Pedaller

McDonald’s drive-thru not open to people on bicycles

McDonald's sign with drive thru 360px-Harlem_Micky_DzCreating space for cycling is first & foremost about applying the safety methods proven to work in places like The Netherlands, which mainly means creating segregated routes for people who choose to cycle.

It is also about creating space for cycling in everyday activities and plans. For example, a business should plan to cater for people who choose to ride a bicycle to their shop.

The BBC reported on a McDonald’s restaurant that refused to serve people at their drive-thru window solely because of their chosen mode of transport: a mother and daughter were not in a motorised vehicle (they were on a horse and pony respectively). See BBC 22 July 2013 – Horse in McDonald’s: Rider fined after ‘drive-thru’ refusal.

(UPDATE: 1 September 2013 – The Portsmouth News reports a councillor there was recently refused service on his bicycle – see HERE)

In the BBC article, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s is quoted as saying:

“The health and safety of our customers and staff is our top priority, and for this reason we are unable to serve pedestrians, bicycle riders or customers on horseback through the drive-thru.”

Intrigued, I sent a query to the CEO of McDonald’s in the UK and the USA to find out more (thanks to CEO Email). Specifically, I asked:

Could you tell me what the health and safety issues are regarding serving people who ride bicycles? I could imagine that many would have baskets or panniers in which to put their purchased food before cycling to a park in which to enjoy it.

Aside:It is worth noting that at least one fast food restaurant in the USA makes space for cycling – see HERE.

A bicycle with panniers in which bought goods can be transported safely.

A bicycle with panniers in which bought goods can be transported safely.

McDONALD’S: DESIGNED FOR MOTOR VEHICLES

Rhonda Floyd, who is a senior customer services manager in McDonald’s corporate offices in London replied on behalf of the UK’s CEO (I have not yet heard back from the USA’s CEO) and confirmed that “it is our policy not to serve cyclists using the drive-thru lane or drive-thru service windows.”

She said (my emphasis added):

Our drive-thru facilities have been designed for use by motor vehicles and we are concerned that the safety of cyclists may be compromise because they could come into close proximity with motor vehicles.

In addition, the visibility of cyclists can sometime be limited, particularly given the sharp corners of the drive thru lane and there are also the obvious difficulties that can be encountered when carrying food and drinks whilst still trying to retain control of a bicycle.

Baskets can also be used to transport goods safely.

Baskets can be used to transport goods safely.

She has hit the nail on the head with her first comment! McDonald’s have made a deliberate decision to design their space to accommodate motor vehicles only. This is the same thinking that pervades many road and town plans – and is exactly the thinking that the space for cycling campaign is there to change!

Looking at that statement in a positive light, McDonald’s leaves open the possibility to re-design their restaurants to be more friendly and safe towards people who choose to cycle.

JUSTIFICATIONS FOR THEIR POLICY

It is worth noting that McDonald’s will serve you if you choose to ride a motorised 2-wheel vehicle, just not a non-motorised one:

I can confirm that customers on motorcycles and mopeds are able to be served within our ‘drive-thru’ facilities.

With that in mind, read now how McDonald’s tries to justify their exclusion of people riding bicycles (again my emphasis and links added throughout):

In reaching this view we consulted with our own Hygiene and Safety Department, the Highway Code, and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

The UK’s highway code is a list of ‘should‘ and ‘must‘ statements or so-called ‘rules’ The ‘rules’ that use the word ‘must’ have a legal underpinning which the police can use to charge you with an offense if you break them. The ‘rules’ that use ‘should’ are not ‘rules’ per se, they are more like friendly advice intended to influence behaviour.

HIGHWAY CODE

McDonald’s says,

“The Highway Code relating to cyclists states amongst other requirements, that cyclists should keep both their hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear, that they should not ride close behind other vehicles and should not carry anything which will affect their balance or which may get tangled up within a wheel or chain.

 

The car-only drive-thru at McDonald's in Basingstoke.

The motor-vehicle only drive-thru at McDonald’s in Basingstoke.

