There is an interesting bill floating around in the state legislature, HB2027 (see
bill-tracker to follow this and other bills of interest)
The first odd thing is the bill is written so it only applies to age restricted communities in unincorporated areas of counties more than 3 million population.(phew! Translation: Sun City, Sun City West, etc. It also, come to think of it, applies to Sun Lakes.).
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
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.