E-bike Discrimination and Ableism

It is absolute coincidence that this situation occurred after my last post, E-bikes Are NOT Cheating. In my six years as a disabled individual, it is the first time that discrimination and ableism, in my opinion, hit me square between the eyes. I was quite pissed off and had to cool my heels before I wrote this editorial (see below). What is NOT in the editorial are certain other facts that I felt would not help my case. Mackinac Island is an anomaly when it comes to transportation, as no gas-powered vehicles are allowed on the island. All is done by horses and bikes. My OPMD (Other Power-driven Mobility Device) is my trike.

First, I saw three Class 2 bikes during my visit – one was a rider on a Lectric Trike throttling their way up the street without pedaling; the other two were parked. No one at either pier turns folks away if they have a Class 2. Instead, they have this sign at the mainland pier to “cover their asses.”

*Qualified persons with a mobility disability may bring and use a Class 1 (non-throttled) e-bike.

*No other class of e-bikes are allowed on the island.

*No throttled e-bikes, regardless of mobility issues(sic) are allowed on the island.

*No e-bikes with top assisted speeds over 20-mph allowed.

Second, because there is no one to enforce the ordinance before arriving on the island, if the police catch you on a Class 2, they will fine you $110 and impound the bike for $20. What a racket and extra money in the city’s coffers. (Hope they caught that person on the trike!)

Third, the town lawyer didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to call me herself; she had the chief of police call me and deny my right to ride. Spineless.

Here is my editorial:

My husband and I recently vacationed in the Upper Peninsula expressly to visit Mackinac Island and to tour the island by cycle. Upon researching ferries and costs, I came to realize that my recumbent trike would not be allowed. Generally, I am a rule follower; I called the Tourist Bureau, who led me to the police, who led me to the town clerk, who led me to the town lawyer. I asked for reasonable accommodation due to my qualified medical disability, but was denied, even with a letter of medical necessity by my doctor.

I am a left below-knee amputee with very little functioning muscle in my inner left thigh – it was removed due to infection. Even with a prosthesis, I walk 100% of the time with crutches. My recumbent trike is my OPMD (other power-driven mobility device, as defined by the ADA); I do not use a wheelchair. It was suggested that I rent a scooter, but I am an avid adaptive cyclist and had no desire to scoot. I enjoy the recreation and the exercise of my trike. (Would a scooter battery even last the 8-mile loop?)

I understand that bicycle speed can be a problem; however, many locals told me that most of the offenders are bicycle liveries. Makes sense – the more deliveries they make, the more tip money they receive; that is their livelihood. If that is the case, I fail to understand why the council is not addressing them specifically. Instead, a blanket ordinance was installed that does not make any exceptions whatsoever.

I ask the good citizens of Mackinac Island to appeal to your city council (September 6th and/or September 20 @ 4 pm) to either revisit the ordinance as it stands, or at the very least, to make exceptions when those exceptions are reasonable adaptations which let disabled people enjoy biking the island just as abled-bodied people do.

I also draw your attention to Bertrand V. Mackinac Island. Mr. Bertrand suffered from a form of MS that increasingly made riding a bicycle difficult due to both balance and strength issues. He sued for the right to have an e-assist tricycle for his OPMD, as a regular bicycle would be dangerous. He won the case and was allowed to use his e-assist on the island. I quote:

Cycling is an important part of the culture on Mackinac Island, which includes

not only transportation but also the enjoyment of a motor vehicle free environment.

Almost every resident of the island uses a cycle. Residents, and island visitors, use

cycles as a primary mode of transportation and for enjoyment of the provided

esthetic experience.                                                          


I was denied my right to use my OPMD as my primary mode of transportation for the enjoyment of the provided esthetic experience, for one day, for a few hours. The ordinance makes a sweeping generality that any disabled person who is able to cycle, can physically do so with a Class 1 e-bike. Due to my disabilities, I am not able to engage the e-assist without a throttle.

Most interesting of all is the industry standard for e-bike classifications. BOTH Class 1 and Class 2 E-bikes disengage the e-assist at 20 mph. (Class 3 is 28 mph). If both classes disengage at 20 mph, why did the city council ban Class 2?

Furthermore, I do not feel I am asking to use my Class 2 trike as an entitled tourist. My viewpoint steers toward discrimination and ableism due to my disability. We did take the carriage tour and patronized several restaurants and shops. The people running these businesses were nothing but attentive to my adaptive needs, especially helping me into and out of the different carriages needed for the tour. But I was disheartened watching all the cyclists enjoying their tour around the island due to a reasonable adaptation that I was denied.

I hope none of you become disabled, lose a limb, or must deal with medical issues that I deal with daily. My disability does not stop me from enjoying life, but the ordinance, as it stands, certainly will keep me from visiting your fine city again, or at least until a person with any disability is granted the same recreational rights as an able-bodied person.

Respectfully submitted,

Beth Hudson

LBKA (Left Below Knee Amputee)

Amputee Coalition Certified Peer Visitor

UOAA (United Ostomy Associations of America) Mentor


I also filed a complaint with the ADA department of the DOJ. I doubt it will amount to anything, as they receive hundreds of complaints daily – it’s small potatoes for them, but it made me feel better. The state of Michigan also has an ADA department, and I will be speaking to them shortly.

I’m asking you not to patronize Mackinac Island; don’t spend your tourism dollars there until they are willing to provide reasonable accommodation for us all. We did, however, find a lovely trail in Mackinac City to ride, but it wasn’t the same.

Thanks for letting me vent! Feel free to write an editorial to the Mackinac Island Town Crier (newspaper) in support of disabled cyclists, especially if you are one!

And remember: You never know how much strength you have until you are called upon to use it.

Respectfully Submitted,

Beth Hudson, LBKA