A proposal to allow golf carts on city streets in “specific shoreline neighborhoods in Norwalk” was unanimously opposed by the Norwalk Traffic Authority.
Fior Lostumbo, owner of Connecticut Custom Carts, a golf cart dealership based in Norwalk—along with consultant J. Kevin Smith, who made the presentation—proposed regulations that would have allowed golf carts on streets in neighborhoods such as Rowayton, Harbor Shores, Harbor View, Village Creek, Marvin Beach, and parts of East Norwalk.
“I do want to thank Mr. Smith for the presentation—I just feel that Norwalk is not ready for that because of the extra work that will be necessary,” Mayor Harry Rilling, who is a member of the Traffic Authority, said at the authority’s January 22 meeting.
A look at the proposal
The proposal first came before the Traffic Authority in December. At that meeting, Smith gave a presentation highlighting the proposed regulations and benefits of allowing golf carts. He said that “street legal golf carts are popular all over the country and provide tangible benefits for the people and communities where they’re legal.”
Eight communities in Connecticut have allowed golf carts to be used on public roadways, including New Fairfield, Stratford and Branford. Smith said that according to data from the Connecticut Crash Data Repository, there have only been eight golf cart accidents per year since 2015, when golf cart data was recorded separately.
Smith said that golf carts could allow for easier transportation for seniors or those who struggled to get around due to mobility issues.
“The social benefits of golf carts include helping build more engaged and accessible communities, enhancing Norwalk’s unique beach character, and being more eco-friendly and traffic calming than other personal transportation options,” Smith said.
The proposed regulations stated that “golf carts may be operated only on those roads depicted on the maps attached…golf carts may not be operated on roads where the posted speed limits are more than twenty-five (25) miles per hour…It is illegal to operate a golf cart on state roads.”
Concerns and challenges
Police Chief James Walsh highlighted multiple concerns that he had with the proposal, particularly due to Norwalk’s size. The largest community allowing golf carts in Connecticut was Stratford, which has about 51,000, compared to Norwalk’s more than 90,000 residents.
“The population density and the traffic density that is in Norwalk right now with gentrification and development that is going on, and we’re becoming a gem in southwestern Connecticut for our attractions, and especially in the past three to four years, we have seen a large increase in beach traffic on the weekends—you could probably bump up the population well over 100,000 in the city, based on its attractions,” Walsh said. “Our population density, our traffic density isn’t really conducive, in my opinion, to be introducing golf carts to city roads.”
Even though golf carts aren’t allowed on city roads, Walsh said that they’ve had problems with Connecticut Custom Carts since they started operations.
“The biggest issue is that this company started down in East Norwalk last year, and we have problems with them all summer long,” Walsh said. “After many discussions, after many stops, after many warnings, and many tickets people weren’t doing what they’re supposed to.”
Walsh said that he believed people who were “on the ground floor of this proposal were pushing golf carts out on Norwalk city roads without doing it the proper way.”
Smith pushed back in January saying that the “company is not aware” of these problems and that just four golf carts had been sold in Norwalk, with three replacing carts that customers already had.
Walsh said that “we’ve never had an issue before in East Norwalk until last summer.”
He cited multiple instances including companies delivering food on golf carts and people taking golf carts to events like the fireworks display.
“We are not East Lyme, we are not Old Saybrook,” Walsh said. “We are the City of Norwalk and we do have a lot of traffic and we have a lot of events going on, and I predict that this could be an issue.”
Jim Travers, head of the city’s Transportation, Mobility, and Parking department, also raised concerns about the proposal, noting that the City is working to try and make the streets safer for pedestrians and this would just be adding another vehicle pedestrians have to watch out for.
“What we hear from the community about walkability—in many of the areas that are outlined for golf cart uses are without a sidewalk today, so we’re adding another layer of mobility in there, that a pedestrian has to be on the lookout for,” he said. “I’d just be concerned with the number of modes of transportation we’re adding to the tighter roads.”
Kelly Prinz, formerly Kelly Kultys, is the founder of Coastal Connecticut Times.