1898: Whoa, Slow Down! This Michigan U.P. Town Set a 6 MPH Speed Limit
An Upper Peninsula city council was at odds with the city's newspaper after setting a 6 MPH speed limit.
The first automobile in Michigan came out in 1887. R. E. Olds built his first car, a three-wheeled gasoline-fired steam-powered horseless carriage. While it would be more than a decade before seeing a 'horseless carriage' on Michigan roads became commonplace.
During that time, communities and the state had few laws related to operating the new-fangled automobile. Many governments were scrambling to create order as arguments and accidents arose over whether a horse-drawn carriage or the horseless carriage had the right of way. From one town to the next the laws could be very different
In 1898, the Sault Ste Marie City Council found itself at odds with the local newspaper, the Soo City Times. On January 28, 1898, the council imposed a 6 miles per hour speed limit within the city.
The Soo Times wrote and printed what would be at the time a scathing opinion on the council's law.
It is violated every day in the year by every man who by any means navigates in a wheeled or ‘runnered’ vehicle. A second-class ox team will go 6 miles an hour. A horse with every leg spavined and suffering in the last stages of the heaves will travel 6 miles an hour over a corduroy road. ~ The Soo Times circa 1898
In short, the newspaper said that a second-rate ox team could pull at that speed and a horse with a bad leg who had already been ridden for miles would still be able to keep pace at 6 mph on a very bumpy road.