M-185: The Only US Highway Where Motor Vehicles Are Banned

Sep 28, 2015 1 comments

Highway M-185 in the U.S. state of Michigan, is the safest road in America because it is the only state highway in the nation where motor vehicles are banned. The restriction dates back to 1898, and since the ban, just a handful of vehicles have driven on the asphalt, other than the city's emergency vehicles. M-185 is peculiar for another reason — it leads to nowhere, because it’s circular and lies entirely on an island. And because it lies entirely on an island, it doesn’t connect to any other highways. No wonder, the M-185 isn’t listed on the National Highway System, which is an index of strategic highways and roads within the US that’s important to the country's economy, defense, and mobility. But one does wonder, why M-185 is called a highway at all?


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M-185 became a highway in 1933. It encircles Mackinac Island, a popular tourist destination on the Lake Huron side of the Straits of Mackinac, running along the island's shoreline between the water's edge and woodlands outside of the downtown area. It’s a narrow paved road 12.8 km long, and narrower than other state highways. It’s very popular among cyclists because of the great views it offers of the straits that divide the Upper and the Lower peninsulas of Michigan and Lakes Huron. Over half a million people is said to travel along this highway each year, unless someone counted the same heads going around in a circle, over and over again.

Being a circular highway, M-185 has no specific termini. The generally accepted starting point is at the mile 0 marker placed in front of the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor Center. Starting from there, wooden markers appear at each mile.

The island banned all motorized vehicles by an ordinance passed in 1898, after residents complained that a doctor's car scared their horses and caused carriage accidents. Since then traffic is limited to foot, on horses, by horse-drawn vehicles, or by bicycles only. Until 2005, the unfortunate incident involving the doctor’s car was the only automobile accident in the history of the highway. Even the one that occurred in 2005 was a minor one —while maneuvering around a parked ambulance, a fire truck hit the open door of the ambulance causing a small damage. Frankly, that shouldn’t count as an accident.

A few times motor vehicles were allowed to be used on the road. Once in 1979, while filming Somewhere in Time, and another time in 1998 to commemorate the original ordinance that prohibited cars from Mackinac Island. A 1901 Geneva steam-powered car toured the island and was exhibited in Marquette Park before being towed by horse back to British Landing.

M-185 has been called the “best scenic drive” by some publications and one of the “great places to get your feet back on the ground".


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  1. I've actually just read about Singapore banning cars and all sorts of vehicles from its central business district a few days a month or something like that for activities to go on in the streets. It sounds like a very interesting initiative and I’m wondering if more countries should start doing something like it in different places of the city.


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