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Cyclists refused service at fastfood drive-thrus?
September 21, 2006 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Refused service at a Wendy's drive-thru window because you're on a bike. Why?

Someone who uses a bike as his primary mode of transport told me this story tonight: He rode to a Wendy's drive-thru and tried to order, but couldn't get the folks inside to notice him (maybe because they listen for engine noise or he didn't weigh enough or whatever). When he rode up to the checkout window, they told him they couldn't serve him. Other folks have told me similar stories, and I've encountered it once on a bike at a drive-through window at a branch of my bank.

Why do they do this? I find it difficult to believe that robbers on bikes are really that much tougher to catch than robbers in cars.
posted by mediareport to Travel & Transportation (38 answers total)
 
I think it is for the same reason they don't serve pedestrians- a car could zoom up and kill you if the driver did not see you.
posted by clango at 10:29 PM on September 21, 2006


Insurance considers service to non-motorized vehicles a liability. A quick scan of the web shows this kind of treatment given to cyclists pedalling through drive-through banks, fast-food restaurants, and donut distribution facilities.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:33 PM on September 21, 2006


I did scan, Blazecock, but what I found were 1) reports of bizarre rationales like cashiers were more at risk of attack from cyclists and 2) reports of ridiculous compromises like making the person get off their bike and yell their order from outside the car lane.

If you could give me a source for the insurance thing, I'd appreciate it.
posted by mediareport at 10:41 PM on September 21, 2006


I would bet that they put inductors under the asphalt next to the drive-thru window, (which probably aren't sensitive enough to detect bicycles).

Therefore, if you try to go through one, you'll hold up the line because you're standing over the inductor and preventing cars behind you from triggering it. This could be frustrating for the restaurant workers, as you might stand there for 15 minutes while a huge line forms because they don't know the line exists, and after it gets sorted out, 15 minutes of everyone's time (including yours) has been wasted.

But yeah, probably for legal reasons too.
posted by helios at 10:41 PM on September 21, 2006


I used to get served on my bike but then they changed and refused me, so I think it is "just policy" for fear of liability.
posted by Iron Rat at 11:05 PM on September 21, 2006


At McDonalds, they refused to serve me on my bike due to "safety reasons".
posted by randomstriker at 11:40 PM on September 21, 2006


Well I believe they should make it equally accessible to both riders and motorists. If you cannot avoid a collision with a pedestrian, how can you not avoid the same collision with a biker, etc.?

However, I also agree with helios. There are sensors sensitive to cars only which interfere w/this process so as to exclude bikers/pedestrians. On the latter I would (if I didn't know any better) try to circumvent the lines inside by even walking through the drive-thru but from experience in trying to do so found going inside the better method. I must also state that I have acheived orders in walking through a drive through as well......
posted by prodevel at 11:46 PM on September 21, 2006


Typical bicycles have enough metal to trigger street light sensors, why not drive-thru sensors?

I think they just don't want to, and they call that "liability" because people are trained to accept that as an answer.
posted by Chuckles at 11:49 PM on September 21, 2006


I worked the drive thru window at a McDonald's several years ago. I was never told an official policy about non-vehicles through the drive-thru, and it only happened a dozen times over 2 years, but the problems with people coming through with bikes/walking were:

1) Bikes/people don't activate the weight sensor and so our headsets don't get a BEEP sound to let us know to say "welcome to McDonald's, how may I help you" on our headsets

2) Walking to the pick-up window to order was a pain
because the person up there doesn't enter in order when it's busy, so you break the "system"

3) They thought they were hilarious for thinking of walking/biking in front of the drive-thru

To be honest, I wasn't too concerned about our customer's safety to deny them service if they were at the drive-thru.
posted by tasty at 12:01 AM on September 22, 2006


Typical bicycles have enough metal to trigger street light sensors

In fact, they often do not, even if made from steel (which is become less common).
posted by randomstriker at 2:35 AM on September 22, 2006


They serve horses don't they?

A few years back there was a hubbub about not serving a rider on horseback at a Tim Hortons. In that case they claimed it was for sanitary reasons. Although the horse never plopped whilst in the drive through lane.
posted by Gungho at 4:17 AM on September 22, 2006


Worse, they won't serve you at the drive thru when walking/biking even if the main part of the restaurant is closed. So it it's a drive thru right near a bar-covered area of town, and that's the only late night food option, they are almost encouraging you to drive drunk.
posted by inigo2 at 4:46 AM on September 22, 2006


Worse, they won't serve you at the drive thru when walking/biking even if the main part of the restaurant is closed.

They did this in Nebraska all the freakin' time: closing the main entry doors at 9, then closing the drive-thru (and the rest of the business) at 10.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:56 AM on September 22, 2006


Bikes don't have license plates, for one.

