Michigan’s Mackinac Island is a historic community of strong traditions. It’s best known for its Victorian cottages, fudge shops — and a firm ban on driving.
Although residents can receive a temporary vehicle permit, and the police own at least one vehicle, residents and visitors traverse Mackinac on bicycles, snowmobiles or on foot. The only sitting President to visit the island, Gerald Ford, traveled by horse-drawn carriage.
Now, Vice President Mike Pence is under fire for traveling in what might be the first motorcade in the island’s history. This weekend Pence traveled via SUV, and was reportedly accompanied by seven other vehicles, to the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference.
Vice President Mike Pence leaves the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island Saturday in an eight-vehicle motorcade — the island’s first ever. pic.twitter.com/p0IgewX09K
— Paul Egan (@paulegan4) September 21, 2019
The vehicle ban has been in place on the island for about 121 years.
A ferry service that provides transportation to the island, Shepler’s Ferry, tweeted photos of its boat transporting the Vice President’s vehicles.
It was our honor to transport the @VP’s emergency vehicles to Mackinac Island this weekend. Regardless of your political views, we hope you’ll understand the logistical intricacies involved in securing our leaders while visiting. We were happy to assist. ⛴🙌🏽🇺🇸 #RideSheplers pic.twitter.com/yqYrrrHhrn
— Shepler's Ferry (@sheplersferry) September 22, 2019
While some wrote on social media that the community was honored to host the Vice President, others characterized Pence’s mode of transportation as disrespectful.
“For those not from MI, you should understand what a huge transgression this is. Our #MackinacIsland has been a car-free haven forever, a piece of history frozen in time. Tell anyone from MI @VP just drove not 1 but 8 CARS on this island & watch their blood boil,” wrote Julia Pulver, a former Michigan State Senate Candidate, on Twitter.
For those not from MI, you should understand what a huge transgression this is.
Our #MackinacIsland has been a car free haven forever, a piece of history frozen in time. Tell anyone from MI @VP just drove not 1 but 8 CARS on this island & watch their blood boil. #PureMichigan https://t.co/cjfXcygdzO
— Julia Pulver, RN (@VotePulver) September 22, 2019
For those unfamiliar with Mackinac Island, this is what it looks like every day of the year. No cars allowed. pic.twitter.com/lc0xLGEecn
— Michelle K Stenzel (@MichelleStenzel) September 21, 2019
Mark Brewer, the former chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, called the decision “disrespectful” and “unnecessary” on Twitter.
— Mark Brewer (@MarkBrewerDems) September 21, 2019
Others pointed out that the Secret Service had likely decided to keep Pence inside the vehicle to ensure that the Vice President was safe.
“Being from Michigan, the idea of cars on Mackinac Island makes me wince. But, I do recognize security issues like this may require them. Is there another way? Thoughts?” wrote journalist Alicia Rancilio.
Being from Michigan, the idea of cars on Mackinac Island makes me wince. But, I do recognize security issues like this may require them. Is there another way? Thoughts? https://t.co/tgAFI0VAuM
— Alicia Rancilio (@aliciar) September 22, 2019
The island’s village council banned all “horseless carriages” within the confines of Mackinac Island village on July 6 1898 due to concerns they would scare their horses.
The Mackinac Island State Park Commission adopted their own ban in 1901 after a “summer cottager” named Earl C. Anthony brought a vehicle onto the island. While the vehicle was driving in the park, a few horses were spooked and injured and several carriages were damaged.