The Portland City Council on Monday passed more stringent rules for golf cart operators on Casco Bay Islands and opened additional mainland parking spaces for islanders – two measures that generally received support from the handful of Peaks Island residents in attendance.

As Peaks has become more popular for tourists, islanders have raised safety concerns about golf cart traffic on their streets. They shared stories of drunken wedding guests speeding around the island and parents driving with children on their laps. Golf carts have been permitted on the islands for decades, but residents say accidents have resulted in property damage and even injury.

The new rules require all golf cart operators to have driver’s licenses and prohibit anyone from standing in a moving golf cart or riding in the lap of a golf cart driver or passenger. While the changes were generally well received and passed unanimously, there was some concern they would be difficult to enforce. One resident suggested a moratorium on golf carts to phase them out of the islands, and another asked the police department to be more proactive in penalizing rule breakers.

“With these changes I think comes a responsibility of the police department that they are able to make sure that we are as much as possible in compliance,” Peaks Island resident Timmi Sellers said. “If these new rules go on the book, take steps to enforce it.”

Under the previous ordinance, golf cart operators are required to be over age 21 or have a valid license. The new version does not include an age restriction, but all operators must be licensed. It also stipulates that headlights must shine 200 feet ahead of golf carts in order to operate at night, and the carts must have added reflectors.

All golf carts on Peaks, Cliff and Great Diamond islands are already required to be registered with the city and display a sticker, and records show 255 registered golf carts on all three islands. However, residents say many carts are unregistered. Golf carts also are already required to have horns, safety flags and “slow vehicle” markings, but many do not.

Two companies now lease golf carts for hourly or long-term rentals on Peaks, and representatives from both businesses spoke at Monday’s City Council meeting. Both noted their businesses generally follow the requirements of the updated ordinance already, and they said carts from private properties are more often the sources of the island’s problems.

“When we rent a golf cart, we spend anywhere from five to 10 minutes explaining how the golf cart works, going through all the safety and making folks understand that they have legal requirements,” said Mike Sylvester, owner of Mike’s Carts. “We chase a lot of folks who aren’t in our carts off the road because it gives a bad name to all of us.”

The speed limit for golf carts will increase from 10 mph to 20 mph to conform with the posted speed limit on island roads. The speed limit near the island school would be 15 mph. Few golf carts have speedometers, however, so it is unclear how operators could follow the speed limit.

Robert O’Brien, manager of Peaks Island Golf Carts, said golf carts typically can’t drive as fast as 20 mph, and he worried the increase might encourage others on the road to speed.

“Everyone out there is thinking, we can go faster now,” O’Brien said.

Lisa Penalver, chairwoman of the Peaks Island Council, credited the golf cart rental companies for educating their customers on safe practices, but said an update was still needed for all operators.

“We need to have guidelines, even if we can’t always enforce them,” Penalver said.

The City Council also asked the Sustainability and Transportation Committee to study the issue of parking for islanders on the mainland near the ferry. In the meantime, the City Council on Monday opened 30 spots on Fore Street as a short-term solution.

Island residents have said competition is fierce for only 55 designated spaces on the mainland near the Ocean Gateway terminal, and they want more spots to be designated for their use.

“We have to be mindful of this need of islanders to get to and from their residences and their appointments and their workplaces,” City Councilor Belinda Ray said.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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