99% of the time, there's a camera aimed at the drive-through to capture the plate in case of robbery or whatnot.

That and fast food managers tend to be impotent, vindictive, anal arses who enjoy nothing more than hosing a customer with their beloved rule book.
posted by unixrat at 5:05 AM on September 22, 2006


The McDonalds near me (urban area with lots of late-night traffic) just opened a 24/7 "Walk-Up" window, probably because they got tired of having drunk people walk through the drive through.
posted by true at 5:17 AM on September 22, 2006


Wait, I remember in the past few years having been served at "drive-thru" windows on bikes and on foot. Usually I'll walk in (there are these things called "bike locks") but around here many fast food places close the "dining room" at night and just use the carryout window. But I'm in the advanced brilliant state of KY.
posted by davy at 5:36 AM on September 22, 2006


Bicylists are expected to observe all the rules of the road as if they were a motorized vehicle. However, this is a case where you don't get the privilages of driving a vehicle. Messed up it is.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 6:24 AM on September 22, 2006


I've seen a guy on a mobility scooter going through the drive-thru at a Tim Hortons, so I guess they're somewhat understanding.
posted by lowlife at 6:36 AM on September 22, 2006


Do drive-through lanes serve motorcyclists? How about a rickshaw?
posted by pracowity at 6:51 AM on September 22, 2006


I think it is "just policy" for fear of liability.

Could a cyclist really win a suit against a fast food restaurant if a car knocks the cyclist down in the drive-thru line? That seems unlikely; if the business were truly liable, wouldn't large stores be banning cyclists from their parking lots, too? If anything, wouldn't the risk of a lawsuit for not paying attention be borne by the driver?
posted by mediareport at 6:51 AM on September 22, 2006


Do drive-through lanes serve motorcyclists?

Yes, regularly, in my experience. If you're in a vehicle that's legally allowed on the roads, it seems you should be able to use drive-through services.
posted by mediareport at 6:52 AM on September 22, 2006


If you're in a vehicle that's legally allowed on the roads, it seems you should be able to use drive-through services.

But the drive through is on private property, and therefor they can make any rules they want.

It's been years since I worked the drive-through, but a bike won't trip the sensor, and will have to place their order at the window, which means it will take much longer to fill their order, and can easily cause all the other orders to get out of whack.

Aside from this, one possible guess for security would be that due to positioning, it would be far easier for a person on a bike, or walking to point a gun directly at a server or grab them than it would be for someone in a car.
posted by drezdn at 7:27 AM on September 22, 2006


My question is this: If they won't let you ride your bike through the drive through, will they allow you to take it with you on line inside?
posted by UESMark at 7:35 AM on September 22, 2006


This was a long time ago but when I was a kid I would go to work with my dad on the weekends and I would walk up to McDonalds to get lunch with my dog. We walked through the drive thru and they were always happy to serve me. I guess, though, this was before people started suing for everything.
posted by chrisroberts at 7:44 AM on September 22, 2006


If you're in a vehicle that's legally allowed on the roads,

mediareport - A bicycle (at least in NY) is a vehicle, and legally allowed on the road.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 7:47 AM on September 22, 2006


We were told it was a security concern for staff. But we used to serve foot traffic after the dining room closed anyways, after all it wasn't like any manager was around after 10pm and the more traffic we had the less chili meat we produced. We were right in the middle of a motel road and people would walk over rather than drive. Then again, our location was never robbed that I can recall.
posted by Mitheral at 8:11 AM on September 22, 2006


I tried doing this at a major California-based fast-food chain, and they refused to serve me at the drive through. I walked in (I had a lock with me), and they told me their insurance doesn't allow it.

I wasn't satisfied with that answer, so I wrote to their corporate headquarters. To my surprise, I received absolutely no response whatsoever. If their burgers weren't so much better than any other fast food restaurant, I'd not go back. Though, really, I doubt they'd miss my every-few-months business too much.
posted by JMOZ at 8:23 AM on September 22, 2006


I wouldnt dismiss the safety claim. FWIW I almost hit some guy sitting there on a 10 speed late a night. You can't see these bikes, there's not enough lighting there for non-electric lighted vehicles, etc.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:47 AM on September 22, 2006


(For what its worth, motorcycles don't trip a variety of traffic signals. I've had to get off my motorcycle [about 500 pounds wet and with me on it] and push it thru the crosswalk to bypass a red light that wouldn't turn green for me.)
posted by iurodivii at 8:53 AM on September 22, 2006


mediareport - A bicycle (at least in NY) is a vehicle, and legally allowed on the road.

