U.S. vice-pres Pence takes motorcade to car-free Michigan island

Mackinac Island's ban on motorized vehicles, enforced since 1898, was lifted last weekend during politician's visit

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As U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence left the Grand Hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island on Saturday after delivering a speech to a local GOP group there, the scene looked typical: a motorcade of black vehicles with tinted windows whisking the second-in-command away.

But for residents of Mackinac Island, it was a sight worthy of a double-take.

Motorized vehicles have been banned there since 1898, after carriage drivers complained that the sound of newfangled “horseless carriages” would scare their horses.

There are some exceptions: Emergency vehicles are always allowed, and construction vehicles can motor on the island with a permit. Motorized wheelchairs are permitted in accordance with the American Disabilities Act.

But electric bikes and scooters? Banned. (Some city-dwellers might say that is reason enough to visit.)

Vice President Mike Pence in an 8-vehicle motorcade on Mackinac Island, which has banned motorized vehicles for more than a century.

— Detroit Free Press (@freep)

Clearly some kind of exception was made for Pence’s visit. But that wasn’t the case in 1975, when President Gerald Ford stayed for a working vacation in July.

Like residents, Ford traveled by carriage to the Grand Hotel. He also made stops at a golf course, tennis club and, with first lady Betty Ford, to Sunday church services.

Some Secret Service agents followed alongside on foot, while others sat on benches on the backs of the larger carriages in the presidential horse-cade.

Ken Hafeli, a longtime archivist at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, wrote in a blog post that “not even the Secret Service could get the people of Mackinac Island to back down on their ban on motorized vehicles.”

That may not have been the case entirely, though. Dennis Cawthorne, a longtime resident of Mackinac Island, told the Detroit Free Press that when Ford visited, the Secret Service insisted on having at least one vehicle at the ready, in case of an emergency.

“It came over at night, and was moved very, very quickly in the dead of night to a state park garage,” Cawthorne told the Free Press.

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