Owosso takes swing at golf cart issue

Manager Angela Wiley sits on a golf cart at Carts R Us in Owosso Township.

OWOSSO — The cities of Perry, Laingsburg, Corunna, Ovid and Durand, the village of Chesaning, and townships throughout Shiawassee County allow off-road vehicles on local streets, subject to restrictions.

Now, the city of Owosso is weighing in on the issue. During Monday’s city council meeting, members set a first reading and public hearing for 7:30 p.m. June 21 on a proposed rule permitting the use of golf carts on city streets.

Mayor Pro Tem Sue Osika said she has seen many golf carts on city streets this year. A couple of residents have approached her about what Owosso’s rules are for golf carts.

“The people I talked to were for golf carts on streets but they wanted rules. You see children driving them,” Osika said. “I knew Owosso didn’t have any rules. I’m hoping people will come to the public hearing so I can make a decision. I want to listen.”

Unlike the ordinances in other area municipalities, Owosso’s proposal is strictly limited to golf carts, and does not allow ATVs or other types of off-road vehicles on local streets.

“It’s a safety issue. We’re a city, and most of the streets are 25 mph,” Public Safety Director Kevin Lenkart said. “Off-road vehicles like ATVs are made for more rural areas.”

The proposed rule change would allow residents to operate a golf cart on city streets subject to some restrictions, including the following:

n The golf cart operator must be at least 16 and have a driver’s license

n The operator has to ride as near to the right side of the road as possible and exercise due care when passing a standing or moving vehicle

n No operating a golf cart on a state trunk line highway such as M-52 or M-21

n The operator must use a designated path for golf carts adjacent to the street where one is available

n No operating a cart on a pedestrian sidewalk or across a cemetery

n Golf carts can’t go over 15 mph or be operated on a street with a speed limit of more than 30 mph except to cross the street

n No operating a golf cart on the street between 30 minutes before sunset and 30 minutes after sunrise

n No golf carts on the James Miner Riverwalk trail

n No helmets required

n Turning signals required

Riding golf carts on public streets has become popular in parts of the state, especially in northern Michigan, where customized, souped-up carts are common.

“They’re so user-friendly, and people just want to get out of the house. And when they get out of the house, they spend money,” James Rust, owner of Carts R Us in Owosso Township, said.

Rust noted that, if the proposed rule change is adopted, people who live in townships near Owosso will be able to drive to the city on their carts, and perhaps dine at a restaurant there.

“I do feel there should be regulations and stipulations, for safety,” he said.

In 2014, the state added a section to the Michigan Vehicle Code allowing for limited and regulated use of golf carts on public streets.

Under the amended vehicle code, local units of government can permit golf carts on streets with certain restrictions.

“There are some golf carts out there on the streets now,” Lenkart said. “It’s inevitable that we’re going to have to have an ordinance. It protects the city if anything happens. We can say we had rules in place.”

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