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United Way of Lancaster County


Amish transportation in Lancaster (video)

(Photo: Bryant Heng)

(Editor’s Note: In cooperation with the City of Lancaster, One United Lancaster is co-publishing Bloomberg Fellow Bryant Heng’s ongoing series on local transportation, “Lancaster on the Move.” Entries will be cross posted here and on the city’s Vision Zero website.)

Lancaster is rich in traditional Amish and Mennonite communities and one thing special you will commonly find on Lancaster roads are Amish horses and buggies. I am always excited to see them in Lancaster. I usually wave and it makes my day when I get a friendly wave back.

Other typical Amish transportation modes include Amish scooters and Amish taxis. I will cover more on Amish taxis in a later post.

To find out more about Amish transportation and how to live a life without owning and driving a car, I asked my Amish friends Elmer and Annie how they experience road safety in a horse and buggy.

Elmer said, “Respect on the road is the biggest thing. Not drive too fast, not pass when it’s not safe.”

It is important to create more understanding between the “English” (referring to non-Amish) and “Plain” communities. I asked Lindsay Pringle, co-chair of the Lancaster County Amish Safety Committee, what is done in Lancaster County to ensure road safety.

She shared several initiatives. First is the development of the Horse and Buggy Manual developed by the Lancaster County Amish Safety Committee. This is not only distributed locally, but also nationally and internationally.

This endeavor is led by a subcommittee that includes the Center for Traffic Safety. The content is coordinated with Amish members and PennDOT distributes the publication.

In addition to the manual, significant funds were raised to manufacture and distribute reflective material to put on horse harnesses to increase visibility.

“Although the carriages have reflective material, the horses generally do not. We’re currently distributing reflective horse brow bands and tug bearers to increase visibility and decrease collisions.

“Additionally, we have distributed reflective vests to children for years, which has been broadly adopted by the community,” Lindsay said.

I also asked Lancaster residents whether buggies and cars can share the same road.

“Yes, we have been doing it for centuries,” one resident noted. “They are entitled to have part of the road as well. We shouldn’t move them out of the way.

“They provide a lot of our food to us. So we have to share the road, and we have to be patient with them.”

It was wonderful to note the genuine respect from the community for the traditions of the Lancaster Amish. Locals in Lancaster have learned how to share the road with the Amish — demonstrating that sharing the road, while not without challenges, is possible between different modes of transportation.

Taking it slow and mutual respect can make our streets safer, whether between a car and a bicycle or a buggy and a bus. That is what makes Lancaster unique.