Saturday, September 1, 2012

Perfect bike/walk vacation found on Mackinac Island

by Michelle Stenzel

You can go to many cities and vacation spots nowadays and rent a bike or walk to your heart's content, including rural towns like Galena, Illinois, and big cities like New York City. But the problem is that the really safe routes on which to bike are limited, and you're often mixing it up with motorized traffic. 

But not on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Motor vehicles have been banned pretty much since they appeared on the scene, and so bicycling and walking are the main forms of individual human transport, along with horse-pulled carriages and carts for carrying larger loads. The result is a charming city well worth a visit. 

(Photo: Bike Walk Lincoln Park -- CC)
The main street is lined with Victorian-era hotels, shops, and lots of bikes. The bikes are parked along the side of the street, behind a white line. They're a mix of rental bikes, bikes brought onto the island by tourists, and the locals' bikes. 


No one locks their bikes up! I guess there's no shady flea market "used bike seller" on this island.

There are bike rental shops everywhere. This one was along the ferry dock, and it reminded me of the famed bike parking lot in Amsterdam, at the main train station:

Here's the view of Main Street from the third story of a hotel. It was so nice to hear how quiet the street was due to the lack of motors, even though they were bustling with people. It's like Bike the Drive, except every single day of the year, on the entire island:

It was fun to see people of all ages riding bikes for transportation in a completely safe environment, with no worries about fast-moving cars and trucks.

It was interesting that almost no one wears a helmet, even families with children who likely would never consider going helmetless back in their home towns. 

Bike corral? We don't need no stinkin' bike corral:

There's more to Mackinac than the port city: Most of the island is a heavily wooded state park. Riding the flat, eight-mile perimeter of the island is a very popular activity:

On the ride, visitors are rewarded with views of the Lake Huron waters, with man-made cairns dotting the edge:

Of course you've seen pictures of the famous Grand Hotel of Mackinac Island in movies and travel ads for Michigan:

Where else but on Bike Walk Lincoln Park will you see the less-famous but equally exciting bike parking lot for the Grand Hotel? I hadn't seen a permanent bike parking lot this big in the United States. Did I mention that the bikes aren't even locked up?!?

It was nice to see on Mackinac Island an example of how pleasant people-centered streets can be. I wish it weren't 400 miles from Chicago!