When I first saw something about the possibility of allowing golf carts on city streets, I thought it was completely goofy. But after I thought about it for a second, I concluded it was a brilliant idea. I’ll tell you why, and what caveats should be included in this community decision.
The best reason to favor the carts is fuel efficiency. Since most people would most likely be using them for short distances, it makes more sense to use the smaller golf vehicle than a larger car. If you’re just grabbing a loaf of bread or returning books to the library then you could easily accomplish this while consuming a whole lot less energy.
Of course I would also encourage everyone to do as much as possible without a motorized vehicle, such as by walking, bicycle, skateboard or unicycle. (Allow me some humor here; we are talking about golf carts after all.) Short of all that, the carts are a good compromise between hoofing it and using a full-sized car.
Many golf carts are electric, which further improves the fuel efficiency profile. Sure, you do need to recharge the battery on a regular basis, but this would be less of an issue with a cart than with a car — you wouldn’t be taking the golf cart on a log trip out of town where you’d need to find a place to plug it in.
Space. Carts take up less of it, so you’d have more room in your garage if you traded a car for a cart. Imagine being able to keep all of your vehicles indoors at the same time. You’d also have an easier time of finding a parking place for street parking since you could squeeze into places otherwise only accessible to a smart car.
One of the arguments I’ve heard against allowing golf carts is that this would slow up traffic. I think this would actually be a factor in their favor. There are many roads in which people drive far too fast, disregarding the posted speed limit. I would see this as a safety asset, rather than a safety hazard.
That said, carts should only be allowed in residential areas or on streets without heavy traffic. I believe they cannot be used on state or national highways, regardless of what might be decided at a city level, so that eliminates their presence on State Street and Main Street. There could be other streets designated as cart free zones.
Once the carts are approved for use on city or county roads, then there must be safety standards: license plates, turn signals, seat belts, safety flags, head and tail lights, slow moving vehicle signage to name a few. Operators of the carts must be required to have a driver’s license and maintain insurance on the vehicle.
What about ATVs? If the above requirements are met, then I would place them in the same category as golf carts, although their fuel inefficiency loses points in my book.
One last restriction is that golf carts (or ATVs) should absolutely never be allowed on sidewalks or on the Pennsy Trail. These areas need to remain safe for pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorized vehicles (other than power wheelchairs.) One of the joys of biking on the trail is the opportunity to get away from the noise and hazard of motorized traffic.
With a little creativity and some regulations we can make it safe and feasible for citizens to have their choice of transportation around our community.
We can work together to make this happen for the benefit of all.
Stephanie Haines is a Greenfield native. She can be contacted through her website, www.stephaniehaines.com.