Too quick to say yes

Published 8:45 pm Monday, August 23, 2010

Anyone who has driven the narrow, winding streets of Eclipse cannot help but wonder about a recent decision by the Suffolk City Council to allow residents of that old community to drive golf carts on the neighborhood’s public roads.

The golf-cart fad has taken communities across the nation by storm. The reasoning behind them seems to be that golf carts provide easy, maneuverable transportation alternatives within a neighborhood, where driving cars from one house to another would be cumbersome and wasteful of natural resources. Golf carts, it is argued, are usually open-air vehicles, encouraging neighbors to interact with each other, rather than just passing by in the transparent, closed boxes most folks use to get to and from work.

There are a couple of ways to look at the fad. On the one hand, anything that moves America from the living room sofa and into the great outdoors has got to have at least some merit. Maybe while they’re outside, folks will, in fact, meet their neighbors and swap phone numbers, introduce their families, maybe share an idea or two on how to reduce violent crime among teens and young adults. There’s a wide world of experiences to be had and friends to be made in the real world.

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On the other hand, one wonders, what ever happened to walking around the neighborhood? If it’s safe enough to ride around in an open golf cart, it’s safe enough to walk through — and walking provides far more health benefits. One suspects that the neighborhood walk went the way of network television, surpassed by all the other options with their glitter and sparkle. Like golf carts, for example.

Considering the particular situation in Eclipse, however, there’s more than heart health at risk for those who choose to eschew the walk in favor of a jaunt in the golf cart. With narrow roads, sharp curves and steady traffic traveling above the speed limit, the streets in Eclipse are too dangerous for golf carts. So said a city traffic engineering study, at least, when it warned that accident statistics already show a bit of a safety problem in the community.

But City Council bowed to the wishes of a group of residents that clamored for golf-cart privileges on Eclipse roads. Last week, members agreed to give their approval to the request, noting that the permission could be withdrawn at any time.

It was, at best, a questionable call. Suffolk citizens can only hope that it doesn’t take the death of a child riding in a golf cart to show City Council the wisdom of that traffic study, which recommended denying the request. The city’s administration must watch the situation in Eclipse closely, ready to call on council to rescind that permission as soon as there’s a hint of safety trouble on the village’s streets.