Once again, Gulfport city council considered whether or not to allow non-street-legal golf carts on city streets. Once again, the council decided they would not allow them on city roads.
Unlike the low speed vehicles the Gulfport Area Chamber and Gulfport Merchants Association will soon put into service as free-for-the-passenger rides, the law does not mandate golf carts get inspected and registered.
A golf cart is a motor vehicle "but is essentially not capable of operating at speeds of over 20 miles per hour," Gulfport Police Chief Rob Vincent told council when he spoke. Chief Vincent advised the council to not change the law to allow the vehicles on city roads. Among other reasons, he said he felt the carts traveled too slowly and that cars would come up behind the cart too fast. Given the narrowness of many Gulfport roads, he said this could cause accidents.
"A scooter or bicycle occupies much less of the travel lane," he said. "You cannot drive around a golf cart."
Additionally, he cited safety concerns about the golf carts.
"They are not as safe as cars," he said, citing the lack of head shoulder seat belts, reinforced steel beams in the doors, airbags.
While Vice Mayor Dan Liedtke expressed support for allowing golf carts on city streets – the vice mayor lives in the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club, where golf carts are not uncommon – Mayor Sam Henderson remained opposed.
"My opinion hasn't changed on this," Mayor Henderson said. "Based on your report today and our past experience having these discussions... I just can't vote yes on it."
Ward Four Councilman Michael Fridovich also opposed golf carts, along with Ward Two Councilwoman Christine Brown, who remained undecided until the end of the workshop. Councilman Fridovich said his opposition stemmed from his ward's inability to fully benefit from legalizing golf carts. If the city legalized non-street-legal golf carts in Gulfport, golf carts could not traverse non-city roads such as Gulfport Boulevard.
"I'm not going to agree with something that I can't let people in my ward come down in a golf cart," Councilman Fridovich said, adding that if Gulfport could get Pinellas County to allow golf carts to legally cross Gulfport Boulevard he would agree to allowing golf carts in Gulfport. "My issue is if you live on your side [to the Ward Three councilwoman, Jennifer Salmon] or my side, can you come down in golf cart? If you can do that, I'm for it."