More about shoulders; this time golf carts.

cartTracksSunCity
Sample “excessively wide” road in Sun City, AZ. This is Boswell Blvd, somewhere south of Bell Rd. You can clearly see the golf cart “tracks” in the shoulder.

There is an interesting bill floating around in the state legislature, HB2027 (see
bill-tracker to follow this and other bills of interest)

Direct link to HB2027 — golf carts allowed to use shoulder. For much more about shoulder usage, see shoulder-use.

The first odd thing is the bill is written so it only applies to age restricted communities in unincorporated areas of counties less than 3 million population.(phew! Translation: Sun City, Sun City West, etc).

The genesis of the bill became pretty clear by listening to the House Trans Committee hearing 1/23/2014 (online video). Now that it has passed, you can see the effects of HB2027 in three laws:

  • 28-721 Driving on the right side of the roadway
  • 28-723 Overtaking a vehicle on the left, and
  • 28-777 Golf carts and NEVs; vehicles turning right

This particular issue, as I learn, has been bubbling in the Sun City age-restricted community for a year or two, see e.g. newszap.com, and newszap.com for some background news coverage. Here is what i gleaned from the hearing

  • It is the common and accepted practice that carts drive on the shoulder.
  • In the beginning circa 1960, Del Web created wide roads  (several people actually called them “excessively wide”) in Sun City (and there were no edge lines at this time); and this was good. Golf carts drove to the right near the curb and faster traffic could simple and readily overtake. (note this is the beauty of the SMV Slow moving vehicle law, 28-721B, in action).
  • Several years ago due to complaints of “doubling up” in the “excessively wide” lanes (i.e. one car overtaking another car within the one wide lane) McDOT (Maricopa County DOT) decided to add an edge line (my guesstimates based on the pic above were they took one ~ 20′ lane and made it into a 13′ travel lane and 7′ shoulder). This from what i could gather happened “several years” ago; and this was good. People drove carts on the shoulder; and this was good. Everyone was happy, perhaps even happier than before.
  • Then, last year, Sheriff’s deputies (or perhaps one particular deputy) began to “conscientiously enforce the law”, and issued numerous citations to people driving a cart on the shoulder. No one mentioned what particular infraction; I would guess it was 28-721A “shall drive on the right half of the roadway” (the shoulder is not part of the roadway). And this was bad.
  • Tempers flared. Meetings were held. Cart drivers not wishing to be ticketed began to drive in the travel lane. Road Rage, horns, rude gestures from automobilists (sound familar?). Ad-hoc committees and study groups were formed; apparently Rep. Lesko (R-Peoria) was a key player.
  • McDOT says (claims?) their interpretation is cart drivers may drive on the shoulder (no further details). [though see what Mitch Wagner of MCDOT told me, below]   MCSO (Sheriff’s) representatives said the opposite. Hmmm, that sounds familiar.
  • NO ONE questioned or even brought up the clause in the bill that says cart drivers must yield to right-turning traffic. That is strange.
  • It was argued that the peculiar geographic restrictions makes sense — but I have my doubts. Supporters claims that only Sun City, et. al. has these “excessively wide” roads, and this wouldn’t work anywhere else in Arizona.
  • some lawmaker (i’m thinking it was committee chairwoman, Karen Fann?) said “oh, so this bill makes carts like bikes: then can move over to the right and let traffic pass if they want to be courteous?”; and the answer was: yes (from i believe Lesko). This was the only reference to bikes during the hearing that I remembered. Also of note Rep. Rick Gray of the trans committee was a long-term member of the board (or something) of one of the sun city HOA’s.

