The Place Where Cars Are Banned!

 while it’s true that highways are tit’s also important to remember that life is a highway, and that life is unpredictable—which means that by the transitive property, highways are unpredictable, which may explain how we ended up with the strange, confusing, charmingly bizarre Michigan road that is M-185: the only highway in America where cars are completely banned.

Now, you may be wondering, “why would a highway ban cars? Aren’t cars the whole reason highways exist—for cars to drive on them? While most highways go to scary places, like hell or the danger zone, M-185 goes around beautiful Mackinac Island, a 4.4 square mile, or 11.3 square kilometer island in Lake Huron that looks like the kind of charming, picturesque small town community that would be rocked to its core by a grisly murder in a Stephen King novel. 

Mackinac Island has many attractions for tourists of all kinds: if you’re into sports, you can check out their famed golf course, if you like culture, you can visit their renowned art exhibits, and if you’re afraid of the inevitable takeover of mankind by machines, you can enjoy the island’s total ban on cars, which has been in place for over 100 years.

You see, back in 1898, the good people of Mackinac became terrified of a strange new-fangled invention called the automobile—so scared, in fact, that they passed a city ordinance declaring, “ that the running of horseless carriages be prohibited within the limits of the village of Mackinac.” It’s the kind of law that’s funny because it was clearly written in a different, less enlightened era, like the laws that prohibit buying booze on Sundays, or the Second Amendmn. Anyways, after Mackinac Village outlawed those dastardly horseless carriages, they probably thought that would be that—but then in 1900, a law-defying rapscallion named Earl C Anthony brought his Locomobile onto the island, and while driving in Mackinac State Park, he ended up scaring several horses, which was particularly a problem because those horses were attached to carriages, and those carriages had people in them, and people in carriages don’t like crashing into things, which is what tends to happen when the horses they’re attached to get scared. So, in 1901, the Mackinac Islands State Park Commission passed a separate law, which banned all cars from Mackinac Park—which takes up over 80% of the island. Seeing as the other 20% is taken up by the village, which had banned automobiles three years prior, that meant that… let me do the math here… eighty plus twenty, carry the one, add five, subtract five, divide by three, multiply by six, divide by two…that meant 100% of the island had banned cars. Yet, despite this ban, from 1900 to 1910, the state of Michigan began building a road on the island, with the intention of helping people get around using other modes of transportation that were popular at the time—carriage, horseback, foot, even those stupid giant bicycles. 

In fact, the road was intentionally built more narrow than traditional highways, because the state didn’t intend for cars to drive on it, but you didn’t click on this article to hear why there’s a road without cars; you clicked on it to learn why there’s a highway without cars.

Well, that or you fell asleep an hour ago and your computer is autoplaying articles—which is found by me; The point you’re probably wondering is, “why is this road a highway, instead of just a regular old road?” Well, simply put, it’s a highway because the state of Michigan says so. Highways don’t actually have to meet any sort of technical requirements in order to be highways; they just have to be designated as such by the state government, and in 1933, the state of Michigan designated that road as a state highway, which means that it is. Despite the ban, though, there have been a few instances of cars on the island.

In 1979, Mackinac Island was the filming location for a movie called Somewhere in Time, in which Christopher Reeves—the first actor to portray Superman—plays a man who falls in love with a woman based solely on an old photograph of her—so basically, it was a movie about Tinder. In the film, Reeves travels back in time to court the woman, and at one point his character drives an old-timey car, and so a car was allowed on the island for him to drive it, because you know, it’s hard to say no to Superman. Just ask Batman. The next automobile allowed on the island came in 1998, when a car was allowed onto Mackinac in order to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the automobile ban—which, you have to admit, is a bit ironic. That’s like commemorating the anniversary of the drug war by planting weed in the Rose Garden. 


Most recently, in 2019, Vice President Mike Pence brought a motorcade onto the island for security reasons, and finally, emergency vehicles have always been allowed on the island—in fact, they were the source of the only ever car crash in the history of Mackinac Island, which came when the fire truck nicked the door of the ambulance when they were both responding to an injured ferryboat passenger. 

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