Numerous reports, stories, and studies tout Portland, Oregon; Boulder, Colorado; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Davis, California; and other communities in the United States as the most bikeable or bike-friendly. What they often overlook is the one and only community in the country that since 1898 has prohibited all motor vehicles (except emergency vehicles, construction equipment, and snowmobiles in winter) and where everyone, yes everyone, gets around by bicycle, on foot, or by horse. I am referring to gorgeous Mackinac Island, Michigan.
The City of Mackinac Island is home to 492 year-round residents and as many as 15,000 thousand tourists per day during the peak travel and tourism season, Mackinac Island is a non-motorized transportation advocate’s ultimate paradise. So many people are riding on bicycles that your many concern is not running into one another or pedaling through one of the aromatic leftovers from passing horse-drawn carriages. Even the city’s manure collectors ride specially designed bicycles with turd dumpsters on the back of the bike.
It is also quite interesting and fun to see the hotel and ferry service personnel pedaling around the island with loads of luggage stacked on or behind their bicycles (see above). Given the steep grades (more than 300′ of elevation change) on the island just beyond Main Street, I don’t envy them one bit.
Mackinac Island is also home to America’s one and only state highway for non-motorized traffic; M-185 which circles the entire 3.8 square mile island along the coastline providing breathtaking views of the crystal-clear blue waters of Lake Huron and the nearby Mackinac Straits. It is the only state highway in the country where motor vehicles are prohibited. The closest comparison I have found to this marvelous 8.2 mile ride around Mackinac Island is Vancouver’s Stanley Park Seawall Trail in British Columbia.
So, the next time somebody claims their city is the most bikeable or walkable in the United States, please remind them that there are none even remotely close to Mackinac Island, Michigan – America’s original bicycling/non-motorized transportation paradise since 1898. Cheers!