Why the present bill is bad

  1. Rules of the road should be consistent across the state. These are state laws. There are most certainly roads very similar to this outside of Sun City area (see pic below from Green Valley). If this is a good, safe idea — make it apply statewide, if not then it should not become law. The whole idea of making varying rules of the road; city-by-city is in my opinion ridiculous.
  2. The provision that makes the cart driver liable for any same-direction turning collision is bad (we call this a “right-hook” collision when it happens between a MV and bicycle). It alters normal rules of the road by placing (or, more accurately, allows them to be placed) thru traffic (the cart) to the right of right-turning traffic.
  3. What about other slow moving vehicles? Mopeds, which coincidentally travel at very similar speeds, come to mind.

———————–

Some more background and References

NEVs are restricted to roads with posted speed limits of no more than 35mph 28-966. Golf Carts do not appear to have any restrictions on posted speed limits of the road(! This isn’t well-understood, from what i heard at that hearing). Both are limited to operating speeds of not more than 25mph. In the case of Golf Carts that is baked into the definition in 28-101, they must be both “designed to be and is operated at not more than twenty-five miles per hour”.

This sign is in PIMA county. It is afaik an "illegal" sign (not appearing in MUTCD or az supplement).
This sign is in PIMA county. Green Valley, AZ. Photo: Mike Sanders

Column written (full text pasted below) by John Hauskins, P.E., Director of the Maricopa County
Dept of Trans (MCDOT) that was apparently published in The Independent. titles “No Such Thing as a Golf Cart Lane” unfortunately was non-technical and quoted no statute, but the gist if it is, referring to golfcarts and roads with shoulders: “… we do encourage slower moving vehicles to pull as far to the right as possible. On some roadways that means driving to the right of the solid line”. Note that this is dated 2008 and may not reflect current MCDOT thinking: I spoke with Mitch Wagner, Board Liaison at MCDOT on 2/13 and he explains that their position evolved somewhat to the point where they think that the law is simply unclear. So if that’s true, some of the testimony I listened to at the house trans committee meeting (Rep Lesko?) saying that MCDOT and MSCO are in polar disagreement isn’t correct.

McDOT has a good video (somebody also posted to youtube). It begins “what do dragons, unicorns, a free lunch and golf cart lanes have in common?… none of them exist”. The video, as expected from what was said above does suggest it’s ok to drive a cart on the shoulder, The video even gives some dimensions (i.e. 20 feet got divided down to 12 feet plus and 8 foot shoulder). They also say carts are restricted to 35mph roads but i can’t find statute support for that.

In a newer news story about the bill 2/21/2014 azcentral.com there was some emphasis on the idea that it (cart shoulder use) is a grey area (my emphasis); e.g. “Golf-cart operators are not allowed to drive on the shoulder … said Richard Bohan, director of government relations for Maricopa County. That said, ‘I think any reasonable person reading the (current) statute could have a different opinion,’ Bohan added.”

Why was this done?

Another thing I never understood, was this addition to 28-723, in bold:

28-723. Overtaking a vehicle on the left

The following rules govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction:

1. The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the vehicle at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle. Except as provided in section 28-903, the driver may overtake and pass a golf cart or neighborhood electric vehicle pursuant to this paragraph even if the driver’s vehicle shares a lane with the golf cart or neighborhood electric vehicle when the overtaking and passing occur  

As far as I know, there’s no prohibition in AZ on two vehicles “sharing” one lane. It’s odd, but there you have it. The normal rules of passing, given above, simply say it’s okay to pass to left so long as you leave adequate room; or a different one when passing on right refers to lines of traffic(“sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles”), not lanes (28-724)

So why was that new sentence added?

P.S. 28-903, referred to in the new/added sentence is a motorcycle-specific statute the both says a driver of another vehicle can’t pass a motorcycle in one lane, and vice versa. To put it another way: motorcyclists in AZ have a “right” to full lane use, but nobody else.

3 thoughts on “More about shoulders; this time golf carts.”

  1. here is the full text of the column (my emphasis added), pasted from http://www.porascw.org
    This is a monthly column is written by John Hauskins, P.E., Director of the Maricopa County Department of Transportation (MCDOT). Among the duties for that agency is maintaining the roadways in Sun City and Sun City West. Each month he will address topics of interest to the readers of the Independent newspapers.

