Bikes allowed in the drive-thru lane. It’s a debate as old as time itself. Well, not really, but the discussion of its safety and efficacy has been going on for sometime here in Utah. In 2014, the Salt Lake City Council made it legal for bicycles to go through the drive-thru at all restaurants in the city. This change made headlines, but also came with a surprising amount of backlash. While most of the city councilors agreed that riding your bike, even through the drive-thru, is better for the environment, some were worried about the safety issues. Bikes are small, cars are big.
Many small businesses supported the bike friendly change, but national chains did not. They considered it a question of liability. If you get hurt on your bike in the drive-thru, who is held accountable? Businesses are worried that it might be them. Large chains state that drive-thru lanes are meant for, and built for, automobiles, not for bikers or pedestrians and they want to keep it that way.
Is it allowed?
It depends on the restaurant. Because of the controversy and worry, in 2015 Utah State Legislature passed a bill that put the decision back in the hands of individual businesses. That means each restaurant can choose whether or not cyclists are allowed in their drive-thru. If you want a bite to eat, go at your own discretion. You might get your food, you might not. But it seems that the general trend is that restaurants discourage you from going through the fast lane if you are on a bike.
Why the debate?
Utah has made big steps in the name of bicycle safety in recent years. In fact, Utah was named the 5th most bike-friendly state in the nation in 2015 and we want to keep moving up. With that in mind, politicians push for things like bikes in the drive-thru because it offers equal opportunity. A lot of people bike in Utah, everyone has to eat and we all love convenience. On the other hand, businesses are worried about patron safety. In the end, it seems that the risk is larger than the reward. If you do get turned away in a drive-thru lane at your favorite restaurant, they are just looking out for you.