Drive Carts, Not Cars

There are very few car thefts in Peachtree City, Ga. There are, however, more than a few cart thefts. This planned town 25 miles south of Atlanta has 90 miles of golf-cart paths and 9,000 registered carts, one for every four of its 36,000 residents. About two-thirds of the households own at least one. Kids drive them to school (no driver’s license is required for a cart). Seniors who’ve given up their cars drive their carts to the doctor and to go shopping. And of the 80 motor vehicles reported stolen last year, 72 were golf carts, which sell new from about $5,000 at the three Peachtree City cart-sales shops; used carts run about $2,000.

The city’s asphalt cart paths form an alternative network to the roads they sometimes parallel or go under or over. But more than that, they tie together this town of many subdivisions in a sort of road-less-traveled utopia where life proceeds, gently, in the slow lane.

Grocery shopping in style. Brian Finke

“Getting on a golf cart and going to the grocery store or a restaurant, you’re not in this big rush,” Mayor Harold Logsdon says. “You’re traveling along at 15 or 20 miles an hour through the path system. It just kind of slows things down, which is a good thing.”

Peachtree City happens to have three golf courses, where golf carts are seldom rented because players bring their own. The newer shopping centers all have parking spaces reserved for golf carts. And the high school has 200 golf-cart spaces for students — not nearly enough, as it turns out.

For the Not-So-Fast Lane: Student parking at the high school. Brian Finke

The interstitial trail network has grown with the town, which consisted of four villages when it was founded in 1959. As new subdivisions sprout, homeowners demand links to the trails. Adjacent towns have also begun to build paths that connect to those of Peachtree City, where a favorite cart destination is a concert at the city’s amphitheater.

“It’s kind of a way of life here,” says Steven Rosen, a real estate agent whose home is a block away from a golf-cart trail. “It makes it more of a community. You’re not living in a subdivision on your own. You’re living in a subdivision connected to another subdivision connected to another subdivision.”

The golf carts also offer a greener life. They save on gas, since almost all of them are electric, as well as reducing noise and air pollution. A 2005 study calls Peachtree City “An American Prototopia: Or, Peachtree City as an Inadvertent, Sustainable Solution to Urban Sprawl.” This portentous-sounding study was done by a couple of London academics. With gas prices now over $3 a gallon, and in some places $4, could this be the future?

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