Amish use various forms of transport besides the buggy

amish travelMention “Amish transportation” and the horse-and-carriage immediately comes to mind.  Yet most Amish also travel by a variety of other means, including car, train, bus, and by water.

Amish travel by:

  • Buggy-the buggy is the standard form of travel, and both regulates and symbolizes Amish life
  • Automobile-most Amish permit riding as a passenger in a car or bus, but not driving
  • Bicycle and scooter-both are used by Amish, depending on the community
  • Rollerblades-rollerblades and skates are used as a form of recreation and short-distance travel in communities such as Lancaster County
  • Train-Amish take both long- and short-distance trips by rail
  • Boat and ship-Amish occasionally travel by boat, often for recreational purposes

Buggy travel

All Amish households have at least one, and sometimes numerous carriages, except for in some cases the elderly who may live near or in small towns in Amish communities.  The buggy is important to Amish life as it serves as both a symbolic and literal brake on the pace of life.  It also symbolizes Amish identity, serving an important cultural role.  Use of the buggy is a key indicator of Old Order Amish status.

amish black buggies

Amish carriages of different styles at Mount Hope, Ohio

Amish rely on the horse-and-buggy to travel short distances, such as to town, to visit family and neighbors, or to travel to church on Sundays.  Buggies typically travel at about 5-10 miles per hour, and have a range of 15-20 miles before horses need to be rested.  Amish only rarely ride horseback.

Automobile travel

Amish universally object to both automobile ownership, and to operating a vehicle, but in most cases permit riding in cars as passengers.  Amish acknowledge a need to sometimes travel further than a buggy allows, thus the allowance for automobile travel.

Amish may be driven by friends, non-Amish employees, and in some cases unbaptized or non-Amish children and relatives.  Amish also frequently make use of the so-called “Amish taxi” services provided by non-Amish individuals in most Amish areas.  Bus travel is another form of transport common among Amish.  Read more on the Amish, buggies, and cars.

Bicycles and scooters

Bicycle is a popular form of travel, especially among Amish in the Midwest.  Some communities are more bike-friendly, for example Arthur Illinois, with its asphalt roads and flat landscape.  Holmes County, Ohio features the Holmes County Trail, a byway traversing the county and designed for both bike, buggy, and foot travel.

amish scooters

Scooters are common among Lancaster Amish

Other communities rely on the scooter, such as the Lancaster County community, or that of Allen County, Indiana.  Most church districts in Lancaster do not permit the bicycle.

Rollerblades

Rollerblades have been widely accepted in some communities such as Lancaster County.  They are mainly used by youth and children, as a means of recreation as well as to travel short distances.  Not all Amish permit rollerblades.  More on the Amish and rollerblades.

Swartzentruber Amish do not allow car travel

An exception to the allowance for car travel is found with the conservative Swartzentruber Amish group, who only allow automobile travel in an emergency.  When visting relatives in distant settlements, Swartzentruber Amish must travel by bus or train.  This limitation also prevents Swartzentruber businesses such as carpenters from working outside of horse-and-buggy range.

Train travel

Amish travel by train on occasion.  In some cases Amish journey far distances by train, for example to Mexico or Canada for less expensive medical treatment, or to visit relatives and Amish in other settlements.  Amish may spend three days on a train during longer journeys.  Other Amish, such as those in Pennsylvania and the northeast, may make use of regional rail networks for shorter trips.

Air travel

Amish nearly universally forbid travel by air.  Flying is seen as worldly, symbolic of luxury, and unnecessary.  Most Amish do permit air travel in emergencies, such as lifeflights to medical centers.  Most New Order Amish, representing a small segment of Amish society, permit travel by plane for business or other purposes, however.  More on the Amish and air travel.

Travel by water

Amish forefathers originally arrived in North America in the 1700s by ship.  Today Amish do not prohibit travel by water.  Travel by water is most often a form of recreation for Amish.  Amish occasionally may travel by ship to visit Europe.

amish boat

An Amish father takes his boys on a boat trip near Nappanee, Indiana

Some Amish, such as those in Lancaster County, may take recreational deep-sea fishing trips.  Also, numerous Amish in communities such as northern Indiana own small fishing boats, and may be spotted on lakes or towing boats by buggy.

Amish use numerous forms of transportation

Amish value the horse-and-buggy for what it represents, and for the tangible effect it has on their way of living.  At the same time, they recognize a need for other forms of transportation, and most Amish Ordnungs permit travel by numerous means, including by automobile, train, and boat.

For further information, see:

On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren, Donald B. Kraybill and Carl Desportes Bowman

Plain Buggies: Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren Horse-Drawn Transportation, Stephen E. Scott

Amish Online Encyclopedia: Why do the Amish drive buggies?

Boat photo credit: trecrowns on Flickr


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