with the DMV and they echoed everything Chief Casady said. They are legal, I will have to wear a helmet and take the written MC test. I will not have to drive a motorcycle, but the Xebra around with a DMV tester to be sure I can "handle" it OK. It is 3-wheeled, completely enclosed and looks like a funny little car. If I get one, it will be Kiwi green with Xebra stripes :)

I do have an issue with the helmet inside an enclosed car. I am worried about being able to view everything around me as well as the safety of a heavy helmet on my head if I am hit by another car. The DMV is sticking with the helmet law. Kansas and other states consider the hard outer shell of the car to be the "helmet". I have spoken with some senators who are looking into this for me as well.

I want to thank Chief Casady for looking into this for me. I was unaware of this blog, however. If anyone watched Channel 8 news last Wed. they interviewed me there.

I also want to thank Mark for all his help. If nothing else, it has Lincoln talking :)

I will be in Kansas in the next couple of weeks trying it on for size. So, don't be surprised to see one of these little gas-savers on the streets of Lincoln.

Peace :)