March 26, 2019 | by: Chris Pride

100 years ago PEI became the last province to legalize cars

photo cred: Driving.ca

This year, PEI will celebrate the 100th anniversary of cars being legal in the province.  However it was on this day (March 26th) back in 1908 that the weird road of PEI making cars illegal began.  Well, it actually starts 40 years prior to 1908 when PEI became the first province in Canada to have a motorized vehicle.

By 1908 however, the Island’s automobile population had seen tremendous growth;  from 1 to 7.  That’s right, there were 7 cars on PEI.  So naturally, it was cause for mass hysteria.  According to Driving.ca and author Rudy Croken, newspapers would regularly refer to cars as ““Terror Wagons, Instruments of Death and Death Dealing Machines.”  Many Islanders were concerned that motorized vehicles would scare horses on rural roads, other said Island roads were too narrow and some even believed automobiles were “a foolish fad.”

So on March 26th, 1908 the province’s MLA’s unanimously voted to make cars illegal.  This new law made PEI the only place in all of North America where cars were banned.  Five years later the ban would be lifted… Sort of..  In 1913 the law was repealed but after a plebiscite that year the repeal was repealed.  This time, instead of an all out ban, cars were allowed on Island roads 3 days a week and only on roads where 75% of the residents had voted in favour of legalizing cars.  One can only imagine the confusion that may have caused.

It wouldn’t be until 1919 that according to Croken Islanders decided “everyone had equal rights to the roads, horses would soon get over their fright and the automobile would result in improved transportation and roads” finally making PEI the last province to fully legalize motorized cars in Canada.

Rudy Croken’s book “Ban The Automobile” details the full 12 year ban of cars on PEI.  The book is available directly from the author for $25 a copy, plus shipping. Email Croken at rcroken@pei.sympatico.ca

In the end this certainly is a weird story but as it turned out, it wouldn’t be the last time PEI banned something that was universally loved by everybody.  Remember the pop can ban?  Well, that’s a blog for another day..