Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ordinarily, we like to encourage the use of alternative transportation options that reduce tailpipe emissions and relieve congestion on our increasingly busy roads.
But when the city of Salisbury builds a gravel path that benefits a few residents who ride their golf courts along Old Mocksville Road to the Country Club, including a City Council member, it creates an appearance of favoritism, even if there were legitimate safety reasons for building the short path and it involved modest costs (paid in part by the users).
Golf-cart commuting is an increasingly popular way to get around in some areas, by no means limited to golfers. For instance, in some planned developments such as Georgia’s Peachtree City, south of Atlanta, golf carts are the preferred method of transportation, with a network of interconnected neighborhood paths. In North Carolina, Saluda and Ocean Isle are among municipalities that have passed ordinances allowing golf carts to operate on city streets that have low speed limits. (Because golf carts fall under a federal low-speed vehicle classification, they’re exempt from some safety regulations, but local legislation usually requires registration, insurance and other measures before they can be legally driven on city streets).
Of course, the main reason the path was built in this case was to keep golf carts OFF a city street and avoid the potential danger of small electric vehicles mingling with much larger, faster-moving cars and trucks. That’s a defensible goal, and there’s no suggestion that Councilman Mark Lewis or others advocating the path did anything underhanded here. The path also appeared to solve another problem, when greenway users objected to the carts traveling there.
Still, in using municipal resources to build the path primarily traveled by people going to and from the Country Club, city officials have left themselves vulnerable to the suspicion that they acted to benefit a small number of well-connected users.