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Panel discusses golf cart ordinance; supports night-time usage

By Staff | Jun 11, 2009

During the Captiva Community Panel’s monthly meeting, Harry Campbell of the Lee County Department of Transportation answered questions and discussed concerns relating to the golf cart ordinance the panel gave their unanimous support to at last month’s meeting.

Campbell also presented the findings of a traffic survey he did during peak tourist season on Captiva, as per the request of the Panel, in order to determine whether partially extending the golf cart zone to ‘Tween Waters Inn would be a good idea.

The golf cart ordinance states that anyone operating a golf cart within the village must be at least 16 years of age and hold a valid driver’s license. The same rules, in terms of operation and curfew, that apply to 16-year-old automobile drivers apply to 16-year-old golf cart operators.

Properly equipped golf carts will be permitted to operate at night-time if so designated by the Lee County DOT.

“I just want to emphasize that the passage of the ordinance primarily regulates the age. It has nothing to do with traffic regulations, which are where golf carts can operate, and during what hours they can operate. That is a traffic engineering decision that I am charged with determining,” Campbell said.

During the traffic study conducted by Campbell, he looked at potential night-time operations and the possible daytime and night-time extension of the golf cart zone.

Among Campbell’s main concerns, according to the traffic study findings, were an excess of pedestrians walking along the Captiva Drive safety shoulder with their backs to traffic in dark clothing.

“Between 2006 and 2008, there were no reported pedestrian crashes on Sanibel and Captiva,” Campbell said, suggesting that resorts provide reflective wristbands, clip-on lights and a card outlining safety tips to help pedestrians be more safe and maintain the good island safety record.

Campbell also said that there were no golf cart crashes on Captiva Drive in that same three-year period.

“Our position, based upon this night-time review, is that we’re going to consider the recommendations and concerns of the Captiva Community Panel and the residents in the possible extension of daytime golf cart operations on Captiva Drive down to ‘Tween Waters Inn,” Campbell said, noting that the middle driveway of the resort would most likely be considered as the stopping point.

“We actually looked at what the impact would be of extending daytime and night-time operations down to ‘Tween Waters and, depending on where the golf cart is and where the driver [of the car] is, the delay created by golf carts sharing the road with cars was an additional one to two minutes, which is not a real significant amount of delay,” Campbell continued.

One of Campbell’s other concerns related to golf carts driving on the safety shoulder instead of driving in the traffic lane.

“If we are to consider this, we may decide as a traffic regulation, to require the golf carts to use the travel lane except in emergency situations or to allow passing if needed,” Campbell said.

“The crux of the ordinance is to just say that you have to be 16 years of age to operate a golf cart in Captiva. The extension of the zone, that’s a thing that only he [Harry Campbell] has an ability to mandate. The goal of the ordinance was to make it safer,” said Lt. Joe Poppalardo.

“The decision as to whether to allow night-time operation in the village will be a traffic regulation order regardless of the ordinance. Obviously we’d feel more comfortable if there was an age restriction on night-time operation,” Campbell said.

Panel member Harry Silverglide addressed the fact that some Captiva employees were concerned that an influx of golf carts would dramatically slow down commuter traffic.

“Most of the objections were about time getting on and off the island. Harry has pointed out that only one to two minutes, maybe, would slow you down getting off the island. I certainly would give up one minute getting off the island for having more golf cart use,” Silverglide said.

“Harry also very eloquently pointed out that it does not increase the danger. We haven’t had any accidents at this point. Now, increased golf cart usage might increase the opportunity for an accident but, up until this point, we haven’t had an accident. And people using golf carts properly, pulling off onto the safety shoulder to let traffic pass, probably won’t slow you down more than 10 seconds,” Silverglide added.

Panel member Nathalie Pyle moved to support night-time use in the Village by licensed drivers, contingent upon the passage of the golf cart ordinance. The motion carried unanimously.

The panel decided to postpone any major decisions regarding golf cart zone extension.

According to a mass e-mail sent by panel administrator Ken Gooderham, the BoCC approved advertising the ordinance.

“The Golf Cart Ordinance Public Hearing will be sometime after 5 p.m. on June 23. If this Ordinance passes the Board, then procedurally, the ordinance goes to Tallahassee for processing. Then, when it returns to the County, it will be processed by the County Attorney and the Clerk of Courts and would then become law,” Gooderham wrote, noting that he anticipates the process to be completed by no later than August.