Amish Customs: Transportation – Go by Car or by Horse and Buggy?

Mem slapped the reins, urging Don into a slow trot. The flaps on my bonnet blew gently in the breeze and the steel-rimmed buggy wheels crunched on the gravel. I looked out over the fields at the green grass of early summer, dotted with wildflowers. ~Liberating Lomie, page 68

The horse and buggy is an icon of Amish life, and it represents a slower-paced lifestyle. In warmer months, this mode of transportation can truly be a pleasure on back country roads where the traffic isn’t bite-your-nails scary. There are several scenes in Liberating Lomie that describe this experience.

In stricter communities, horse-drawn vehicles are always used for local transportation, while trains are used for long distances. However, in most communities, the Amish will hire their “English” neighbors to drive them to where they want to go, and pay the driver by the mile. They call these “taxis.” The most common way for men to travel to their workplace, especially those who are craftsmen working at various worksites, is to hire a taxi driver. For other weekday trips, it is often a personal decision whether to travel by car or by horse and buggy, though it is very much frowned upon to arrive at an Amish church service in a car. Church members are expected to walk or take a buggy to church. In some communities it is also acceptable to use bicycles for transportation.

In the Amish way of thinking, it’s different to ride in cars than to own them. One Amish man was asked why this was so, and he replied with this question: “When you take a plane, do you buy a ticket or the plane?” While this response may be humorous, it doesn’t answer the question. I don’t know of any Amish person who can answer this question definitively. I know I can’t.

Several years ago, David and I were traveling through Lancaster County when we saw an Amish man with a dog in his buggy. The horse was moving along at a good clip, and the dog’s fur was waving in the wind. It was quite funny. David and I turned back and waited at an intersection to take a photo, which is where this one came from. It looks like the dog is the driver.

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6 thoughts on “Amish Customs: Transportation – Go by Car or by Horse and Buggy?”

  1. Glad to be following your blog again, dear Saloma! We were cycling in Ohio recently & shared miles of the Little Miami Scenic trail with Amish buggies. On the roads and trails, we also saw a number of Amish and/or Mennonite women riding electric bikes, often pulling a baby trailer behind. This must be something new! While I think you’ve said that Mennonites are allowed use electric power, I wasn’t sure how an Amish family would charge an e-bike battery. But the families we saw seemed happy for the power-assist on the rolling hills of Holmes County.

    1. Candelin, it’s wonderful to see you here!

      Your trip sounds wonderful. It doesn’t surprise me that the Amish have electric bikes by now. The prestigious Amish (and there are quite a few of them in Holmes County) likely have solar panels to charge their e-batteries.

      There are Old Order Mennonites living here in the Shenandoah Valley, and they still drive horse and buggies. We don’t have a bike path in our area, though there are plans for one to go in near us, but as planned it will miss the Harrisonburg area. I was talking to someone the other day who was excited about the proposed bike path, and I told her I thought it should include going from Bridgwater/Dayton to Harrisonburg that could also include horse and buggies. Turns out she has the ear of a politician in the area who is responsible for getting the bike path approved. She said she would pass that along. I told her that if they want models of what has been done, they should check out those in Holmes County, Ohio, and northern Indiana.

      So glad to see you here, and I look forward to seeing you here again.

  2. Saloma, I am so behind on e-mails but finally got to read ur this blog. I love your photo!! It made me laugh. The little dog does look like he is doing the driving.
    I recently had a sweet surprise, I went to our local thrift store in the south hills of Pittsburgh with a friend of mine & what do I see, several Amish women, one with a little boy in tow. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The Amish settlement’s that I know of are at least 2 hours away from here. I left the store with my treasure of two glass pie dishes just as one was heading out in front of me. I watched to see where she went, curious as to how she got here. Back around the building was an old, tired looking white van that she was putting her bags into. So, they came by “ taxi”, but how the heck they knew about this place & how far they had to come I was to shy to ask, so that part of my story remains a mystery! I know from reading the Budget all these years the Amish like to frequent thrift stores so I guess where there’s a will there’s a way!!!

    1. Hey Pamela. So glad to see you here!

      I’m not at all surprised about you encountering an Amish family in your local thrift store. I’ve encountered a group of them in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and in Burlington, Vermont on their way to Nova Scotia.

      And most Amish are not the least bit picky about their “taxis.” A dilapidated van is standard fare, it seems.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

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