Editorial: Targeted start best for golf carts in Salisbury

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 25, 2021

If the Salisbury City Council wants to seriously pursue the idea, it would be wise to start a golf cart ordinance by testing it in targeted areas before moving to a broad rule.

The council last week tabled talk about an ordinance allowing golf carts on public streets until more information about risks and enforcement can be obtained. There was some talk about testing the idea with a petition for certain streets.

That testing is likely to show golf carts are OK in low-traffic areas or neighborhoods, but they’re impractical for busy streets.

Downtown is tricky. Unless roads are closed down, Innes Street could be too busy for golf carts. Main Street could be the same, but most other streets are probably OK.

Councilman David Post made a good suggestion about limiting golf cart traffic to roads where the speed limit is no higher than 25 mph, but there will be conflicts in trying to cross over higher-speed streets, which golf cart drivers would certainly attempt.

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins asked a critical question about how golf carts might mix with regular traffic. Just imagine the potential mess on Fulton Street in a situation where bicycles, golf carts and cars might all share the same lane. In another place where golf carts are a normal part of traffic, maybe it’s not an issue, but Salisbury isn’t one of them.

Golf carts work in beach communities because they mostly do not compete with cars on streets that have Jake Alexander Boulevard-level traffic. They’re useful for commuting to shops in quaint downtown areas or to the beach from rented condos or other vacation spots. When golf carts appear on busy roads in beach communities, drivers aren’t surprised to see them, as they might be in Salisbury.

Towns such as China Grove, Landis and Spencer have OK’d golf carts, but none have them mixed in with cars driving 55 mph on U.S. 29. They work best when on streets with low traffic. The golf carts are useful, too, during downtown events or when commuting to downtown from a nearby neighborhood.

Mikey Wetzel, who owns Go Burrito, offered an opinion in favor of the golf carts in an email to various city officials, saying the time to consider the matter is now — before Main Street’s resurfacing and reconfiguration is complete. Responding to the point that “no one’s asking for this,” he called it a proactive effort that could incentivize people to buy one and likened it to promoting walking or biking in a downtown area.

“Realistically, golf carts could even promote more people coming downtown than walking and bike riding combined,” Wetzel said.  “This not conjecture. Rather we know this from other communities who have taken bold steps to enact legislation. Look no further than China Grove, but there are many other examples in N.C.”

China Grove officials may offer good testimonials about the success or failure of their golf cart ordinance and have suggestions of their own for how something similar could work in Salisbury.

As they consider the issue, the City Council will hear arguments that there are more important issues to deal with.

That’s true, but the council can effectively deal with multiple issues at once.