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Langley council OKs golf carts on Langley streets

LANGLEY — The Village by the Sea is getting on the bandwagon.

The bandwagon, in this case, is a tricked-out golf cart.

The Langley City Council gave its initial and unanimous approval Wednesday to a new “golf cart zone” that would allow licensed drivers to use the electric-motored vehicles on city streets.

The city is joining a growing list of places that have made golf carts street-legal. Earlier this month, Coupeville approved a golf cart zone, and town officials expect to see golf carts on local streets in February after signs are put up warning automobile drivers. The cities of Arlington, Mill Creek, Cheney, Liberty Lake, La Conner and Orting have also passed legislation creating golf cart zones.

Under the new rules, golf cart jockeys would need to upgrade the typical golf cart to make it street-worthy in Langley.

The carts need lights, turn signals and a safety flag on a five-foot pole.

Also needed: an annual license from the city. Cost: $30.

Jeff Arango, the city’s planning chief, said carts couldn’t be used in bike lanes, or on city sidewalks.

“They would be restricted to just where regular vehicles could operate and subject to the same rules of the road,” he said.

Golf cart drivers would also need a valid driver’s license. Gasoline-powered golf carts would be prohibited.

Mayor Larry Kwarsick said state law allows golf carts on city streets with 25 mph speed limits or less, but Langley would require additional safety requirements — including a safety flag on a pole — so drivers in other vehicles could easily spot an approaching golf cart on the city’s busier streets.

“We want to make sure somebody has better visibility. Golf carts aren’t exactly the largest vehicles in the world,” he said.

Kwarsick said golf carts — especially those made to carry more than two people — could provide a more convenient connection between the marina and the business district, and may come in handy when transporting visitors from cruise ships at the marina to the downtown.

Councilwoman Rene Neff noted that business owners had asked the city to allow golf carts in Langley, and added that it’s long been an idea for shuttling people between downtown and the marina.

“The hotels down there have all expressed interest in having a golf cart option,” Neff said.

Any time the city can encourage people not to drive cars in Langley is a good idea, she said, and using a golf cart for short excursions — getting groceries, for example — makes sense.

“I really like the idea of an option of not having to drive a car a short distance,” Neff said.

Though some in the audience at this week’s council meeting said they were concerned that Langley wasn’t an appropriate place for golf carts tooling about, city officials said they didn’t expect the village to be overrun with carts.

“I know safety is a concern,” said Councilman Jim Sundberg.

But he added that other non-gasoline-powered modes of travel were more dangerous to an aging population.

“As some of us get older we’re not able to ride a bicycle very safely. I include myself in that group,” Sundberg said.

“For many people this would be a safer alternative, a very low-energy alternative, to two wheels,” he said.

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