Besides growing our food locally (slowing interstate truck transport waaaay down), what if we all let go of our cars and got back on our bikes? Remember how we used to tear around town as kids? Our lives would feel cleaner, quieter, healthier, more egalitarian, with gobs of opportunities to stop and say hello. Oh, and maybe one pickup truck, per neighborhood, to haul stuff. Zip cars for those unusual necessary trips. Public transport otherwise . . . Or maybe revert all the way back, to horse-drawn conveyances. Forget the infernal combustion machine altogether.
I always figured that the reason small towns were spaced about 12-15 miles apart was because that’s about a half-day horseback ride.
by Jeff Potter
Bike culture has recently been booming in the U.S. But there’s a little place in the north that’s been in love with bikes for generations: Mackinac Island, Michigan, a historic tourist destination on the Straits of Mackinac, between Lakes Michigan and Huron. Because motor vehicles have been banned here since 1898 — more than 100 years — everyone has used bikes for everything a bike can be used for, and for more than you might imagine. Along with multi-season commuting, it’s a place where everyone socializes on bikes, from teens to guys in sports coats.
[Bikes here] come in dozens of brands, spanning the eras…they’re built for comfort. Nearly all have a big front basket, upright handlebars, full metal fenders, a kickstand, and a big seat.
Headlight use isn’t comon, but it’s making slow inroads along with handlebar bells. Islanders enjoy their night sky and navigating by treeline and moonlight…Hardly anyone wears a helmet…Islanders just seem to realize that the safe, human scale of bikes outweighs the need for such extra gear. If helmets worked for them they’d be hanging from every handlebar.
“Copenhagen Bicycle Chic became popular a few years ago, yet generations of Islanders have known that bikes are a part of fashion, part of looking good. Sport coats and dresses – check.”
Photo credit: The Graphic
The air is cleaner and injuries are fewer. 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.
Photo Credit: Michelle Stenzel
Photo credit: Glamorous Housewife
Excerpted from Mackinac Island: “Watch the Bike!”, by Jeff Potter. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.