Golf Carts – Not Just for Men in Plaid Slacks Anymore

Dora Sullivan, the mayor of Cape Charles, rides a golf cart to drive to official meetings, do her grocery shopping and convey her grandchildren around town. And she has plenty of company in the Eastern Shore town of 1,100. So many Cape Charles residents use the carts to tool around that a cottage industry has sprouted up. According to the Virginian-Pilot, one local woodworker customizes carts, some with paint jobs, some with dune-buggy tires.

Now Paylor Spruill, developer of the proposed Belharbour Station project in Cheapeake, is asking the city to allow golf carts on public roads in the South Norfolk community. In his vision, the carts could be driven not only around his $200 million development on the Elizabeth River– with 350 condos, 230 apartments, and 150,000 square feet of commercial space — but along river trails, over bridges, into historic sections of South Norfolk and into Portsmouth.

While the idea of “electric cars” as substitutes for gas-powered vehicles has yet to take off (see “Hybrids Out, Electric Cars In“), golf cart sales are surging. Since 2001, according to Pilot reporter Mike Gruss, Club Car and E-Z-GO have manufactured one million vehicles.

Golf carts may be emerging as a mainstream transportation alternative, but not in the way envisioned for electric cars a decade ago. Golf carts are cheaper to buy than cars, they run on electricity, and they’re fun. The same could be said of bicycles, but golf carts are more versatile: They have seats, can carry light cargo, and can run up to 25 miles per hour. Long confined to resort and retirement communities, they’re spreading beyond their normal haunts.

As golf carts establish themselves as a legitimate transportation mode in some communities, I would expect to them to morph into all kinds of specialized vehicles. Some bigger, some smaller, some designed for fair weather, some for foul, some adapted for bike paths, some for city streets. (Click here to see the incredible variety that exist already.) Over time, communities will accommodate the new vehicles through municipal ordinances, special lanes and designated parking. It will be interesting to see how municipal authorities sort out the inevitable conflicts with automobiles.

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8 responses to “Golf Carts – Not Just for Men in Plaid Slacks Anymore”

  1. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Makes sense to me. Create ordinances to deal effectively with what you have, and not proscribe what could be a new industry.

    Still, 25 mph is zipping right along, it’s about as fast as the beltway during rush hour. A 25 mph crash can do a lot of damage toa car. What are the crash standards for golf carts?

    What do you do about motorized skateboards, scooters, or Segways? The inevitable conflicts may be mre with pedestrians than autos.

    Then of course there will probably be a major battle that holds up the budget again someday, when we try to figure out how to pay for all those additional lanes and facilities.

  2. Actually, the concept has taken off, just not in the U.S. so much-

  3. “What are the crash standards for golf carts?”

    My friends and I used to smash them into each other at Windy Hill. We actually ran over my friend James one time, and he was Ok.

  4. Transportation Lobby Avatar
    Transportation Lobby

    Golfcart lane miles traveled has increased by 300%, and yet, total golf cart lanes has remained stagnant. We need a tax increase! Quick, someone phone John Chichester!

  5. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I’m all in favor of driving vehicles that make more sense then the rocketships many of us tool around in, but that is a far cry from eliminating or denigrating personal transit.

    Let’s make them sensible and repairable.

  6. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Why not horses? Fit them with catch bags for their environmental pollution.

  7. MaxPower Avatar

    Bicycles! I can hit a steady 20mph going down the newly paved section of Cary St. and get through the Fan faster than any car.

    Although I am not looking forward to 103° heat. I’ll tell you that.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Neither are your co-workers. You’re gonna smell like you wannna to be alone.

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