So, everything cited by McDonald’s – all taken from the Code’s rule no. 66 – use the word ‘should’ not ‘must’. Thus, they are offering up friendly and well-intentioned advice only. Hardly a reason not to serve people at a drive-thru on private property.

But wait! What does the Highway Code have to say specifically about food which may be served to people that then drive? This:

  • 148: Safe driving and riding needs concentration. Avoid distractions when driving or riding such as…arguing with your passengers; [and] eating and drinking

Who gets the last chip? Don’t take the lid off your drinks! Don’t squirt ketchup all over the seats!

Does McDonald’s use this ‘rule’ from the Highway Code as a reason not to serve people?

Of course they don’t.

That is because it is up to the people in the car to apply the Highway Code ‘rules’ on the public highway, just as it is up the the person on the bicycle to do the same regarding the ‘rule’ McDonald’s did cite.

It is worth noting the Highway Code gives special attention to vulnerable road users –

  • 213: Give [Motorcyclists and cyclists] plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.

RoSPA

McDonald’s then referred to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents advice –

RoSPA have also advised us that the safety of cyclists could be compromised at some drive thru facilities and the exact level of risk can vary between locations depending on the layout of the site.

They also identified in line with our own findings that there is potential for conflict between cars and cyclists due to the visibility of the cyclist on the drive thru lanes as already mentioned above.

 

Bicycle racks in the drive-thru lane at McDonald's in Basingstoke.

Bicycle racks in the drive-thru lane at McDonald’s in Basingstoke.

Sounds like RoSPA have some serious issues with the design of McDonald’s restaurants! It is McDonald’s that chooses the design they use at their facilities; and according to RoSPA it is not a good design for people without a suit of metal armour encasing them. There is no mention of motorcycles in RoSPA’s advice to McDonald’s.

RoSPA state on their website that their goal is to improve driver and motorcyclist behaviour: such as by “not driving when impaired or distracted” – that lines up exactly with the Highway Code statement above about not eating and drinking whilst in a car.

Again, McDonald’s doesn’t use RoSPA’s advice as a reason to refuse to serve food to people that use a motor vehicle in the drive thru. I have queried RoSPA about their advice to McDonald’s but have not yet heard back from them.

UPDATE 25/07/13! I queried RoSPA and they told me:

I have spoken to RoSPA’s Road Safety Manager. We have no record of ever advising McDonalds regarding their drive-thrus, if we had advised them we would have it on record along with the report we would have produced for them.

IT IS A CHOICE

McDonald’s chose to exclude people who want to buy food when on a bicycle. They can easily choose to design their facilities to be safe for them, too. In other words, to make space for cycling.

16 comments for “McDonald’s drive-thru not open to people on bicycles

  1. July 24, 2013 at 17:50

    I’ll have to check but I think the store near me closes the doors late at night but the drive thru remains open, I see drunk pedestrians queuing for food on a Saturday night.

    If that is the case then they now have two choices, stop serving everyone who isn’t in a car and miss out on the drunken trade, unless by doing this McDonald’s encourages drunks to drive to the store. Or admit the no cyclist’s rule is thoughtless nonsense and serve everyone at the drive thru.

  2. September 2, 2013 at 09:28

    It doesn’t seem to be much of a problem in the Netherlands for McDonalds. Three examples: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuaO5FyaaDs | http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_QrJHE6m1U | http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6YfeH0j_8A

  3. schmoo
    September 2, 2013 at 20:12

    Drive thru not ride through…park your bike and go into the building instead of being a twonk and moaning

    • AndrewRH
      September 3, 2013 at 12:59

      Why not demand that of people who are in a motorised vehicle too? What is the difference?

    • August 16, 2014 at 23:21

      Good idea but my mc ds offers nothing to lock your bike to. You can leave it outside but you will be quickly downgraded to pedestrian when it gets nicked. They dont mind small quads though, tested that one.

    • Tim Ditcher
      August 25, 2014 at 19:01

      Leave a +£1K bike outside a McD’s…who’s the twonk?

