Bicycles in Amish Country

Those who have read my book, Bonnet Strings, know how much I longed to ride a bicycle when I was in my early twenties. I knew that some other Amish communities allowed them, and I wished so much that they would change that rule of the Ordnung. But they didn't. We lived with the double standard that we could only ride bicycles when we were on trips, but not at home.

It never once occurred to me that if the bishops of the community were to lift the ban on bicyles, there would be issues of safety on the roads in our area.

This is exactly what happened in Daviess County, Kentucky, and in Daviess County, Indiana. Believe me, I checked and these reports really are coming from two different states, both in Daviess County. I thought for certain I was mistaking this until I did a thorough check on which states each story was reporting from.

Update: The verdict is in from several of you and I think now that it's true: This must be the same story, and this is really only happening in Indiana. I just cannot figure out why it was published in Kentucky.

So allowing bicyles into an Amish community has unintended consequences I never thought of. It is different for those Amish communities who have been allowing them, because youngsters learn to ride when they are children, and they learn road safety (hopefully) before they go out on the road with their bicyles. When there is an influx of new riders who are not yet stable on their bikes taking to the roads, it can definitely cause safety issues.

Sometimes if one community starts something new, others will follow. This could mean there will be more communities allowing bicyles in the future. I hope they will learn from these first ones to have someone teach their young people bicyle safety before allowing them out on busy public roads.

I wonder what unintended consequences there would be if the Amish suddenly allowed their young people an education beyond the eighth grade?

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17 thoughts on “Bicycles in Amish Country”

  1. Hello Saloma, You are correct about stability and safety when riding a bicycle. I begged my husband to get my bicycle out of the shed and check the tires so I could begin riding again. Well the saying “as easy as riding a bicycle” is not so…if you haven’t done it for 23 years, yes that’s right 23 years. I am lucky to have less traveled roads in my neighborhood to practice. Not so much in the Amish areas where traffic is heavier with all of the visitors. Add to that the fact that many visitors do not know the roads they are traveling. I live fairly close to Holmes County Ohio, if you have ever been there you know there are MANY hills and curves. Frankly I am not sure how some of the bicycle riders have the stamina to navigate these roads.

    Thank You for your post!

    1. Hello Jewels. I know what you mean about riding a bike — I got on one after not riding for years, and it took some getting used to.

      Yes, I have been to Holmes County, and you are absolutely right, there are a lot of hills and curves to navigate. I suppose these bike riders have nerves of steel, after they’ve ridden in buggies. And they don’t wear helmets… that is also not good.

      Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you have a good weekend.

  2. Interesting, I didn’t know there is a Daviess County in Kentucky. I tried to find out with Google what kind of Amish live here. I can’t find a clue.

    1. I also could not figure it out. I was wondering if it was the Munfordville Amish, but I’m not thinking it is. I find it all very confusing, actually. Sometimes I wonder if this was a repeat of a story from Indiana. But then why would a local paper in Kentucky report on this story? It’s odd.

  3. Could it be Mays Lick? But on the other hand Mays Lick is not a large settlement. None of those Amish in Kentucky are large settlements, at least not in comparison to Indiana and Ohio.

    1. I don’t know the communities in Kentucky well at all, so I am not familiar with Mays Lick. I think the community in Munfordville is growing… in 2013 they had 14 church districts and my guess is that they have more now.

    1. I know what you mean. It’s hard to make a case for safety when people believe that our whole lives — when we are born, what we do in our lives, and when we die — was planned for us before we were even born. This fatalistic viewpoint is common among Amish people.

      There has to be a happy medium between this way of thinking and the risk-averse mainstream way of thinking. Have you ever felt like insurance companies dominate too many aspects of your life? I have.

  4. Saloma, I really think this is the same story. The same quotation from the same person ends both stories, and Daviess County Commissioner Nathan Gabhart and Daviess County Chief Deputy Gary Allison are quoted in both stories. It seems like maybe Sarah Barth of just cut down Mike Grant’s story and mislabeled Indiana as Kentucky? In fact, I followed the link in the story, and it took me straight to the story. So strange! I think maybe the writer needs to pay a little more attention when reading/editing…


  5. This makes me think of an observation from neighboring PA. As you know, bicycles are also forbidden in Lancaster, but there are these little 3-wheel scooters that you stand on to ride which are allowed and very popular. It’s interesting because you can have someone kick-scootering along while staring at their phone and not paying attention to the road. I see it often! You also have a wide range of Old Order Mennonites who are allowed to ride bicycles but forbidden to have a smart phone. Maybe that last one is a food thing!

  6. Around here(Elkhart/Lagrange County, Northern Indiana) bicycles are a main form of transportation and recreation for the Amish. They love, as do a lot of us, to use the Pumpkinvine Bike Trail as a work conduit, and to enjoy family time on the weekends. They have their own bike shops, and have all sorts of spiffy bikes. On Sunday mornings as I drive to church I often pass as many as four Amish churches…so I’m dodging buggies, bikes, and walkers. Once I finally pass the church I can see a ton of bikes and buggies parked and the men standing in a line. However, the local Amish are starting to respond to local officials and public concern over safety. A number of them are now wearing the colorful safety vests, especially in Lagrange County. Even the buggies are sporting more lights, turn signals, etc. Shalom.

    1. Beth, thank you for your description of your area. I can just imagine it…

      We were never allowed bikes, so imagining an Amish church that not only allows bikes, but allows them to be ridden to church is not something I am used to.

      I am so glad the Amish are responding to public concerns over safety. Something definitely needs to be done… there are just too many fatalities in buggy/car accidents. It seems there are daily reports about these.

      I am also glad to know that the Amish in your area are sporting more lights, turning signals, etc. For Amish known to be as “liberal” as in Northern Indiana, it never made sense to me why their buggies are so hard to see at night. In my home community (much stricter), you can see a buggy from a mile away on a straight road. They have blinking lights, taillights, the buggy is all outlined in reflective tape… if people can’t see those buggies, then there is something wrong with their eyesight!

      Thank you, Beth, for your comments.

  7. A question on an old story: I’m a cyclist in eastern Indiana who is encountering more buggies on the road where I’m riding these days. Do you have advice about road safety for cyclists meeting or passing buggies? I have bright colors and flashing lights on my bike, and it must be a strange and possibly scary thing for horses. I would hate to frighten a horse and cause an accident.

    Both bikes and buggies are slow moving and unexpected by drivers, and in any accident, it’s the people on the bikes or in the buggies who get hurt, so we need to look out for one another. And of course the horses are always a pure delight!

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