If there’s one thing that can unite Northern Kentuckians, it’s frustrations over parking and traffic. One way local municipalities are looking to alleviate those issues is by allowing golf carts on roads.
Ordinances that allow golf carts to take to the roadways have gained popularity in the past few years, with various versions popping up in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.
Places like Boone County and Fort Thomas passed ordinances in 2019. Bellevue passed an ordinance in 2022. Other cities, like Ludlow, have had them since 2012.
While some ordinances further out in the burbs allow people to travel to and from golf courses in their neighborhoods, the focus of more urban spots looks to alleviate parking and traffic congestion.
How do you become a golf cart person?
Rules around registering golf carts for the road are relatively standard for most places with golf cart ordinances on the books. The carts must have turn signals, headlights and brake lights, seat belts, mirrors, parking brakes and a horn. While there are some differences between municipalities, these rules are pretty much the norm.
In Boone County, roads and neighborhoods must register to allow for golf carts. Boone County Public Information Officer Philip Ridgell said that roads and neighborhoods must go through an “application process to be brought before the fiscal court for that area to be designated for the use of golf carts on the roadways.” Once that approval is granted, residents can start applying for road approval for their carts.
To approve these golf cart allowances, there “has to be buy-in from the community at large,” Ridgell said. He said this is important because it keeps “one or two people can change the daily driving or the daily habits of an entire community that has 10s of 1000s.”
However, for locations like Fort Thomas, there is a citywide allowance for all roads under 30 miles per hour.
In most places, carts must be inspected by law enforcement to ensure that they follow all the requirements. Cart drivers must follow all the rules of the road, the driver must be licensed, and the vehicle needs to be insured. Most drivers are insured through their home insurance, Fort Thomas city council member Jeff Bezold told LINK nky.
The parking problem
Part of the appeal for road-legal golf carts is the parking. By their nature, golf carts are smaller than cars, so there are more spaces to park along popular roadways.
The original inspiration for Fort Thomas’s golf cart ordinance was to help with parking issues on one of the town’s business roads. Bezold said the “biggest complaint up there is a parking situation” regarding a section of S. Fort Thomas Avenue lined with business and lacking in parking. Looking into the future, he said Fort Thomas is looking to add permanent golf cart parking spots throughout town.
Bellevue recently amended its golf cart ordinance to allow carts on Fairfield Avenue, a main thoroughfare dotted with bars, restaurants, retailers and homes.
Previously, carts could cross Fairfield Avenue at a light in an intersection but couldn’t drive up and down the street. City council voted at a meeting in August to amend the ordinance with no restrictions. The city could have chosen to restrict the carts on the avenue from sunup to sundown but decided not to do so.
Council member Sean Fischer mentioned the lack of parking or space for everyone to have a full-size vehicle at a July council meeting. He said the golf cart ordinance solved some urban problems and environmental challenges they face.
Bellevue’s recent amendment wasn’t favored by all. Bellevue City Administrator Frank Warnock said the police and fire chiefs were against allowing them on the avenue at the June meeting due to safety concerns.
“The police chief said no, don’t do it. The fire chief said no, don’t do it,” Warnock said. “Their interest is public safety, and they don’t want to see people get hurt on Fairfield Avenue.”
On the other hand, Fischer said at the July 12 meeting that he understood the safety concerns but said when he thinks about Bellevue, it is multimodal.
“We end up with this type of ordinance preferencing the dangerous vehicles and disallowing the less dangerous vehicles on the avenue,” Fischer said. “We have bicycles; we have motorcycles; we have pedestrians; we have scooters, all of these under this type of thinking we wouldn’t allow on the avenue because they’re not as safe as a Ford F-150.”
Over in Boone County, Ridgell said that there may be isolated incidents with golf cart users, but “as far as glaring issues of them being a nuisance, or being a problem in my experience and traveling through some of these subdivisions, their operators are keenly aware of their surroundings.”