GOLF CARS IN THE NEWS – March/April 2017

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Booth STEM Students Refurbish Golf Carts • Disabled Man Fighting Town’s Golf Cart Ban • Golf Cart Cabs Could Soon Be Operating in Birmingham

Booth STEM Students Refurbish Golf Carts

Students get real-life experience.

By Monroe Roark on February 8, 2017

In Peachtree City, it would be hard to find anything that fits the bill better than the repair and maintenance of a golf cart. After all, nearly every family has one and probably every student in the program rides in one regularly.

Nearly 50 students under Bingel’s direction have spent the past few months working on two donated golf carts, with the help of John Stern from John’s Golf Cart Service as well as a contribution from Foxy Wrap, Inc., another local business. These eighth-graders have nearly finished completely refurbishing the vehicles, with the intent of selling them and putting all of the money straight back into the STEM program.

One of the main focuses for Jason Bingel’s eighth-grade STEM students (science, technology, engineering, math) at J.C. Booth Middle School is to give students real-world problems and let them come up with solutions.

Work began in earnest sometime in October, Bingel said, with each class concentrating on a single vehicle. From there the classes were divided into groups of 5-6 students each to work on specific areas – aesthetics, mechanical, electrical, and even the marketing of the finished products and the budgeting of the process.

This project is not the single focus of the class. There are periods where they wait on parts and other necessary items, so students also work on robotics and other activities. Bingel supervises the students with the top priority being their safety during the work. But he doesn’t tell them specifically what to do or how to troubleshoot.

“They go in and figure out what the problems are, then they come up with the solutions,” he said. “I review the solution to see if they came up with the right one.”

If he doesn’t know the answer, he reaches out to Stern, who will typically speak to him about it or communicate with the students directly. Stern has spent about 30 hours during the school year helping the students, according to Bingel. “We couldn’t have done this without him.”

Foxy Wrap came through when it was decided to wrap one of the golf carts instead of painting it. The company provided the actual wrap material as well as instructions on how to do it.

“They did it at no charge,” said Bingel. “They said don’t worry about it. They really enjoyed coming in and helping the kids.”

As for the actual inner workings of the golf carts, the students have done everything from replacing headlights to upgrading shock absorbers and overall body repair. The workspace is a gallery at the school directly behind Bingel’s classroom. He is one of three STEM teachers at Booth, the others being Sally Heintz and Dr. Kathleen Lanman. Both have been involved in the process, Bingel said.

Work on one cart was completed last month and the other is expected to be done by the time this appears. Stern will pick them up in his trailer and take them to his own shop for a full inspection before they are put up for sale.

Bingel found the golf cart to be an ideal subject for a class project because of its familiarity to Peachtree City students and its overall level of difficulty. “It’s simpler and cheaper than something like a car,” he said. “We got all of the parts donated as well as the carts themselves so we didn’t have any upfront costs associated with that.”

Unlike some classes that are required for students who may not even be interested in them, students must apply and be accepted into the STEM program, so those who are there have the interest and the drive to complete the tasks assigned to them. “We don’t have to try to engage them,” said Bingel. “They already have that built into them.”

Disabled Man Fighting Town’s Golf Cart Ban

He is also running for city council, but the Election Committee dropped him from the ballot.

By Patrick Martin, Patch Staff on February 6, 2017

Photo by Patrick Martin

Andrew Graham is a big guy. The burly former truck driver is 6-foot-4, but he was 3 inches taller a few years ago.

A work physical in 2009 revealed that Graham had Ankylosing spondylitis, a rare bone disorder that causes vertebrae to fuse together. Graham was 33 and had twin 3-year-old sons when he was diagnosed. Doctors told him would be disabled and wouldn’t be able to work.

“It was very scary. We didn’t know what we would do. I had worked my whole life,” Graham said. “And I loved my job. Driving a truck for a living was a wonderful thing.”

He cannot turn his head. His spine is fused and curved forward, giving him a permanent stoop. Graham sits in a chair when he plays catch with his sons. There is no cure for Ankylosing spondylitis.

“It’s only going to get worse, and it’s incredibly painful,” he said.

Graham is in constant pain. Staying in one position for long periods makes it worse, so he only sleeps for three to four hours at a time. “My doctor says I’m 39 going on 65,” Graham said. He has prescriptions for painkillers, but he rarely takes them due to the grogginess they induce and the impact on his liver.

Graham took his condition in stride and did what he could to remain an active member of his community in Yorkville. He is a stay-at-home dad and he regularly watches his neighbor’s kids.

“Andy is someone we’ve come to count on,” neighbor Tabby Miller said. She occasionally works late and asks Graham to pick up her sixth grader, Bella, from the bus stop. “She’s really not old enough to go home by herself.”

“He is a great, responsible guy who cares about the kids,” Miller said. She also noted that Graham refuses to take money for caring for the neighborhood children.

