Nov 13, 2013
MYRTLE BEACH — The Myrtle Beach City Council voted Tuesday to support a proposed bill that would give municipalities in South Carolina the authority to allow golf carts on bicycle lanes and paths, but made no decisions on whether the city should do so.
Council members, during the meeting stressed their support for the idea of “home rule” – the right of local government to govern its citizens without the state interfering – more than the idea of allowing the carts on bike lanes.
As the law stands, motor vehicles – including golf carts – are not allowed on bicycle or walking paths and lanes anywhere in the state. Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach) said he plans to file a bill in January that would enable cities and towns to choose to allow golf carts to operate on portions of bike lanes.
City manager Tom Leath told council members during a Tuesday workshop that supporting the bill did not mean they had to allow golf carts on the bike lanes.
“This is not a motion to approve golf carts on [bicycle lanes],” Leath said. “You can support the bill as an affirmation for home rule.”
Council members said they believed the city should be able to decide if they would allow golf carts on portions of bike lanes and paths.
“I support anything that supports home rule, 100 percent,” Councilwoman Susan Grissom Means said.
Clemmons said he’s worked with residents in Seagate Village and Emmens Preserve who own golf carts and would like to be able to ride safely from their communities across Kings Highway to Myrtle Beach State Park.
To do that, they would need to be able to ride along bicycle lanes and paths that are on either side of Kings Highway.
The S.C. General Assembly would have to vote to pass the bill during the next legislative session, which begins in January.
“If it ever passes and comes before this council, I’m sure there will be a discussion about where golf carts are allowed,” Councilman Mike Lowder said.
If officers catch someone in a golf cart on a bike lane, the person would face a $133 fine, according to Myrtle Beach Municipal Court clerk Shelly Askey. She said she was not aware of any instances in which golf cart riders were cited for driving in bike lanes or paths.
Mary Cunningham, Seagate resident and leader of the Gator Golf Cart Club, said she and other residents have worked with Clemmons for a few months to create a draft of the bill the representative plans to introduce.
According to a draft of the bill, Clemmons is seeking to amend the code dealing with issuing golf cart permits to “provide that during daylight hours only, a municipality may allow a golf cart to be operated along bicycle lanes and bicycle paths located within the municipality.”
Cunningham said she’s asked Clemmons to include a stipulation that golf cart drivers yield to bicyclists and joggers on the paths.
“We just want to cross over safely,” Cunningham said. “That’s all we want – to find a safe way to cross over Highway 17 [Business] to the state park and to the beach.”
Emmens Preserve resident Stephen Wallace said there are many options that golf cart riders could use to get to the state park were they allowed on bicycle paths that wouldn’t interfere with bicyclists and joggers.
He said he would like to be able to use a .2-mile portion of a bike lane that stretches from the entrance of Seagate Village along Kings Highway to the park entrance.
“People are open to making sure that bicyclists and joggers have the right of way,” Wallace said.
Wallace said he’s heard that some bicyclists and other Myrtle Beach area residents were opposed to the bill, but said many don’t understand that the intent is not to open all bike lanes to golf carts.
“The intent is to allow some common sense judgment to be used to determine areas that would be safe to use a golf cart,” he said. “Bicycles right now are sharing [bike and walking lanes] with walkers and have to yield to them. Golf carts would have to yield to both bicyclists and walkers.”
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu
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