Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ask Aunt Tillie: Can Amish Have Bicycles?

Blogger's Note: Since this blog is somewhat Amishcentric, I get questions from time to time from readers about Amish life and culture, which I refer to my Aunt Tillie, an opinionated, but humble Amish woman. Here is a recent question and answer. Please leave a comment or email me if you have questions you want me to refer to her in the future.

Dear Aunt Tillie:

Driving through the Amish community the other day, I saw lots of Amish people out riding bicycles. Is that really allowed, or were the bicycle riders doing their rumspringa, like I saw an ABC?

(Signed) Curious

Dear Curious:

I don't know what ABC said about "rumspringa" (we Amish don't have television.) "Rumspringa" literally means "running around," in Pennsylvania Dutch, so the bicycle riders might have been running around doing errands. But they usually don't have television shows about Amish doing errands (or at least so I assume, not being an expert on television shows.) So, you're probably asking about the other type of rumspringa which is when teenagers who are not yet church members have a little of what they consider fun by drinking beer, and dancing and smoking (and maybe engage in a little premarital sex.) But I digress, as I tend to do so often these days, you want to know whether it is allowed for Amish to ride bicycles. Well, of course we can ride bicycles. The Bible does not say, "Thou shalt not ride a bicycle." (Ha, ha, that's a joke, we Amish don't believe that everything we can't do is literally forbidden by the Bible. It would take a lot bigger book than the Bible to include everything we can't do.)

I've never ridden a bicycle, although I tried once many years ago when Ezra and the children were away. Our youngest daughter, Sovilla, had a bicycle that she stored in the barn and riding it didn't look that hard, so I got it out and tried to make it go, but it fell over and I got one foot caught underneath and one foot was waving around up in the air rather immodestly, so I just figured if God had wanted me to learn to ride a bicycle, he would have taught me long before then. That was about 40 years ago, and I've never had the urge to ride again.

So why are bicycles allowed but cars forbidden? I don't know the answer to that one. That's just the way it has always been. Maybe it's because cars go faster and you can drive further in a car than on a bicycle, so there's more of a temptation to use a car to get out of the Amish community and go see what the English are doing. But some of these modern bicycles can go pretty fast and far. Some of the Amish boys have been taking road trips on their bicycles, all the way over to the Mississippi River, and they're just doing that for fun, so I don't know. Idleness is the devil's work shop, they say, and maybe there's some devilment those boys could get into in a car that they couldn't on a bicycle, but I've never heard that as an explanation for why bicycles are allowed but cars aren't. I just hope those Amish boys don't start wearing that Velcro clothing, or whatever they call, that the English stuff their bodies into that shows all their bulges. That looks pretty awful, but somehow the English think you have to look funny to ride a bicycle, I guess. We Amish probably look funny enough already without having to start wearing Velcro pants, but to each his own.

(Signed) Aunt Tillie

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At 9:57 PM, July 19, 2008, Anonymous Linda B. said...

I love Aunt Tillie. :)

At 11:55 PM, January 29, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Might it be that bicycles and buggies are machines powered by animals and humans? My understanding of the spirit of the rule is that you don't want to go as far away from home as a car would allow, because then you'd be tempted to live far from home, and that's not good for keeping the community going. But I'm wondering whether the Amish divide this issue down the line of man or animal-powered locomotion vs. locomotion powered by wood, coal, oil, etc.

Haha, what if, for example, we could put horses on "horse bikes" that could move humans as fast as cars do?

At 7:52 PM, May 07, 2009, Blogger gwadzilla said...

I am yet another outsider intrigued by the customs of the Amish...

loved your post

but my question is...

if Amish are not permitted to have televisions... are they permitted to have computers?

and without electricity...
they are permitted battery powered things...

the comment are as amusing as the post

did you know that Floyd Landis is a lycra wearing Menonite?

do you know who Floyd Landis is?

if computers are allowed are their rules about what you are allowed to surf and what you are not allowed to surf on the net?

I will have to dig deeper into your blog

At 9:20 PM, May 07, 2009, Blogger Crockhead said...

In general, Amish aren't allowed to have computers, at least not for personal use. There are some Amish businesses that have devised ways around the ban on computers by using office space, fully equipped, owned by an English person. I was telling an Amish contractor a few years ago, about what wonderful things a CAD (computer aided design) could do for him in designing houses. Turned out he had one of those programs for many years.

Yes, I do know about Floyd Landis. He has the common Amish failing of having too much testosterone. That's why families of more than 10 children are so common.

At 12:33 PM, March 07, 2011, Blogger Annette said...

So I wonder, when girls/women ride bikes, how do they keep their skirts from getting caught up in the gears?

At 7:15 PM, May 30, 2011, Anonymous Michael said...

Would an Amish or Mennonite family use a Zigo Carrier Bike for their kids? Seems perfect for them.

At 9:29 AM, July 04, 2012, Anonymous JC said...

Amish in Lancaster County are not permitted bicycles if they are church members in good standing. Mennonites use bicycles. Amish use standup scooters.


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