Since walking is difficult for him, Graham bought an electric Yamaha golf cart to get around. Getting in and out of a car is difficult for him, and it’s much easier for Graham to get into a golf cart.Graham used his golf cart to bring his twin sons to their school bus stop, and sometimes he would give the neighborhood kids rides just for fun.

On Aug. 9, 2016, Graham was watching five kids, including his two sons, and giving them rides on his golf cart in a grassy area behind his house. Graham and his neighbors take turns mowing this city-owned land.

A police officer responding to a complaint cited Graham for using an off-road vehicle on public property. Illinois state law prohibits golf carts from roads, but there is no limit to using them on municipal property. A judge dismissed the citation in Kendall County Court in October 2016. Graham then met with Yorkville Police to make sure he wouldn’t be cited again. He argued that the Americans with Disabilities Act allows him to use a golf cart as a mobility device. “Where a normal person can walk, you can’t restrict someone in a mobility device,” Graham said.

The city didn’t agree.

“Park walkways and thoroughfares cannot be deemed to be safe to pedestrians, runners and bikers when competing with a motorized vehicle much greater in size and weighing as much as 1000 pounds,” City Attorney Kathleen Field Orr wrote in a letter to the city administrator.

In late January, the Yorkville City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting golf carts, all-terrain vehicles and other off-road vehicles from being used on public roads, sidewalks, bike paths, parkways and city property.

“We realized that the current loophole in the code that would allow someone in a golf cart to drive back and forth across the City Hall front lawn should be closed,” City Administrator Bart Olson said in a memo.

“I’m not using my golf cart to go to Starbucks. I’m using it to get around my neighborhood,” Graham said. He said that he understands the city’s concern about the safety of golf carts on sidewalks. Given the low pedestrian traffic in his neighborhood, he said the city should make an exception for a “tax-paying, law-abiding citizen who is permanently disabled.”

“It doesn’t seem like they’re concerned with residents anymore,” Graham said. He said the city council is more concerned about bringing in businesses and industry, and “not what the people actually want.”

Graham filed a formal discrimination complaint with the Department of Justice over the golf cart ordinance.

“There’s way bigger issues to be tackling than an ordinance against golf carts that people ride in their neighborhoods,”

Graham said. He cited undeveloped commercial lots and a failing groundwater supply as more important problems the city could address.

The citation inspired Graham to run for an open seat on the city council. He collected signatures and turned in the required paperwork.

The Yorkville Election Committee ruled that Andrew’s two-sheet nominating petition was invalid because it didn’t have page numbers. There was only one other candidate for that office.

“I can understand if I had 350 pages and I didn’t number them, or if I missed a number here or there,” Graham said. “But we’re talking about two pages.”

Page numbers are required to “preclude any attempts to alter the submission of the candidate,” Kathleen Orr, the Yorkville city attorney, said in an email.

Graham plans on running for the city council as a write-in candidate, but notes that now he’ll have to slowly walk door to door to campaign.

“I’m not giving up, I’m just new to politics,” Graham said.

Golf Cart Cabs Could Soon Be Operating in Birmingham

By Erin Edgemon on February 07, 2017

The Birmingham City Council is considering an ordinance to allow low-speed golf cart cab companies, such as Joyride, to operate in the Magic City.

Under the proposed amendment to the city’s licensing and regulations of taxicabs and vehicles for hire, low-speed vehicle services would be allowed to operate on city roadways where the speed limit is under 35 miles per hour.

After a brief discussion, during its regular meeting on Tuesday, the council deferred action on the ordinance for four weeks due to a number of concerns about how these on-demand services would operate. Councilors also said a public hearing should be held before passage is considered.

“This worries me a little bit, Councilor Valerie Abbott said, during the discussion. “A golf-cart type vehicle isn’t a safe vehicle.”

Joyride currently operates such cities as Tuscaloosa, Nashville, Knoxville, Tenn., Panama City Beach and Tallahassee Birmingham’s draft ordinance was based on the one adopted by the city of Tuscaloosa, according to the law department.

Joyride is currently the only low-speed transit service that has expressed interest in operating in the Magic City, according to the city law department.

Councilor Jay Roberson said he knows there’s a demand for this type of service in Birmingham, but he expressed concerns about the golf carts not having their own designated lanes of travel.

A draft of the ordinance states the low-speed vehicles have to have seatbelts for all passengers, not operate in excess of 25 miles per hour and only travel on roadways approved by the city traffic engineer.

Any fare charged by the low-speed vehicle service should be on a per person, per ride basis and be clearly posted, according to the ordinance.

According to Joyride’s website, Joyride is a point-to-point transportation and touring service that uses low-speed vehicles. Rides in the designated service area are based off gratuity, but drivers set prices to designations outside service areas based on current demand.

A Joyride representative couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.