Read more closely, ORM, that's been my point.
posted by mediareport at 8:53 AM on September 22, 2006


All fast food establishments I've patronized in the last year or so (admittedly relatively few) have had signs on the windows that indicate that they cannot serve walk-ups or bicycle (or in one instance, skateboard) riders at the drive-thru, and it is enforced. I once watched a car full of teenagers park and disgorge several passengers who walked back to the drive-thru pick up window attempting to get a mistaken order corrected, and they were told to get back into their car and drive around again, because they would not be helped on foot.

In an era when most McDonalds are going to 24/7 drive-thru service but close the dining room from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. the fact that they have a stated policy which will cause them to lose a portion of business in those overnight hours makes me believe that the claim regarding liability insurance must be true. There would have to be something quite compelling to justify it, otherwise franchisees far and wide would not be willing to give up the possible revenue.
posted by Dreama at 9:20 AM on September 22, 2006


what if the engine's off, the transmission's in netral, and one's frat brothers are pushing?

Reminds me of the time in college we went through the Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru in a VW van, in reverse. And yes, alcohol was involved.

As for the question, in English, cyclists ride their bikes. But this is a drive-thru. Therefore, two-wheeler, you need a motor.
posted by Rash at 9:25 AM on September 22, 2006


I wonder if you would get denied service from a scooter or other moped?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 AM on September 22, 2006


Drezdn said:
It's been years since I worked the drive-through, but a bike won't trip the sensor


and iurodivii mentioned that...motorcycles don't trip a variety of traffic signals. I've had to get off my motorcycle [about 500 pounds wet and with me on it] and push it thru the crosswalk to bypass a red light that wouldn't turn green for me.

Are the sensors in fast-food drive-thrus the same design as for traffic lights? Traffic lights usually use an electrical circuit that changes according to the presence of metal, and I've heard that with motorcycles you can get off and lean the bike a little more towards horizontal to trip it. That should work for bicycles, and these people say it will.

However, most people don't know this, and so even if the fast-food drive-thru sensor is the same, they probably won't be able to trigger it. Any bicyclists and fast-food workers feel like experimenting?
posted by dilettante at 11:54 AM on September 22, 2006


Rash writes "Reminds me of the time in college we went through the Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru in a VW van, in reverse. And yes, alcohol was involved."

Hurricane Joe, my assistant manager at the time, had a guy come thru driving a highway tractor pulling a trailer. I don't know if alcohol was a factor but I'd bet amphetamines were.
posted by Mitheral at 12:09 PM on September 22, 2006


I recall a few fast food joints being robbed because they opened the window for a walk-up customer. The clerk opened the window, and the guy stuck a gun into the clerks face and ordered her to empty the register into a bag.

Otherwise, it's drunk college kids with the "hur hur hur look at me, I'm on a BICYCLE in a DRIVE-THRU! Suck it, CARS!" mentality. (hey, like it or not, it happens.)

Yes, they'll serve you on a motorcycle or a scooter/moped. They're 2 wheeled vehicles registered as such with engines. A bike with an engine wouldn't count, as it's not registered with DMV as such a vehicle.

So I can see it being a safety/insurance thing.
posted by drstein at 12:33 PM on September 22, 2006


Do what my friend did when she and her friends were drunk and on foot and couldn't get served: find people in a car who will put an order in for you.

I'm all in favor of a walk-up window, with perhaps a buzzer attached.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:05 PM on September 25, 2006


"I'm all in favor of a walk-up window, with perhaps a buzzer attached."

Or why not put a frigging buzzer on the damn "drive-thru"? For that matter I've walked through the "drive-thru" the whole way: I gave my order at the microphone thingie and picked it up at the window because the place had a video camera trained on said microphone thingie and the place had sense enough to hire somebody who knew how to glance at a small TV screen every now and then. After I did that a couple times at a few places the person working one "drive-thru" told me to ignore the "Place Order Here" sign and walk straight to the "drive-thru" window -- and knock if there was nobody right there looking. (It seems like common sense, eh?) Maybe it's just that I'm obviously so special that I get special treatment concerning my special $1.06 "chicken sandwich and water" order, or maybe fast food places have started selecting for absolute idiocy when I wasn't looking? (It has been a few years since I lived within easy walking distance of a late-night "drive-thru", and I've been more diurnal or less lately anyway.)

And hey, I can't produce the article, but I do recall at least one news story where the attempted robbery of a fast food place through a "drive-thru" window that was foiled because an employee had the sense to slam the window closed and duck. Those windows do close and lock, you know. The police were also summoned, perhaps because the place had an alarm, or maybe the brilliant employee was in reach of a phone and knew what "911" meant (besides "they hate us for our freedoms").

I don't dispute that this thread is about a real problem, I'm just amazed that this problem exists. Are people really that stupid and petty?
posted by davy at 10:18 PM on October 1, 2006


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