SOLON– Within a month, residents of Solon should be able to hop on a golf cart and drive around town.
Last week, the members of the Solon City Council approved the first reading of a new ordinance to allow golf carts as a street-legal means of transportation within the city limits.
If approved twice more, the new law could go on the books in August.
Discussion on the proposed ordinance began last month, with the council members reviewing existing ordinances from a number of neighboring communities, as well as state code.
A general consensus on limits was reached at a June 15 meeting, and the resulting draft was presented for consideration at last week’s July 6 council session.
A single revision was made to the proposal before its approval.
Originally, council members had decided to require headlights and tail lights to be mounted and on during operation. That requirement was deleted from the ordinance last week.
“After thinking about what we talked about, I personally don’t think we should even have headlights or tail lights on there,” said council member Mark Krall. “Since most golf carts don’t come equipped with lights”, he said, “it seemed an inappropriate cost with which to burden owners.” The state’s requirements for a slow moving vehicle sign and a bicycle safety flag should be adequate, he indicated, and if more was needed, he suggested a reflective strip or amber light could be added.
Council member Brad Kunkel agreed.
“Just recently I saw a cart up in Swisher– it had a slow moving vehicle sign on the back and bicycle flag and it caught my eye from well over 100 yards away,” Kunkel said. “Between those two things, it was actually quite visible.”
But there were still concerns about safety, especially on Solon’s busier roads.
During the past 10 years, there have been 65 vehicle crashes on Highway 1, according to council member Cami Rasmussen, citing Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) statistics. Of the 65, 19 have occurred at the intersection with 5th Street and 12 have been at the intersection with Main Street. All of the other crossings had four or less.
“I’m opposed to them (golf carts), but I’m more opposed on that 5th Street intersection.” That would change if traffic lights were installed, Rasmussen said, but she couldn’t support adding to the current traffic situation at that particular crossing.
Under the proposed ordinance, golf carts would be prohibited from operating on Highway 1, but would be allowed to cross it.
Rasmussen eventually cast the only vote against the ordinance.
Lieutenant Gary Kramer of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department noted that as long as the city aligns itself with what’s provided in the state code, enforcement shouldn’t be a problem.
“If there’s a problem, we can deal with it, especially if they’re registered,” Kramer said. “I see other communities, and we really don’t have a lot of problems with golf carts. I don’t you’re going to see as many golf carts as you think you’re going to see.”
The new ordinance would provide the following requirements:
• The golf cart must be registered annually (and the fee paid) with the city and proof of liability insurance must be provided;
• 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.