Can you imagine what it would be like if there weren’t noisy cars everywhere spewing out smelly exhaust? Sounds nice, right? Well, apparently, there is a place that is just like that, and even located within the US — Mackinac Island, located in Lake Huron, has been car-free since all the way back in 1898.
While most people nowadays are used to the presence of cars — and all the noise and pollution that accompanies them — when they first came on the scene more than a hundred years ago, there was actually quite a lot of opposition to them. They were even completely banned within some cities/towns. Over time, of course, priorities have shifted and those in power have relaxed the restrictions, but not everywhere.
Mackinac Island — located offshore of mainland Michigan, in Lake Huron — never rescinded the ban on automobiles, or as one resident at the time called them, “mechanical monsters.” The residents at the time apparently objected to the noise and exhaust — in short, they wanted a cleaner, healthier, quieter environment. Pretty easy to relate to, no?
While the city now serves primarily just as a vacation spot during the summer months, it does give us a glimpse into what life would be like if gas-powered automobiles were completely phased out and replaced with bicycles, electric vehicles, or some other option — and it certainly seems nice….
“The air is cleaner and injuries are fewer,” writes Jeff Potter, of Bikede. “Island residents are healthier due to the exercise. There’s a cherished egalitarianism: everyone gets around the same way. They also save a tremendous amount of money that would normally go to commuting by cars.”
Although the small island is home to only around 500 people, in the summer, that number swells to 15,000 during tourism season; aside from a couple of emergency vehicles, there’s nary a car to be seen. Transportation on Mackinac is limited to walking, horse-drawn carriages, and bicycling — a pleasant departure from the car-centric society that exists beyond its borders.
Still, getting around on the island is a breeze. Mackinac is home to the nation’s only carless highway, the M-185, offering easy access to its 8.3 miles of coastline, uncluttered by parking lots or gas stations.
Visitors to the island have described the experience as like going back in time to a bygone era, one before the constant din of traffic and vehicle exhaust became a part of daily life in America.
But more than just being a remnant of the past, perhaps Mackinac Island offers instead a glimpse of an alternate history, diverted from our own more than a century ago — before the mechanical monsters had us so thoroughly tamed.
Sounds like a big improvement to me….
I’m disappointed to say that I actually hadn’t heard of Mackinac Island until only very recently — and now I can hardly stop myself from heading there right now.
Have any of our readers been there before? Any thoughts?