At the September meeting of the Captiva Community Panel, panel administrator Ken Gooderham announced that the new golf cart ordinance was officially approved by the state and will soon be enforced.
The new ordinance requires anyone who operates a golf cart to be age 16 or over and have a valid driver's license and also states that carts operating the cart at night - which has now been approved for the village - must be fully equipped with lights, seatbelts and turn signals.
Captivan Sherrill Sims says she's delighted with the new golf cart ordinance.
A golf cart sign near South Seas Island Resort lists rules and regulations as they pertain to those operating golf carts on Captiva.
"I actually have an NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) which I purchased two-and-a-half years ago and adore! It has probably cut my automobile gas consumption in half, if not more," Sims said.
Sims is a real estate agent and says that nothing illustrates the island lifestyle better than looking at properties from a golf cart.
"The difference between an NEV and a golf cart is speed - the NEV goes about 25 miles per hour - equipment, such as safety belts and the NEV is street-legal (insured and licensed). The NEV can go anywhere the speed limits are posted at 35 miles per hour or less," Sims said.
Attention: Captiva golf cart users
The golf cart ordinance approved by Lee County commissioners in June has been processed by the state and is now in effect. What does this mean to you?
As before, golf carts can be operated on county roadways in areas designated by the county Department of Transportation (DOT) - which continues to be in the Village area from Wiles Drive North to the end of Captiva Drive.
Golf cart operators must be licensed drivers, with a valid license from their home state or country.
Carts cannot exceed a maximum of 20 miles per hour
In addition, it was decided that golf carts may be operated after sunset within the existing cart zone, a ruling that will be implemented this month once appropriate signs have been posted. This will have an additional effect on cart users:
As mandated by the new ordinance, any carts operated at night must be equipped with headlights, brake lights, turn signals and windshields.
Licensed drivers of carts at night, under age 17, must be accompanied by a licensed driver over age 21 between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless they are driving directly to or from work.
Licensed drivers of carts at night who are age 17 must be accompanied by a licensed driver over age 21 between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. unless they are driving directly to or from work.
Any time of day or night, golf cart drivers are encouraged to do the following:
Operate your cart in the traffic lane, not on the safety shoulder, unless you are pulling over to let traffic go by. The shoulders are for bike and pedestrian traffic - not carts.
Don't overload your cart with passengers (or, don't carry more people than you have seats for), and ensure that passengers ride safe and secure in your cart.
Naturally, operate your cart wisely, obeying all the rules of the road and common courtesies.
The Lee County Sheriff's Office will phase in enforcement of the new rules to allow cart users and renters time to get aquatinted with the new requirements, but they will enforce the rules now that they are officially on the books.
So get ahead of the curve and be sure your carts and operators are up to speed with these new regulations - and let's be careful out there!
SOURCE: Captiva Community Panel
But Sims is also pleased with the ordinance because it requires drivers to be licensed.
"The main reason I am glad we now have a golf cart ordinance is the age restriction on the drivers. We who live year-round on Captiva have all seen extremely young children driving carts throughout our neighborhoods and hold our breaths watching what could happen. We have also seen too many people piled into carts. We now have laws 'on the books' which can be enforced," she said.
"The nighttime driving does not appear to be a problem. Parking is easier, there are no gas fumes, you see so much more of the Island from a cart as opposed to a car and it is just a ton of fun! For those opposed, they are welcome to take my cart for a spin, feel the rays of the sun and the tickle of the island breezes and I promise you, they will change their minds," Sims said.
Harry Silverglide, a Captiva resident, avid golf cart driver and member of the Captiva Community panel says that he is also pleased that the ordinance was finally approved.
"Besides being environmentally friendly, golf carts and low speed vehicles help solve a few other issues for Captiva, like helping to reduce parking issues as well as keeping unlicensed, less skilled drivers off of the road," Silverglide said.
The next golf cart issue to be explored is the possible extension of the golf cart zone down to 'Tween Waters Inn on Captiva Drive.
"I'm very much in favor of it. Harry Campbell (of the Lee County Department of Transportation) and the Lee traffic study found it to be safe and prudent," Silverglide said.
At a previous community panel meeting, Campbell said that LCDOT had examined what the potential impact of extending daytime and nighttime operations down to 'Tween Waters would be and, depending on where the cart is, the delay created by golf carts sharing the road with cars would amount to an additional one to two minutes, which Campbell concluded was not a significant delay.
"Extending drive time by one to two minutes if the golf cart does not pull over seems a very small price for the benefit of easy movement between 'Tween Waters and the village," Silverglide said.
"I really don't understand why Captivans would not be in favor of golf cart use on all of Captiva. If golf cart drivers were taught how to pull over and let car and truck traffic pass, there would be no issue.
"If you don't have a few extra minutes, Captiva may not be the place or lifestyle you are looking for. I always thought that was the point of living in or visiting paradise," Silverglide concluded.
Residents who are concerned with extending the golf cart zone are encouraged to attend panel meetings to make their opinions heard. The panel will meet again on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 9 a.m. in the Wakefield Room at 'Tween Waters Inn, 15951 Captiva Drive.