Florida Weekly May 30, 2012
Article quotes from BikeWalkLee's policy statement on "golf carts". Note the article only discusses the use of these vehicles on roads, not on sidewalks for pathways.
Don’t call them ‘golf carts,’ LSVs provide street-legal transportation
BY EVAN WILLIAMS
Instead, electric-powered Low Speed Vehicles or “street legal golf carts” offer an alternative transportation on low speed roads. LSV dealers say using them became more popular when environmental concerns grew and gas prices rose. Using one requires a driver’s license, insurance and registration.
They often look the same as a golf cart except for required features such as seatbelts, turn signals and taillights, and can go between 20 and 25 miles per hour instead of less than 20. They can only travel on roads where the posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less. LSV dealer Jay Stewart suggests they’re not too different from a small, electric powered car. His LSVs cost between $7,000 and $10,000 — in general a few thousand more than a golf cart.
“It’s not a golf cart. It is a car,” insists Mr. Stewart, owner of A+ Carts on Summerlin Road near Fort Myers Beach. “It just looks doesn’t look like your car or your mom’s car. It’s the car of the future.”
But just because the state makes the distinction between golf carts and LSVs doesn’t mean private communities in Southwest Florida will as well. They’re considered one and the same at Sandoval, a 524-acre deed restricted community in Cape Coral that has never allowed golf carts. The policy is common in similar neighborhoods throughout Southwest Florida.
Resident Mike Anderson bought an electric-powered LSV to pick up his kids from the bus stop or make short trips there. Later he received a letter from the community’s attorney telling him to stop using it.
General manager Patrick Cattanach said Sandoval’s owners haven’t decided to change their position and that this is the first issue he knows of in the community regarding what they consider a golf cart.
Some LSV dealers are also not confident people know or always observe the difference and the rules for an LSV or golf carts, and sometimes treat them as nearly the same, using either one of them on roads, sidewalks or elsewhere.
Mr. Anderson wants to use his LSV to save on gas money, and had assumed that since the cost and procedure was nearly the same as owning many cars, and it’s legal by state standards, he could use it at Sandoval.
“I’ve got a tag, I pay insurance, and they’ve still got a problem,” he said. “Where do they draw the line? It’s not like I’m driving on the sidewalk or just out running around. I pick up my kids from the bus stop.”
BikeWalkLee, an advocacy for alternative modes of transportation in Lee County, endorses the use of LSVs on slower roads “for a variety of reasons, including their traffic calming effect… and because they are a more energy efficient mode of travel.”
Richard Cucchi, owner of Caddy Carts on U.S. 41 in Northport, suggested different communities should decide for themselves if golf carts, LSVs, both or neither suit it, but noted the environmental benefits.
“Anytime you get a big gas guzzling vehicle off the road and replace it with something half its size, it’s a good thing,” he said.
Sydney Kimble, who along with Bob Love owns Electric Motion Golf Carts in Naples, feels they could be safe in downtown.
“I think the downtown area of Naples could be really geared toward (using LSVs.),” he said.
The Pine Island proposal
The Greater Pine Island Civic Association in April asked Lee County commissioners to allow not just LSVs, but also golf carts, on most Pine Island roads. That’s already legal on barrier island communities such as Captiva and Boca Grande.
But some business owners say golf carts sharing the road with cars, even in calmer settings, could be a dangerous mix.
It could help his business but hurt his customers, said Don Steward of Affordable Golf Carts, which has locations in North Fort Myers and on Marco Island.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for people to be competing with Cadillacs and Towncars on a golf cart,” he said.
Michael Perkins of Advantage Golf Carts in Bonita Springs, agrees. “They shouldn’t be on the roads with cars,” he said.
John L. Young, 86, was killed April 25 trying to cross Summerlin Road in Fort Myers on a golf cart, reports show. Summerlin is a busy street, unlike many on Signs on New Post Road behind Sweetbay on Bayshore Road. Pine Island. Mr. Stewart of A+ Carts said Mr. Young was his customer, and that he had poor eyesight. This is one reason why allowing golf carts the same accessibility as LSVs could be troublesome, Mr. Stewart said, because people who otherwise couldn’t get a driver’s license could use them and get hurt.
In North Fort Myers behind the Sweetbay Supermarket on Bayshore Road sits a congregation of communities. Some signage shows where carts can and can’t go but it doesn’t distinguish between LSVs. Jackie Hanley, who lives in Foxmoor Lakes, a deed-restricted community by the Sweetbay that allows golf carts, enjoys hers.
“I go to the pool with it,” she said. “I sometimes take it over to the grocery store.” ¦