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Off Course?

Last week, Vienna city Council and Mayor passed an ordinance allowing ATVs, UTVs, other special purpose vehicles, and golf carts to be driven on residential streets and major intersections of Grand Central Avenue in the commercial district. The City claims it re-introduced the Use of Motorized Carts Ordinance, which initially failed in July, in response to recent changes enacted by the West Virginia State Legislature. Under the new WV Senate Bill 690, operating “special purpose” vehicles on our roads is now permitted under certain conditions. Golf carts are not considered special purpose vehicles under SB690, but they are permitted under the new legislation to cross state routes at traffic lights when the state does not have a posted speed limit greater than 40 miles per hour.

Since golf carts are not classified as ATVs, UTVs, or other special purpose vehicles, they are not required to be registered, inspected, or have a license plate. They are required to carry liability insurance, but the City did not specify the minimum liability coverage or whether the coverage would include both property damage and bodily injury liability. Both will be especially important once the first accident between a golf cart and a car, truck or SUV occurs.

The truth is golf carts have been driven on Vienna’s residential streets for decades. Primarily, residents use their personal golf carts to go to the Parkersburg Country Club. Regulating their use, which the City’s Ordinance attempts to do, is a good thing. I applaud the requirements that only licensed drivers can operate golf carts and that they cannot be operated at night nor can they be operated with a child under the age of six (6). Bravo, all good sensible requirements.

Where I have a fundamental difference is allowing golf carts to cross the major intersections of Grand Central Avenue at 12th, 23rd, and 28th streets. At the 12th street and GCA intersection, a golf cart must cross seven lanes of traffic. This intersection serves some of Vienna’s most popular shopping and restaurant destinations such as Sam’s Club, Lowes, Aldi, and Cheddars. It is congested with traffic ranging from passenger vehicles to semi-trucks delivering goods to the various box stores and eateries at that intersection. Golf carts are not designed to be used on city streets. They lack basic safety features such as seat belts, air bags, and doors. They are not designed to withstand the impact of a crash with a SUV, car, or truck.

Vienna could have banned the use of ATVs, UTVs, other special vehicles, and golf carts altogether but they chose to allow their use under certain conditions. For years, residents in Vienna have operated golf carts in residential areas so banning them now would be unreasonable. However, they could and should prevent the use of these types of vehicles in our commercial district.

It is inevitable that these alternative forms of transportation will continue to grow, and we need to address their usage. Whether they are special vehicles, golf carts or motorized bicycles, safety should always come first. The congested intersections in Vienna’s commercial district do not feel safe to me. What may be a fender bender among two cars could result in tragedy when it involves a car and a golf cart. Due to the amount and type of traffic found in the commercial district, I do not believe the ordinance should have included the intersections of Grand Central Avenue at 12th, 23rd, and 28th streets. Sadly, the Mayor and those on council who voted to affirm these vehicles in the commercial district ignored the safety concerns expressed by the public and other council members.

In a few months, there will be an election to select the next Vienna City Council. My name will be on your ballot and I hope you will vote for me. I believe part of being a good public servant is to listen, study, and learn in order to make the best decisions for Vienna. Issues like the Motorized Cart Ordinance highlight the importance of electing folks with the willingness to hear the concerns of the public and the ability to make the right decision. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you may have. With your help, I will be your voice, your advocate, your representative in Vienna City government.

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