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How to Operate Golf Cars on Public Property: 400 ways and Growing

I enjoy brisk walking most every day for exercise. My cardiologist recommends it. I never was a bicyclist enthusiast and besides at my age balancing on a bike is tricky and being an older male, bicycle seats are problematic.

However, getting around town today for errands exceeding my daily walking habit (2+ miles) is an irritation.  If I need to bring back a load of purchases I don’t want to have to carry them home. Traffic is ever congested in our town and a 3-4 mile round trip may take a half hour or more in an automobile with frequent stops at intersections.

Some towns and cities have been installing four foot wide lanes for bicycles. However, I read where in New York City they show down traffic even more than other motor vehicle congestion. Frankly, I don’t know why allowing bicycles to travel along a four foot wide corridor on a busy street with over a 25 mph speed limit is not dangerous. Perhaps for this reason among others, numerous locales have been experimenting with multimodal paths and corridors to accommodate various types of small motorized and self powered vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles.

A multimodal a/k/a shared use path or corridor might be best described as an alternative transportation route for pedestrians and golf car or PTV (collectively “LTVs”) owners to access local amenities such as shopping areas. It is also advocated by some that the paths should be open for use by skaters and bicycles.  Such paths “provide accessible alternatives to the car-centric transportation system that we are used to, which is important as it both reduces the negative environmental impact of our roadways and provides those who cannot or will not drive with other ways of moving about the space in which they live.”

There is little doubt relegating golf cars and bicycles to multimodal paths where they do not mix with motor vehicle traffic is safer than on public roads. The Villages is a large Florida retirement community with over 100 miles of multimodal paths. The Villages reports a significantly high percentage of serious accidents occur when golf cars collide with automobiles or even larger motor vehicles. Getting bicycles and golf cars off of streets with automobile and truck traffic onto multimodal paths without such traffic is much safer than mixing them with larger motorized vehicles and provides for more efficient street traffic.

The concept of multimodal paths has become a modern vogue in city planning. How to plan for, implement and determine what types of transportation may or should be allowable on these paths are questions requiring attention. Typically, planners seek to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians. More advanced municipalities and counties include LTVs. LTVs are most useful for elderly citizens who find bicycles difficult to handle especially with loads and who cannot walk extended distances. The issue of ADA compliance is a required inquiry, as applicable.

Moreover, mixing motorized golf car traffic with pedestrians is potentially dangerous unless the rules for use of multimodal paths include require a horn for the golf cars and the obligation of the operator to use the horn when approaching pedestrians from behind. A similar rule might be useful for bicycles. Recently, a woman accustomed to walking on a multimodal path in Peachtree City, Georgia, inquired of us about the rudeness of some golf car operators coming up from behind her without a horn and forcing her to get out of the way with little warning.

The consensus width of multimodal pathways which accommodate LTVs, bicycles and pedestrians is between ten and twelve feet. This allows for two way traffic patterns. How to design, fund and locate these pathways is often a challenge but a surmountable one if the effort is undertaken using sound planning. The recently adopted FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act) provides some limited funding to states but doesn’t specifically address multimodal paths other than recreational ones.

Design of these paths can become complicated depending upon the terrain and what mode of transportation is considered the primary use.

In 2012 adopted in 2013, the City of Augusta, Georgia developed a detailed corridor plan and implementation program for the City of Augusta, Georgia, that follows HUD guidelines and Livability Principles. The corridor is a 4.5 mile north-south “spine” in the core of the city, which runs from downtown to the vacant Regency Mall area along 15th Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and Deans Bridge Road. The project entails four interrelated initiatives: One of these initiatives was creating a detailed plan for a multi-modal transportation corridor.

One impetus for the Augusta corridor was the considerable public demand for low cost, private, environmentally friendly, local self propelled vehicular transportation. As opposed to the higher priced electric automobiles, lower speed electric powered golf cars and PTVs present a readily and economically acceptable alternative to a second or third automobile for many families. They have a fuel equivalency of approximately 74 Miles per Gallon of Gasoline Equivalent (MPGe) resulting in reducing our dependence on fossil fuel. The cost of a battery powered golf car or PTV life-cycle ownership is 1/3 that of a fossil fuel vehicle resulting in increased disposable income.

Other considerations include LTVs hold great potential in the area of parking. Because they are only a fraction of the size of regular automobiles, they effectively increase the available parking

supply. However, LTVs also require low-speed street conditions as well if multimodal paths or corridors are not available to desired destinations.

Studies elsewhere show three-quarters of workers drive to work alone in vehicles propelled by internal combustion engines. The contribution of these internal combustion vehicles to air pollution is noticeable in the urban areas. These studies also demonstrate few employees commute by public transit, bicycling, or walking. By allowing a wider use of LTVs than presently permitted, air pollution may be markedly reduced if a significant number of workers migrate to use of LTVs for commuting. Further potential exists for reducing air pollution are the drivers who opt to use golf cars or PTVs for short trips to retail outlets and recreational venues.

At half to two-thirds the weight of a conventional automobile and with a speed currently limited to 20 mph or less, the damage done by LTVs to area roads will be noticeably less especially if they are at least partially relegated to multimodal paths instead of normal streets used by automobiles and trucks.

 

  1. Somers is the Secretary and General Counsel of International Light Transportation Vehicles Association, Inc., (“ILTVA”), a 501(c)(6) trade association. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of ILTVA or its members.
  2. A PTV a/k/a personal transportation vehicle is very similar in size and appearance to a golf car. However, unlike golf cars which are designed for use on golf courses, PTVs are designed for use on designated roadways or property where permitted by law, or the applicable regulatory authority. Accordingly, PTVs, unlike golf cars, are required to have head lamps, reflex reflectors, tail lamps, rear view mirror and other accessories or components as required by state or local law. Also, PTVs are capable of speeds up to 20 mph while golf cars are only capable of speeds up to 15 mph. See ANSI/ILTVA Z 135 downloadable at https://iltva.org/standards/.
  3. https://sites.tufts.edu/somerville2015/2015/11/20/the-benefits-of-multi-modal-transit-and-the-somerville-community-path/
  4. “One clear trend in the crash history is that the majority of the crashes occurred in areas where golf carts and automobiles share the road.” Villages Engineering Study Lake County Report, p.9 (2009).
  5. However, one municipality, Peachtree City, Georgia requires 16 feet as a minimum. See http://www.peachtree-city.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/136
  6. https://www.transportation.gov/fastact
  7. See, e.g., WSDOT Design Manual M-22.01.11 (2014)
  8. See https://www.tsw-design.com/portfolio-items/augusta-sustainable-development-implementation-program/
  9. See https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/evsbs.shtml#small-cars.
  10.  See www.fs.fed.us/sustainableoperations/documents/e-ride.ppt.
  11. See, e.g., www.SouthBayCities.org.
  12. See http://evworld.com/library/NEV_Costs.pdf.