The use of golf carts on sidewalks is a question that comes up from time to time. Does it make sense to have a local ordinance allowing this? Is this ever allowed?
While we can review the board implications here, the only way to ascertain golf cart laws in your state, municipality or residential community is to make the appropriate phone calls to the local authorities. Certainly, golf carts on sidewalks would be the exception, rather than the rule. An online search finds even electric scooters and skateboards are banned from sidewalks in many places, which certainly means golf carts are likely banned from sidewalks, too.
Golf Carts are a “fish out of water”
The dilemma, of course, comes from the point that a golf cart is, in effect, a fish out of water when it is not in use on a golf course or in a sheltered residential community that limits vehicles to golf carts only (unless they are making allowances for delivery trucks or the necessary maintenance vehicles).
Unless golf carts are the dominating species of vehicle in the area in question, they don’t match up well with multi-purpose roads. They don’t really fit in on roads with speed limits above 35 MPH and they don’t really blend in well with cars, buses, motorcycles and other large vehicles. On the other hand, they don’t merge very well with bicycles, skateboards and roller skates, either, and they aren’t truly compatible with pedestrian traffic.
There are certainly disagreements. If you own a golf cart and find the sidewalk the only safe option for a drive to a nearby destination, whether it is a residential destination or a commercial one, riding on the sidewalk certainly is tempting. The truth is, one or two golf carts on a sidewalk are not going to increase the odds of an accident very much, if at all, especially when you realize that some sidewalks are under-utilized, as it is. However, you may open yourself to the risk of receiving a citation from local law enforcement.
Local politicians prefer simple laws
Unfortunately, lawmakers – especially local politicians – know that laws that are too specific are often challenged in court and they prefer laws that are simple and enforceable. No motorized vehicles on sidewalks, for example, is much simpler and easier ordinance to enforce than penciling in a few exceptions, for carts, scooters, bicycles, unicycles, mopeds or Segways just to name a few.
It gets hard to define a golf cart legally. Even if you write a law allowing for “vehicles considered golf carts by the manufacturers,” you are open to a challenge, because someone who built their own motorized go cart built in the backyard can say they considered that to be a golf cart.
Furthermore, what’s the difference between a scooter with an electric motor and an electric golf cart? Well, there’s a lot of differences, but asking your local village to try to define all the options to selectively allow for one and not others gets pretty confusing. It’s far easier to say no to all than write in all the exceptions and define those in legal terms.
This issue came up specifically in a village board meeting in which it was reported that two people in the village who had their driver’s licenses revoked had taken to driving their riding lawn mowers to the store and back. The complaint from the village’s lawyer was specifically that: How could he write a law that allowed for motorized wheelchairs, but not motorized lawn mowers?
Again, the problem golf cart owners have is understandable: It isn’t very dangerous to ride one or two golf carts on a specific stretch of a sidewalk. But once lawmakers open the option to one or two, they make it very difficult to ensure that hundreds of people won’t start buying golf carts in the neighborhood, at which point the safety considerations certainly change.
Common sense does come into the picture. There are residential communities and golf courses where the community or the golf course takes up two sides of a road. Golf carts are often allowed to use a sidewalk for a short stretch to connect with roads or paths that allow the carts. Many areas allow golf carts to cross the sidewalks and local roads to get back on the course or back into the residential community, allowing the cart to take the straightest route across the road.
If there are any doubts, call the local police or the town hall.