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Start seeing golf carts? Morrison might allow them

If the Morrison City Council allows golf carts to be driven legally on city streets, safety issues must be adequately addressed.

Published: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 4:41 p.m. CDT

Many area motorists are familiar with the motorcycle safety campaign that features large banners with the slogan "Start seeing motorcycles."

If the Morrison City Council approves a proposed ordinance at its Nov. 25 meeting, a new version of the slogan will apply: "Start seeing golf carts."

This week, council members discussed the ordinance that would allow people, under certain circumstances, conditions and restrictions, to drive street-legal golf carts and off-road recreational vehicles on city streets where the speed limit is 25 miles an hour or less.

To be legally driven on a city street, a golf cart would have to have such equipment as headlights, tail lamps, brake lights, turn signals, rearview mirrors, and a slow-moving emblem.

Operators would have to possess driver's licenses. Child restraint laws would have to be followed. Carts could be driven only during daylight hours. The maximum speed would be 20 mph.

Operators could not drive on state highways and county roads but could cross them.

To our knowledge, Morrison would be the first municipality in the Sauk Valley to permit golf carts and off-road recreational vehicles on its streets.

Mayor Everett Pannier has said he does not see a problem with the proposal.

Other Illinois communities have granted such access, after a 2009 law enacted by the General Assembly gave municipalities the authority to do so.

Proponents say non-highway vehicles provide a cheaper and more convenient means of transportation around town. They say communities should provide residents with the option to use them.

Detractors are concerned about safety. For example, golf carts were designed, obviously, to transport golfers and their clubs around a grassy golf course, not adults and children on traffic-filled streets made of concrete and asphalt.

While the proposed ordinance attempts to deal with the safety issues, the community won't really know how allowing off-road vehicles on city streets will work until the ordinance is approved.

Safety is our chief concern here. Heavy motor vehicles already must share city streets with walkers, runners, bicyclists and motorcyclists. Adding golf carts and off-road recreational vehicles to the mix doesn't sound wise to us.

The proposal comes as Morrison prepares to observe the first anniversary of the enactment of its citywide speed limit of 25 miles per hour. The city lowered its speed limit from 30 to 25 mph on Dec. 1, 2012, in an effort to make its streets safer for residents.

That was a courageous step forward.

We fear that, by allowing vehicles not designed for street use to traverse city streets, Morrison might make its streets less safe for all, which would be an unfortunate step backward.

We could be wrong. Perhaps the benefits outweigh the risks.

If the ordinance is approved, we encourage a well-publicized campaign to alert motorists – and motorcyclists – that they will need to "start seeing golf carts."

 

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