Are e-bikes allowed on Mackinac Island?

Published on November 17th, 2021

In a word, no. E-bikes are not allowed on Mackinac Island.

But there is an exception: Visitors with a qualifying “mobility disability” may operate Class 1 electric bicycles on Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island city ordinance defines “mobility disability” and spells out the specifications for permitted e-bikes. So that you don’t have to wade through all the legalese, here’s the gist:Mackinac Island has electric bicycles or e-bikes available for rent or you can bring your own on the ferry.

  • Under Mackinac Island city code dealing with e-bikes, a mobility disability means “a physical impairment that substantially limits the ability of the individual to pedal a bicycle.” As an example, the ordinance states that a person who can’t walk 200 feet without stopping to rest or who can’t walk without the aid of an assistive device has a mobility disability. Likewise, certain respiratory, cardiac, arthritic, neurological and orthopedic health conditions also are considered mobility disabilities.

 

  • A Class 1 electric bicycle is a two-wheeled bicycle or three-wheeled tricycle. It has an electric motor of not more than 750 watts. The motor kicks in only when the rider is pedaling and stops once the bike reaches a speed of 20 miles per hour. If you have a qualifying mobility disability but do not have your own e-bike, then please check with one of the many bike vendors on Mackinac Island about renting an e-bike.

 

  • Class 2 electric bicycles with a motor that operates even when the rider is not pedaling and Class 3 electric bicycles that can exceed 20 miles per hour are not permitted on Mackinac Island. (If you already have a Class 2 or Class 3 electric bicycle, you still may be able to ride that vehicle on Mackinac Island by modifying it to meet Class 1 e-bike standards. You may be able to do that by removing the throttle, for example, or by reprogramming the e-bike’s computer so that it cannot exceed a speed of 20 miles per hour.)

RELATED: Get answers to more questions about e-bikes on Mackinac Island

You may wonder why Mackinac Island has such detailed e-bike rules. The goal is to preserve the charm of car-free Mackinac Island while still enabling people with mobility disabilities the chance to explore and enjoy Mackinac Island’s incredible natural beauty.

The terrain on Mackinac Island can be challenging. After all, the high bluffs are what attracted the British to move Fort Mackinac there in the first place! Establishing rules to allow e-bikes for the visitors who need them helps everyone experience the amazing sights and historic landmarks. At the same time, it protects the motor-free character that’s a big part of what has made Mackinac Island so special for more than 100 years.

The e-bike rules are the same within Mackinac Island State Park, which makes up more than 80 percent of Mackinac Island.Mackinac Island has thousands of bicycles on the streets including e-bikes which are permitted for some people.

If you have a qualifying “mobility disability” as defined by Mackinac Island city code, then you may ride a Class 1 electric bicycle on Mackinac Island. Otherwise, you can get around on car-free Mackinac Island via three other forms of transportation:

 

  • Mackinac Island by horse – Hail a horse-drawn taxi or enjoy a narrated horse-drawn carriage tour. You also can take the reins of a drive-it-yourself carriage or saddle up and ride horseback. Explore All Things Horses on Mackinac Island.Horse and carriage is a popular way of getting around Michigan's historic, car-free Mackinac Island.

 

  • Mackinac Island on foot – Mackinac Island is very walkable, particularly in town along the waterfront. Wheelchairs also are available. Explore By Foot on Mackinac Island.

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