The Village of Chase a Guinea Pig for a New Provincial Plan
By Martha Wickett
Chase, B.C. – Some smaller, softer wheels will soon be plying the streets of Chase. Come June 5, Chase will be the only town in B.C. where golf carts will travel on its roads in the company of cars and trucks, with provincial and municipal government blessing.
Back in August 2016, the provincial government announced it was going to go ahead with a pilot project in Chase and in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island.
“This project will improve the daily lives of people in small communities,” said Transportation Minister Todd Stone at the time. “This is not for everyone and not for every community, but for a community like Chase, it makes good sense for their citizens. I look forward to the increased use of low-emission vehicles as we work towards our greenhouse-gas reduction goals and aim to increase accessibility in B.C.”
However, the pilots weren’t without roadblocks. Qualicum Beach decided not to go ahead. The town’s chief administrative officer, Daniel Sailland, says a lot of people felt the layout of the town wasn’t favorable for putting golf carts on the road.
“Based on citizen reactions, we opted out. We decided there was no point proceeding if people weren’t going to use it.” He said the intent was to get people into the downtown core, but that wasn’t going to be easily achieved because the most direct routes had higher-speed roads to navigate.
Instead, he explained, the town is looking at bike lanes and connector trails and paths, and the province supported a new bus loop.
Chase’s pilot project was not without obstacles either. Drivers of more conventional vehicles in the village were not thrilled with the initial idea of having to adhere to 30 km/h a little under 20 mph) speed limits in town to match the pace of the carts.
“We were supposed to get it up and running last September,” said Joni Heinrich, the chief administrative officer for Chase. “The way it was set up, we had a lot of pushback from the community. The province had said, everybody and their dog, whether a golf cart or not, had to go 30 km/h. Council said, hold the phone, we’re getting some feedback from the community. Put it on hold till spring.”
The province then agreed to change the regulation, she said, so other drivers have to slow down to 30 km/h when they see a golf cart.
The project is scheduled to last two years, but, says Heinrich, “we’ll try it this year, see how it goes, and if it works out we’ll just say it’s not a pilot anymore.”
Chase passed a bylaw earlier this month approving the use of golf carts, so potential drivers on Chase roads need to get a $25 permit from the village office as well as insurance from ICBC.
The bylaw doesn’t permit golf carts on Chase streets after Nov. 15, or if there’s snow, ice or slush on the roads. They are restricted from driving on a couple of roads, such as the entrances to town. They also can’t be on the roads up to a half hour before dawn and a half hour after dusk.
As for modifications, the golf carts have to be souped-up a little. They’ll need seat belts, a horn, lights, signals and a rear-view mirror.
Heinrich doesn’t expect Chase roads to be overrun with the carts, at least not at first. “I suspect when it’s in place, we’ll see two or three around, per day, and then see more and more and more. I think it’s going to be cool. I hope everybody can kind of harmonize on the roads.” ❂