Where I think they agree is in their tone and the perceived benefit to the community. Both men have been aggressive in their positions. At the January CA Board of Directors meeting, Mr. Broida asked that a policy change to allow golf carts be instituted by the end of February. Mr. Verchinski, addressing the full board for the second continuous month, began his resident speakout session by stating (and I’m paraphrasing here) “I am back again this month because I was here last month and I have not seen any movement on this issue.” Both men tout the use of golf carts as a means to aid those who are aging in place and to reduce air pollution.
What I do not think they have realized is the unintended consequences of motorizing the bike paths. As they describe it, the golf carts would be used primarily to allow aging residents to extend their mobility. To go shopping, or visit a good friend. Contrast that with the following from a November 26, 2006 article in the Washington Post, written by Dan Morse (Carts Are in Demand, but Who Said Anything About Golfing?):
Now let’s be careful here. There is no indication that anyone in the story was drinking to excess or that anything irresponsible was going on; however, alcohol, the operation of a several hundred pound vehicle, and the idea of trying to navigate Columbia’s narrow, curvy path system is a concern.
For residents on the outskirts of Washington, using a golf cart doesn't necessarily mean playing golf. Marty Scanlon, for one, appreciates his cart foremost as a piece of furniture.
"When we're together," the 45-year-old says, sitting on his cart next to his buddies, "this garage exudes knowledge."
Parked next to him is a neighbor who recently pulled into Scanlon's garage on his own cart. They face a TV, watching football highlights, smoking cigars and drinking beer. Conversation veers from politics to pontoon boats to cheese dip.
"It's a think tank," said Rick Rickson, 44, lifting a cup of Bud Light out of his drink holder.
In addition, golf carts for non-golf course use have over the years been customized:
Lots [of golf carts] go to businesses, such as apartment complexes, car dealers and the like. But a sizable number end up with homeowners, said Don DelPlace, publisher of Golf Car Advisor, a trade magazine and wholesale catalog with products for the residential set. Among the Advisor's offerings: alloy wheels, rifle holders (for hunting) and kits to convert carts to roadsters resembling a Hummer H2 or a Buick Lucerne.
[Golf cart owner Mr.] Van Wie owns an excavating company. Working near Brandywine earlier this year, he repeatedly drove by a long fence, behind which were rows of golf carts. One day he pulled in.
Walking through the front door of Metro Golf Cart, he took a left into a showroom displaying options available: $220 dashboard covers, custom paint work with flames, CD players.
He and Danny Crescenzi, a co-owner of the business, walked out to the lot and approached a cart painted bright orange, bearing a No. 20 decal to match the Monte Carlo driven by NASCAR racer Tony Stewart.
"Can you do an Earnhardt car?" Van Wie asked.
"We can do anything you like," Crescenzi said.
At times speed goes beyond just the look of the golf cart. The November/December 2006 issue of the above mentioned Golf Car Advisor magazine has a feature article on high performance golf cart electric motors. The article leads off as follows:
As the private car segment of the golf car market continues to grow, and more
and more golf cars are being used like a second automobile or for non-golf
activities, the emphasis on increased speed has gotten even greater. At the
forefront of making golf cars go faster is Steen Products, of Fort Mill, South
Carolina. Steen Products is well known for their unique Plum-quick™ line of
From my point of view, I see additional problems related to infrastructure, regulation, and safety.
With respect to infrastructure, the Columbia bike path system consists largely of narrow asphalt ribbons that connect the Villages. Many of these paths are located in floodplains, traverse steep slopes, and have many blind curves. To accommodate a fleet of golf carts, most pathways would have to be widened (making them closer to resident’s side and back yards). With respect to slopes, either the grade would have to be changed or a major investment in signage (and driver training/orientation) would have to be made to alert golf cart owners that passage is prohibited. In the case of floodplains, I would suspect little could be done, with the exception of signage indicating a possible flood condition.
In addition, a good deal of the path system is nestled up close to homeowner’s backyards. Many purchased homes with the understanding that the paths would be used by children walking to school, bicyclists, and others walking the paths for pleasure and recreation. I doubt many envisioned the path as a motorized throughway. On a related note, the use of the path system by registered cars and micro-mini bikes is infrequent, but not unheard of. Would the acquiescence to golf cart use only encourage this illegal behavior?
With regard to regulation, I believe golf carts are already legal to drive on Howard County roads with posted speeds less than 30 mph. Would the county requirements be sufficient for use on the privately-owned path system, or would CA have to develop its own inspections and licensing system? Enforcement also seems to be problematic. Because the CA path system lies on CA open space, it is private property. Howard County Police cannot enter onto the property unless an obvious violation is visible. So items like speed limit enforcement, licensing, etc would have to be performed by staff hired by (or under contract to) CA.
Moreover, because all of the Columbia pathways are on private land, how would enforcement work? How about accident response? It has been only recently that CA and the 911 service have worked out a three digit alpha-numeric identification system for the tot lots. If one of these golf carts tipped over, and there were injuries, what would a caller say to the 911 operator?
“The golf cart is located kind of in between the end of Pamplona Drive and the end of Bull Ring Lane, closer to the end of African Hill, and farther away from the Stevens Forest Pool and the end of Encounter Row.”
That is a lot of detail, but does it effectively communicate the location to a 911 operator?
In the end, I believe the goal of Mr. Broida and Mr. Verchinski is noble. Providing a means to increase senior mobility is a good cause. However, I cannot imagine a scenario in which the safety of golf cart operators, their passengers, and other users of the bike paths would be preserved with any reasonable certainty. Large sums of additional monies would have to be dedicated for pathway widening, signage, monitoring, and enforcement. I would suggest that the above mentioned gentleman focus their efforts on getting golf cart lanes installed on the existing roadway system. It is a superior alternative to destroying the intended use of the Columbia path system.