RINGGOLD, Ga.— Sue Lane Helton and her husband still are in the honeymoon period with their new golf cart. Ms. Helton drives the battery-powered vehicle to work, grocery and drugstore, and to church. Her husband comes up with ideas to use it at night.
“He likes it as much as I do,” Ms. Helton said. “I drive it during the day but at night, he always finds somewhere to go in the evenings.”
The Ringgold residents are living in a community that is looking to Peachtree City as an example. The metro Atlanta city is a pacesetter in the growing trend that favors the golf cart over the automobile as a way to get around town.
Ringgold officials are the local trendsetters in the move to a golf cart friendly city, but Fort Oglethorpe officials are not far behind.
“We have the final vote on an ordinance to make the city golf cart and pedestrian friendly on Monday,” Ringgold council member Bill McMillon said about a council meeting tonight. “I made the motion that we create such an ordinance and suggested we use Peachtree as a model.”
Georgia law provides some specifics on the use of the smaller vehicles on public roadways, but Mr. McMillon said Ringgold wanted to spell those out and add some local requirements.
Currently, such vehicles may not be ridden on roads where the speed limit exceeds 34 mph, or on state highways. They may cross at intersections with state highways, however. People may drive them in the evenings but they will have to have headlights, tail lights and a horn.
Bonnie Wagner, owner of Ringgold Power Sports, said the vehicles’ popularity and the uses for them are growing. Sales of new carts are increasing and more people are upgrading the carts they have, she said. Customizing is big, too, Ms. Wagner said.
“At first, people were buying them to use in their yards or for camping and hunting,” Ms. Wagner said. “They still are, but a lot of people are driving them to get around. I pick my little girl up from school in one. I know someone who is handicapped, and he uses his to walk his dogs.”
Popularity is about evenly divided on the selection of battery- or gas-powered vehicles, Ms. Wagner said. But the recent trend, whether to go green or for fuel cost concerns, is toward the battery-powered vehicles.
Depending upon the model, a cart can travel 30 to 50 miles on one six-hour battery charge. And the gas-powered carts are fuel savers. A team of Chattanooga city workers who travel around the downtown area doing small road maintenance jobs and picking up trash said they can drive two days on one tank of gas.
The carts’ top speed is 19 mph, but some can be upgraded with computer chips that let them increase to as much as 23 miles per hour, Ms. Wagner said. Other types of custom work are available, she said.
“The new ones start at around $5,000,” she said. “But you can customize to $10,000 and up.”
Golf carts can be made to look like Ford Mustangs, F-150 trucks and Jeeps. There are Hummer carts, too.
The city of Ringgold owns three carts that workers use to get to routine maintenance jobs, Mr. McMillon said.
Fort Oglethorpe City Council members recently agreed to investigate the steps for permitting golf cart use on public streets and incorporating them with city fleet vehicles.
Council member Louis Hamm said he thinks there are legitimate uses for the carts.
“I could see it in some areas, as far as street maintenance, and it would be nice to have something passed for citizens,” he said. “Once we get the Stuart Avenue coming in to City Hall, that would be the perfect place for people to use (in that neighborhood) to come pay bills or whatever.”
If fuel costs remain high or rise, city leaders will probably be more inclined to look at using the vehicles, Mr. Hamm said.
Some businesses say there’s no question there are good uses for the transportation mode.
Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe has been using the carts for a couple of years, officials said. They bring patients and visitors up from a parking lot at the bottom of a small but steep hill on the Fort Oglethorpe campus to the door of the hospital.
“It’s not fuel-related for us,” hospital spokeswoman Agnes Cloud said. “It’s a service we want to provide for our (customers).”