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Thursday, July 15,2010

Golf carts becoming hot wheels in Lyons

By Jefferson Dodge

For a town without a golf course, an increasing number of golf carts are being driven around Lyons, prompting the town’s de facto police chief to issue a set of guidelines for their use.

Sgt. Kevin Parker of the Boulder County Sheriff ’s Office estimates that between 15 and 20 golf carts are used regularly to get around the small town.

But there have been a couple of cart operators charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, in addition to general confusion about where the vehicles can be driven legally.

So Parker issued a memo on July 13 clarifying, among other things, that, yes, you can get a DUI while driving a golf cart on public streets or property, just like you can get one for riding a bike, or even a horse, under the influence. (Parker told Boulder Weekly he once issued a DUI to a man who was riding his bike drunk down the middle of the Diagonal Highway at 3 a.m.)

The Lyons cart craze seems to have been prompted in part by Sam Tallent, who co-owns The Stone Cup coffee shop with his wife, Mindy. Tallent says they were the first in town to adopt a golf cart as a primary mode of transportation, and that was four years ago.

About a month ago, they had solar panels added to the roof of the cart.

“I haven’t been plugged in since, and I drive it a lot,” Tallent says of the solar power.

He uses the cart for the occasional coffee delivery, as well as runs to the post office, bank and grocery store. It has a cargo area in the back that is perfect for hauling the coffee shop’s compost, and the vehicle comes in handy when thousands descend on the town for one of the music festivals at Planet Bluegrass, Tallent says.

“It did not make sense to jump in the car every time,” he explains.

And he is saving money on gas. “I think we calculated that, with all of the driving we were doing, it paid for itself in about two years,” he says.

Tallent has started a side business buying old golf carts and selling them to locals. He says he has sold almost a dozen of them, has a few more on order, and knows of 18 electric and five gaspowered carts in town.

Tallent suggested to Sgt. Parker that Lyons consider a new ordinance allowing the carts on town streets, so that he could drive his legally.

Parker says he copied Lyons Ordinance 849 from one adopted by nearby Berthoud. It covers both electric and gas-powered carts.

He says that aside from the DUIs, his cart-related activities have included no citations, just educational efforts.

(Lyons does not have a police department and instead contracts with the Boulder County Sheriff ’s Office for Parker’s services.)

Parker cautions that children shouldn’t be driving the carts, since operators are required to have a driver’s license, and that young children in a golf cart are subject to the same carseat requirements as they would be in an automobile. He also says the carts should have a sign on the back saying “slow-moving vehicle.”

While they can be operated on town streets if they follow traffic rules, other areas are off-limits. Golf carts can be driven across state highways like Colorado 36 and Colorado 66 at intersections, Parker says, but they can’t be operated along those highways, because state law does not allow for them to be registered. Golf carts cannot be driven on bike paths, pedestrian bridges or sidewalks, either. Still, Parker likes the emerging transportation trend.

“With gas prices, it’s an efficient way to go to the store and get around town,” he says. “It makes sense, rather than firing up the family sedan. … To me, and the town, it’s a great way to reduce vehicle emissions and reduce traffic in the process.”

But Parker stops short of endorsing the idea of cop carts.

“I’d hate to run out of battery power halfway up the St. Vrain Canyon,” he says with a laugh.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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When is Boulder going to consider doing the same? Having recently returned from the Colonies in Florida there are a lot of advantages of enclosable golf carts over bikes, e-bikes or even segways. If allowed I think we could get a lot more cars off of the road.


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