When Amish Horse and Buggies Share the Road with Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Sometimes we discover something just at the right time to give us that “AHA!” moment. This happened the day after I wrote that last blog post. I was reading the book Nature and the Environment in Amish Life by David McConnell and Marilyn Loveless. I’ve mentioned their study in an earlier post. I will be coming back to more about their book in a later post, but today I’m focusing on one aspect of it.

You know that idea of buggies sharing trails with bikes and pedestrians? It’s already being done. I could not believe my eyes when I turned the page in the book to a photo of an Amish buggy traveling through a beautiful wooded area with a cyclists up ahead. The authors write about a bike path in Holmes County, Ohio, that is being shared with buggies, and another one in northern Indiana. These two trails ways came about quite differently. There was cooperation between the Amish and the local government to build the one in Holmes County. An Amish bishop was on the Rails to Trails Coalition, “which paved the way, literally and figuratively, for a fifteen-mile trail from Fredericksburg to Killbuck.” (Page 205) This byway includes an asphalt lane for cyclists and a chip-and-seal lane for horse and buggies. I had to look up what chip-and-seal is. It’s the process of pouring liquid asphalt, followed by pouring gravel and then compressing it, as apposed to having the asphalt already mixed and applying it to a surface.

The Amish embraced the idea of the trail as an alternative to the busy Route 83. The trail has become a recreational magnet for the Amish and those in the mainstream culture. An Amish man is quoted as saying, “Initially we wanted it to get to town, but we’ve come to love it for Sundays and it’s where the girls got (buggy) driver’s ed.”

The other byway shared between horse and buggies and cyclists/pedestrians in northern Indiana was pushed on the Amish, who were initially unwilling to buy into this plan. The steering committee, which had no Amish members on it, sued the Amish and other land owners to have the right to build the path. The authors write:

Many landowners who where initially skeptical, however, have warmed to the plan. Amish-run bicycle shops and other businesses have even sprung up along the trail, and while it does not end at Walmart, the Dairy Queen right off the trail in Middlebury did so much business after the trail was completed that it embarked on a major expansion. (Page 206)

Imagine my surprise in discovering this a day after I wrote that last post. How very cool.

I wish I could share the photo with you, but of course I don’t have the rights to it. So I substitute with one I took in the Amish settlement near Cashton, Wisconsin. This is a good example of how buggies can get lost in “dips” when the road is hilly. You can barely see the top of a buggy several hills from the one in the foreground. If you are driving a car, you may not see a horse and buggy on a road with dips and rises until you come over the top of a rise.

I mentioned the combined trails to a friend yesterday, and she said such a trail has been discussed here in the Shenandoah Valley for the Old Order Mennonites. Apparently there was concern that the cyclists would spook the horses. That sounds like an excuse to me because the Old Order Mennonites use bicycles. So the horses on the roads would be used to them, along with the huge tractors that they drive, and then there is car and truck traffic on their roads as well. Horses have to be traffic safe before they can be used on public roads. I wonder where the resistance is coming from? There is quite a strong group of activists in Harrisonburg who are advocating for more bike trails for the area. Perhaps it would be good to present these two examples to them.

So it’s been fun sharing my discovery with you all. Let me know what you think.

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17 thoughts on “When Amish Horse and Buggies Share the Road with Bicyclists and Pedestrians”

  1. I live in Holmes County where this trail is that you wrote about.It is very nice for the Amish to have this trail and it is also nice for others that want to go biking or even to go walking.In the summertime it can be very busy on the trail.What’s nice for the Amish is that this trail comes up right close to the local Walmart.

    1. Thank you, Eileen, for your comments. That sounds so cool.

      I’ve wondered… do the Amish clean up after their horses? If not, is that a problem for others using the trail? I know this has been a problem on the roads in other areas of the country, and I’ve wondered if this is an issue?

      Thank you again for your input.

      1. The bike trail in Middlefield gets clean up by Al Miller, who rides the trail on his motorized scooter. I don’t know if he literally picks up the manure or just pushes it off the trail, being he is disabled due to polio as a young child.

        1. Katie, I had no idea there is such a trail in Middlefield. I’ll definitely need to check that out next time I go to the area.

          I know who Al Miller is. He was a bit older than I am, but he lived in Burton Station, a church district away from us.

  2. Denise Ann Shea

    Some of what I see driving the highway on my commute to work can be scary! There are bike/walking trails where I live that used to be old, abandoned railroad tracks. The trains are gone, but now people are using them for walking & riding. I think if there are similar abandoned tracks in areas where there Amish communities, this could be a great solution and save many lives.

    1. Denise, there are abandoned railroad tracks all across this country. And it seems this has been done in my home community, according to Katie Troyer’s comment above.

      Yes, this would be so much safer for the Amish than traveling on those busy highways in their horse and buggies.

  3. It’s awesome that this has already come to be in two areas. I cant believe you were just suggesting this as a possible way to make the Amish safer!! Great minds Saloma!!!!! I think the idea is such a good one. Change can be slow in coming some times but with these two apparent successes it would be great to see this coming into play in other communities. I would think a lot of lives could be saved. I need to get a copy of David and Marilyn’s book. Sounds like an interesting read.

  4. Saloma..hope you are doing good. I have completed your first book and now on the second one. Every night I read at least 10-15 pages before I go to bed.
    I bought these books directly from you and that’s mean a lot with your signature on it.
    I should say that I can visualize each and every explanation of your writing while reading this book. I am in love of this 2nd one ” bonnet string”. As I already told you that I am curious and interested in Amish way of living, I am cherishing your writing. I also visited Amish country of PA several times. There I only found peace and calmness (of course from tourist’s point of view :)), but without reading your books I’d not be able to know the actual life of Amish -their hardship, community rules, church complexity. etc. Thanks a lot for your writing . Hope we will get more good writing from you very soon.
    My hobby is photography so I took several landscape photos from Lancaster PA and my favorite one is the buggy going or coming from a distance through the hilly roads.
    Stay healthy happy. Wish you, David and your family a beautiful Christmas and happy prosperous new year 2019 ahead.

  5. Sonia, thank you for your kind words. Glad you’re enjoying Bonnet Strings. These kinds of comments from readers are music to an author’s ears. I am touched, so thank you for letting me know.

    I would love to see your photography. Do you have a website or blog? Please share it here if so.

    Wishing you and your family Happy Holidays as well.

  6. Even here in the city of Sarasota, they are completing the Rails to Trails from Venice to downtown Sarasota. Once it is finished the bikers in this area can bike downtown without going on any major streets.

  7. Pingback: About Amish | A Trip Down Memory Lane in Amish Country

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