    No Such Thing as a Golf Cart Lane
    In one simple way it’s very easy to talk about golf cart lanes in Sun City and Sun City West. Golf cart lanes do not exist on any roadway in Maricopa County. But the problem arises that many people think there are some, especially in the Sun Cities. Here is one reason for the misconception:
    When the Del Webb Corporation designed and built the communities, the plans had very wide and winding streets. The appeal was to people who wanted to get away from congested traffic.
    That design concept still appeals to many people, but it has developed some unintended consequences that probably could not have been foreseen in the late 50’s when the Webb people were making their original plans. (Keep in mind that back then Bell Road did not even go west far enough to connect with US60/Grand Avenue!)
    Many of the roads are approximately 40 feet wide. That means they’re too wide for one lane in each direction (12 feet is the standard), but not really wide enough for two. So, following a national standard, MCDOT puts a solid stripe 12 feet to the right of the centerline. This is to discourage motorists from trying to make an additional car lane and passing vehicles in the right. That would be very dangerous.
    However, many people interpret those lines as being specially made for golf carts.
    Though that is not correct we do encourage slower moving vehicles to pull as far to the right as possible. On some roadways that means driving to the right of the solid line. We need to examine whatis the purpose of those vehicles and that is reflected in their name. They are called golf carts because they were originally made for golfers to get around the course. Their original intent was not to be on major roadways.
    Many government bodies have determined that there are some areas where it is in the public interest for people to be able to take certain types of vehicles on some public roadways. (Usually these are in or near retirement communities.) We at MCDOT understand and agree.
    Generally, the rules are that these special vehicles must meet certain safety and operational standards, and it can’t go on any roadway where the posted speed limit is greater than 35 mph. This is for the safety of the driver and passengers of the carts as well as other motorists who drive much larger vehicles and may not see the smaller carts.
    When we explain the situation we’re often asked, “There are bicycle lanes, why not golf cart lanes?”
    The answer is that bicycles are not motorized vehicles and we want to keep them separate from the automobiles for safety reason. Golf carts on the roadway are motorized vehicles.
    The truth is there are no specialized lanes for any motorized vehicles. Once we start doing that, where would it end? Would we need special lanes for different sized cars and trucks? What would we do if the number of lanes decreased at some point along the route, and everything was suddenly mixed together again. The presence of such specialized lanes is confusing and almost certainly would lead to unsafe vehicle conflicts on the roadway.
    Safety on the roadways—for pedestrians, autos, cars, golf carts and trucks—is our primary concern and obligation. While some people think a special lane for golf carts is necessary, the truth is such a lane would cause many more problems than it would solve.
    And speaking of safety, I hope you wear your safety belt while your drive your cart.
    Thanks for your time and attention in reading this column. Please share your thoughts and concerns about our roadways in your area with the MCDOT Community Relations Manager, Roger Ball. You may e-mail him your comments at rogerball@mail.maricopa.gov and we will address them in future columns.
    11/12/2008 10:38 AM

  2. 8/13/2015 azcentral story
    9/10/2015 azcentral story
    Surprise did a road diet, reducing the number of general purpose travel lanes; by turning it into a special-purpose golf cart lane, and a bike lane. The speed limit was reduced from 45mph to 35mph.
    35mph is a magic number for LSV (low speed vehicles — i.e. golf carts and neighborhood electric vehicles). LSVs are not permitted on roads posted anything above 35mph.

    “We knew this was a weird project — but a ‘road diet’ was necessary to calm traffic,” said Mike Gent, public works director.
    … has caused consternation in the community since its introduction in late July, when a nearly 3-mile stretch of Bullard Avenue was restriped from Peoria Avenue to Greenway Road to make the section safer for pedestrians. Workers reduced the thoroughfare’s speed limit from 45 to 35 mph and removed two vehicle lanes while adding the golf-cart lane and a bike lane.

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