Golf carts replacing cars? Not in SL

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A growing number of Iowa cities are passing policies to allow the use of golf carts as low-cost, fuel-saving vehicles on their streets, but Storm Lake city officials have no plans to join the list.

"I've read about that, and I can imagine why some places would allow it, especially resort communities, and with the price of gas, I can see why some people would want to use a cart as an option to a car to get around town," says Storm Lake City Administrator Patti Moore. "At this point it is not something our citizens have been asking for, and we have not discussed it."

If residents do raise the issue, it will be considered, she said.

"I think the real drawback is the safety issue. There are locations where the visability of a cart would be a real concern," she added.

The Iowa League of Cities reports that allowing carts on the streets is a growing trend as gas prices have risen. Some towns allow the use of the carts, but only for those with physical disabiltiies. Others view it as a fuel-saving "green initiative" - especially when electric carts are used.

Iowa law has allowed carts on roads since the early 1980s, if local cities pass specific ordinances permitting the use.

Golf carts have long been used as transportation in retirement communities around the southern U.S., but one health journal study indicates that cart injuries are rising as use on the streets goes up. up 132 percent nationwide since 1990, with a total of nearly 150,000 injuries.

"This is just something for convenience. It's working good," said Dick Harger, 78, a non-golfing retiree who uses his gas-powered golf cart to travel three blocks to the Post Office in Ely, which approved a cart ordinance in June, according to a story by the Des Moines Register and distributed by the Associated Press.

A couple of towns are scheduled to vote on such policies in the next week or two.

"Citizens are saying, 'Hey, gas prices are pretty high, and you know, I have this golf cart. Can I drive it on the city streets?' " Alan Kemp, executive director of the Iowa League of Cities, told the Register.

If used on the streets where permitted, gas- or electric-powered carts can only be used in daylight, and must be equipped with a slow-moving vehicle sign and a bicycle-style safety flag.

They can't operate on state highways.

In Corning, where the issue is currently being debated, City Attorney Stu Nielsen fears that allowing the vehicles, which have no safety equipment such as seat belts, is asking for trouble, according to the Register. "We're going to be scraping people up off the pavement," he warned the city council recently.

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