Golf Cart

(Source: Adobe Stock)

At a Public Health and Safety Commission meeting before Ballwin’s Jan. 23 Board of Aldermen meeting, long-time Ballwin citizen Steve Mastin made a case for golf cart use within the city.

“We are here to lobby for the allowance of golf carts, electric bikes (e-bikes), and electric scooters. Of those aldermen with whom I’ve spoken, a few have admitted that you’ve seen golf cart use at subdivision parties to help shuffle various wares and people back and forth without incident,” Mastin said of he and his supporters. “Actually, Halloween of this year, we again used golf carts in our neighborhood without incident – just like we’ve done the past several years.”

As part of his talk, Mastin shared a chart showing that Manchester, Creve Coeur, Clarkson Valley, Kirkwood, Wentzville and O’Fallon allow golf carts and other small motorized vehicles on public streets with various conditions. 

One of the prime concerns was the use of such vehicles at night on Ballwin’s hilly roads, in its dark subdivisions and crossing busy streets. 

Both Alderman Michael Finley (Ward 1) and Mastin agreed that certain smaller motorized vehicles probably shouldn’t be allowed on streets with speed limits over 25 mph. But Mastin believes those vehicles should be allowed to cross other major thoroughfares like Holloway Road, to reach their final destinations.

“I would also agree with the stipulation that if you’re coming from Clear Meadows, which is in my subdivision, crossing Holloway by sidewalks or curbs is reasonable,” Mastin said. “Manchester is a whole different ball of wax than Holloway.” 

“But how do you foresee that happening at night?” Finley asked. “Holloway is what we refer to as a collector street with lots of traffic all hours of the day. Wouldn’t you concede that’s a dangerous situation with a golf cart trying to cross Holloway at night in the dark?” 

Mastin replied that golf carts crossing the street are just as reasonable as others turning left or right. 

Finley, citing that many Ballwin streets contain major elevation changes, hills and turns, asked Mastin, “Do you agree that a golf cart passenger could fall out of the cart if the driver took a turn too sharp?” 

“So can a motorcycle passenger,” Mastin said. “What’s preventing me from adding another chair to that, and using that? If the interpretation of the code in the city of Ballwin is that scooters are legal, this becomes a slippery legislative slope. If we’re not going to allow golf carts, but we’re going to allow e-bikes, what if I put a seat on the back of the e-bike? Now, it’s a two-seater e-bike that can go well over 20 mph down Holloway Road, and bikes are legal there.”

“Would you agree that golf carts need to be made road legal as far as having lights on the front, rear, have turn signals and some type of reflection to be seen better at night?” Alderman David Siegel (Ward 4) asked.  

Mastin said most of that would be reasonable, but turn signals could be a bit more complicated. He added that an e-bike rider traveling 40 mph is not as safe as someone going 15-20 mph in a golf cart.

“Golf carts, e-bikes and scooters all fall under this toy vehicle general thing the Missouri statute outlines,” Mastin replied. “If you do one, you have to do them all. That’s part of my argument from the legislative standpoint. I thought your suggestions (Siegel) that it has front and rear headlights are very reasonable, but driving up or down a hill? That’s life. We don’t live in a bubble, right? If you can go up and down a hill on a scooter, why not a golf cart?”  

“We’re here for safety, rule of law and what’s best for our citizens,” Ballwin Police Chief Schaeffler said. “What’s not safe for our citizens is the total disregard for current law, and just doing what you want. The laws are in place for a reason. I’m certainly against the use of golf carts on Halloween night when it’s the busiest night, when kids are walking around and the carts don’t have the safety measures that I would expect, including seat belts.”

Schaeffler added that most of the municipalities Mastin listed have legislated against golf carts, except for riding them in subdivisions. Those who have them make sure they can’t be driven on roads with speed limits in excess of 25 mph. Also, if you have to cross a road with higher speed limits, you have to do it at a crosswalk, he said.

“We should address golf carts and add them to an ordinance whether we decide yes or no, so it’s clear what we’re talking about,” Schaeffler said. "If you vote yes, I would expect they be treated just like a motor vehicle with headlights, brake lights, rearview mirrors, seat belts for everybody and child booster seats to make it as safe as possible because that’s what we’re looking for.”

Eureka Police Chief Mike Wiegand noted his city passed an ordinance in 2019 allowing golf carts. He said a lot of newer golf carts have safety measures, and legislation can be passed requiring them to meet Ballwin’s standards.

He added that they made a checklist of all the things required and had their Public Works Department inspect all golf carts. Residents are required to have a sticker on their windshield. Wiegand thought the city would be inundated with golf cart-related issues, but they’ve had very few problems, he said.

“When we see people with small children on their laps, we tell them to go home, get their car seat, strap them in and when they come back, we hand them a copy of the ordinance that shows what’s required. It was an educational campaign the first year or so, but it worked. We do have procedures in place, and if you don’t follow them, you get a ticket. Also, you can’t drive on state roads.”

Alderman Kevin Roach (Ward 2) later added, “I’m open to discussing this further and exploring the liability and any caveats or restrictions, keeping in mind that even after we explore all that, maybe we can come up with something where we can accommodate. I’d like to give the fairness issue a little more time.”

The committee chose not to take any action at this time.