It’s not as simple as it seems.

On Monday, Aug. 2, the Jordan City Council considered revising the city ordinance governing golf carts on city streets.

The very first thing that jumped into my mind was, Jordan is not some retirement community in Florida or Arizona.

The second thing that jumped into my mind was that golf carts on city streets usually end up being a vehicle of choice for those who, for one reason or another, have no driver’s license. These people may have lost their license. They may be too young to have a license. Or maybe they just don’t want to spend the money to maintain a license.

Whatever the reason, just walking around Jordan a little will turn up:

  • Kids on motorized scooters on streets and paths.
  • Kids and adults using ATVs on streets.
  • Kids and adults using motorized bicycles on streets and paths (and you’d be surprised how fast some of them can go).

Why would we want to add golf carts to the mix? And please, don’t give me a song and dance about New Prague, Belle Plaine or any other town.

First off, there is little or no control over safety equipment on golf carts. Some have seat belts, some don’t. There are no turn signals or brake lights on most golf carts. They’re generally intended to be used in isolation from other vehicles. They’re mostly slow, tippy, and not licensable in Minnesota in any way.

Then there’s the issue of liability. Who pays if a cart operator hits a pedestrian or bicyclist? Who pays if a car hits a cart (or a cart hits a cart). How much liability does the city incur by allowing unlicensed vehicles operated by unlicensed drivers on its streets? If the city issues permits, do they apply to the cart, or to the operator? It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to foresee some parent(s) suing the city because a child was injured or killed while riding in a golf cart on a city street. What happens when four kids are tossed from a golf cart because the operator loses control on the downhill curve of Sunset Drive or Creek Lane, and hits a curb? That’s the route from the schools to McDonald’s, by the way.

One of the biggest causes of accidents is speed differential — the mix of slow and fast vehicles on the same road. Visualize, if you will, the effect of a full-size pickup overrunning a slow moving golf cart because the truck driver misjudged the speed of the cart.

And since golf carts and golf cart operators would not be licensed, what recourse would the city have for DUI?

Any code would have to be worded to restrict unlighted motor vehicle operation on city streets from dusk to dawn. Where would golf carts be allowed to park?

Then there’s the issue of what’s allowed. ATVs are not licensed either. Would they be allowed? Riding mowers or yard tractors?

Some will say banning golf carts on city streets discriminates against older people. There are transportation options in Jordan for those who can’t drive.

Trying to write an ordinance that satisfies so many concerns is, in my opinion, a fool’s errand. The simplest solution for this issue is to say anything motorized that doesn’t have a valid license cannot be operated on Jordan streets. And in my opinion, the simplest solution is best.

The Quote: “He who has the fastest golf cart never has a bad lie.” -Mickey Mantle

Thom Boncher is a retired marketing communications manager, former Jordan City Council member and Jordan resident since 2003.

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