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Michigan Senate bill would enforce an e-bike speed limit on Mackinac Island

Vacationers take on Market Street on Mackinac Island that is lined with shops and restaurants.
A new bill would set a speed limit as low as 10 miles per hour for electric bikes on Mackinac Island. (Alexey Stiop /
  • The Michigan Senate passed a bill that would set speed limits of 10 and 15 mph for electric bikes on Mackinac Island
  • Electric bikes are prohibited on the island except for people with a ‘mobility disability’
  • The bill proposes a $100 fine for those who violate the law

Mackinac Island is one of the few places in the U.S. where cars are prohibited. Electric bicycles, which are supposed to be limited to people with mobility challenges, have become common there, however, and critics say they’re going too fast.  

To help remedy the situation, The state Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would set speed limits as low as 10 miles per hour for electric bikes on the island. The bill passed on a bipartisan vote.


The bill now moves to the House, where it has been referred to the Committee on Transportation, Mobility and Infrastructure.


M-185 is a state highway that circles the island and according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency, it’s the only one in the country where motor vehicles aren’t allowed. Instead, people walk, bike, and travel by horse on the highway. Unlike city streets, local law enforcement can’t enact a speed limit on M-185 since it’s a state highway.

Sen. John Damoose, R-Harbor Springs, sponsored the bill. “Ideally the leaders on Mackinac Island would have been able to set their own speed limit like they can on other of the roads there,” Damoose told Bridge.

“But because of how the laws are written, it can only be changed for M-185 in Lansing. So we took their recommendations and put it into a statute that they can live with.

“Since this is an actual Michigan highway, the default speed limit on parts of this road is actually 55 mph. That was not much of an issue until the advent of e-bikes, some of which can travel in excess of 30 mph, which is way too fast for a narrow road shared by horses, walkers, kids on bikes with training wheels and regular cyclists.”

Damoose said he is hopeful that the bill will pass the House and become law before summer as the small island of just 500 residents prepares for millions of tourists.  

Many residents and business owners have expressed concerns to local lawmakers that the high-speed electric bikes could cause accidents. 

While electric bikes are generally banned, there are exceptions for people who have mobility issues or a limited ability to pedal a bike, as outlined in the Mackinac Island Code of Ordinances.


Class 1 and 2 electric bikes can reach speeds up to 20 miles per hour and Class 3 bikes can reach up to 28 miles per hour. Only Class 1 e-bikes are allowed on the island, and only for those with mobility restrictions. 

“We've had several very serious e-bike accidents that caused life changing injuries,” said Mackinac Island police chief Doug Topolski. “There's no way we can keep all the pedestrians out of the street, it's just unrealistic. We've seen  conflicts between or near misses with e-bikes and pedestrians all the time, and regular bikes too.” 

He said the department doesn't keep data on the number of crashes involving bicycles.

Under the bill, violators could face civil fines of up to $100 for using electric bikes that exceed the speed limit. The money generated from these civil fines would support local and county libraries.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected April 18, 2024, because an earlier version contained quotes incorrectly attributed to state Sen. John Damoose and listed an incorrect current speed limit for M-185.

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