FREDERIKA --- Golf carts are making their way from the fairways to public roadways, with a little push from government and a lot from the motoring public's nascent attraction to battery-powered vehicles.
Local governments now are making it easier for residents to putt around in golf carts with new ordinances in place that open their streets to buggies that are powered either by battery packs or small gasoline engines.
That certainly works for Orville Duecker, a retired pharmacist and World War II veteran who uses a golf cart to run his errands around Frederika.
"I've been doing it for a couple of years," I guess, said Duecker, who has relied on a cart for health reasons. "I'd rather be able to walk."
It's becoming clear that many people wouldn't rather walk. And, they'd rather not drive their cars, either.
"It's everywhere around us," Craig Dunlap, owner of Dysart-based Young's Golf Cars Inc. said of the new trend in local transportation. "There's a lot of towns where you can now drive golf carts all over inside the city limits."
Indeed, small towns around the Cedar Valley are moving in that direction.
Dunlap said a visitor to Dysart can get a feel for the popularity of golf carts by dropping by the local cafe early most mornings or during the lunch hour.
"You'll see as many golf carts around as cars," Dunlap said.
The city of Reinbeck passed an ordinance last year allowing use of golf carts inside the city limits.
"We didn't have much usage last summer, but this year I think I have eight signed up," said Quentin Mayberry, city administrator in Reinbeck.
A permit is required, as are proof of insurance and a valid drivers license, Mayberry said, adding that carts have to carry a "Slow Moving Vehicle" warning sign and bright-orange warning flag. Drivers can't take carts on highways, which, in Reinbeck's case, precludes driving one to the local golf club.
Mayberry said Reinbeck's ordinance is inspired by Ely, near Cedar Rapids. But he also said Reinbeck was following the lead of other small towns whose residents see the practicality of running to the post office, the local grocery store or cafe without having to burn gasoline in the family car or truck.
"It's always brought up because of conservation," Mayberry said.
Dunlap, who has been selling golf carts for 25 years, said Tuesday he had sold 160 carts so far this year. Full-year total sales at his dealership have been in the 250-270 range the last six or seven years, he said. He sells both electric and gas-powered carts, but the overwhelming majority are electric.
"I sell 4 to 1, electric to gas, for golf.
A cart can be had for as little as $1,000, although options --- some have DVD players, custom wheels and even heaters --- can push the price up to $8,000 or $9,000.
Tax credits for the electric-powered vehicles have been credited for having fueled sales, as buyers can earn a credit of 10 percent of the purchase price. Last year, the credit was 50 percent.
The surge that the small, electric-powered carts have enjoyed has led to the evolution of carts that are built primarily for transportation outside golf courses.
Rudy Busch, who has been selling carts at Denver-based Rudy's Sales & Service for 49 years, said he now sells "Neighborhood Electric Vehicles," in addition to standard golf carts.
"About 50 percent of what we sell were designed for golf but now are made for other uses," he said. "They use them for everything; they're made to run wherever you want to go. They're used to go to the store, the post office, on the farm and for transportation."
Visitors at the Two Cylinder Expo at the National Cattle Congress, which began Thursday were apt to see plenty of the little runabouts.
"They'll rent some for transportation there because people come in and are older and can't get around very well," Busch said. "It's not like a four-wheeler, which are made for one person and are dangerous. You can put a rear seat in the back and haul four to six people."
Of course, there's always an age-old use: golf.
"In Vinton, the course is in town, so a lot of people there drive their carts to the course," Dunlap said. "Dike is another place where a lot of people drive straight from garage to the course."