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Golf carts to be puttering around town soon

SOLON– If you’ve been wanting to drive your golf cart around town, you may soon get your chance.
A draft ordinance allowing golf carts on Solon’s city streets will be making its way to the members of the Solon City Council as early as a July 6 meeting.
“It’s on the agenda because I’ve had over the last six months probably four or five people approach me independently and say, ‘Well, have you ever talked about this?’” explained Mayor Rick Jedlicka at last week’s regular council session. “And I’m telling them we’ve never talked about it, so we’re going to talk about it.”
Jedlicka noted no one had made a specific request for the new law, although many surrounding communities have recently passed similar measures.
It was from those area small towns that the council members drew most of the rules they wished to see incorporated.
But first Jedlicka wanted to determine whether there was any support.
Council members discussed both golf carts and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), and held a spirited discussion on the differences that started even before the June 15 meeting began.
With the exception of council member Cami Rasmussen, there was support for allowing golf carts on the city streets, although a number of regulations and restrictions were sought.
Picking and choosing from the municipal ordinances of Hills, Ely and Lisbon, council members discussed a variety of issues, including enforcement and traffic patterns.
Rasmussen’s opposition was rooted in concerns over the ability for the sheriff’s department to provide enforcement within its existing contract.
Jedlicka agreed enforcement could be a problem, but he also noted that traffic patterns should also be considered.
“The makeup of our community is such that it’s different than the other communities that have these with the traffic flow that we have,” Jedlicka said. “Swisher, Lone Tree pretty much has one traffic issue in their town. We have multiple traffic issues.”
While several traffic restrictions were discussed, it was decided to begin with allowing carts on Main Street, 5th Street and Highway 382, and only prohibiting travel on Highway 1.
In general, there was overall consensus for golf carts, with the following restrictions and regulations:
• The golf cart must be registered annually (and the fee paid) with the city and proof of insurance must be provided;
• The cart must be equipped with headlights and tail lights and they must be on during operation;
• Speed limited to 25 mph or less;
• Operated only by individuals 18 years of age or older with a valid driver’s license;
• Operated only on city streets or parking lots; prohibited from sidewalks, trails and Highway 1 (except for crossing);
• Number of riders limited to the designed maximum occupancy;
• Operation only allowed from April 1 to Oct. 31.
In addition, state code requires a slow moving vehicle sign, a bicycle safety flag and limits operation to between sunrise and sunset.
The same could not be said for the use of ATVs.
Only Steve Stange was in favor of allowing ATVs on the streets, and he was only interested in utility ATVs, not their more sporty brethren.
“If I personally was going to spend the money on a golf cart, I would probably spend the money on something I could use to plow the snow, to use as a utility vehicle as well, something that makes it worthwhile,” Stange said.
A variety of vehicles are described as ATVs, although they typically feature a gasoline engine, three-or-four wheels with low-pressure tires, a straddled seat and handlebars for steering.
Utility ATVs are usually heavier, with larger motors designed for hauling bigger loads, and may look more like a cart than a sport class ATV.
But, according to council member Brad Kunkel, both types have the ability to go much faster than a golf cart.
“My concern with allowing utility vehicles out there is the fact that they can reach highway speed,” Kunkel said during the discussion. The potential for injury or accident in the hands of an inexperienced driver would be much greater, he argued. And allowing some types of ATVs and not others would make it even more difficult to enforce.
The state legislature also handles ATVs differently than golf carts, he said, mostly restricting ATVs to agricultural and governmental use.
Stange disagreed with Kunkel’s interpretation, but with no one else supporting the idea, indicated he wouldn’t push for it.