    • October 16, 2014 at 12:04

      The building isn’t open late at night, that would only be the drive thru…but then again you would know that if you read the comment above? I will be a “twonk and moan” about the rule that I take offence too as a cyclist who refuses to drive a motorised vehicle that uses the same oil that has costed many of my fellow Marines and Soldiers their lives and or will haunt those if us who made it home from war!

  4. pm
    September 3, 2013 at 13:37

    Well the difference is that people on a bike are presumed to have legs and to be familiar with the idea of using them. Its clearly unreasonable to expect that of motorists!

  5. Paul
    September 4, 2013 at 08:28

    reply to AndrewRH @12:59 – Kids ride bikes. They are not safe in the drive thru lane. Kids on bikes also try to overtake cars in the lane. Most importantly and unfortunately drivers of cars cannot drive safely in the proximity of bikes, especially with a car full of chattering passengers. They even drive into each other, the consequences of which are often funny, not so if it is a cyclist. For the record, McDonald’s does serve some great food these days.

  6. Bez
    September 4, 2013 at 09:42

    “drivers of cars cannot drive safely in the proximity of bikes, especially with a car full of chattering passengers”

    If they can’t then they shouldn’t be on the road. Have you not read the Highway Code, or what?

  7. Seagull
    September 4, 2013 at 21:18

    If I was to use an electric bike, having a motor, would I be served by McD?

  8. Josh
    December 29, 2014 at 02:21

    Having worked at McDonalds for 18 months, I can enlighten a little on this one… This issue *only* occurs during the night, since in the day time everyone is sensible, and all the cyclists go indoors, as do the pedestrians. There are a series of issues and consequences of serving customers, all linked to McDonalds taking liability for what happens to people on their property. If you’re permitted to be there, you’re automatically covered by the public liability insurance that the company provides, and as such, your health and safety is their problem, not yours.

    The majority (and I’m not saying all, but at least 90%) of McDonalds customers, between the hours of 11PM and 6AM (the times that my particular store was drive thru only) on bicycles _do not have lights_. At least 50% of them are drunk. Around 20% of those drunk people take an immediate aggressive stance upon being greeted, before being informed that they will not receive food and asked to leave. Most of those 20% end up in a cell for the night once the police turn up and drag them away. I’m not saying that all cyclists are that way, by any means, I am an avid cyclist and I certainly am not. What you need to understand and accept, though, is that this is the way it is, and the only way to change this particular problem is for cyclists to stop being so irresponsible. If the reputation was better, it would be permitted as it wouldn’t cause trouble. Not having bicycle lights at night in a drive through is about as safe as walking around on the M25 at rush hour. Further to that, even those who do have lights often only have very small lights, and don’t reflect a whole lot of light. They are countlessly more difficult to see, and very easy to miss completely. Even the staff weren’t allowed to walk on the drive thru road during the day, wearing high vis jackets… The corners are sharp, there is very little way to see around a corner before the front of a car is there, and it’s a lethal place to be, all in all. I’ll add to this that the insurance providers are purchased from McDonalds, by the store manager, so the only way to change this is to have a company wide policy change which will inevitable cost considerably more money than it will bring in from those customers.

    The health and safety aspect is entirely explained, and if you don’t believe it, that’s very much a you problem. Beyond that, however, is the problem that it raises for the staff at the store. My store did, at a time, allow people to come through the drive thru at night on foot or bicycles. It was against the company policy, but it was something we did out of courtesy. We asked all pedestrians and cyclists to simply pay cash where possible, and to avoid spending any periods of time on the road. A handful of customers over the 2 weeks or so that lasted for were absolutely fine, didn’t cause any problems, and couldn’t have been friendlier. The vast majority, however, were complete pains in the backside. They would use a credit card to open the latch on the window, and steal sauces, napkins, straws, cups, anything they could get their hands on. They would talk loudly, and upset the people in cars. They would disperse rubbish throughout the nearby streets far more willingly than the car drivers as they had nowhere to store it. They often kicked signs, walls (they are not made of real brick, FYI, they are ceramic tiles with brick pattern painted on). Mostly this would happen when they heard that their choice of chicken was off the menu for a while, usually because the vats were being cleaned (vat == deep fat fryer). We were forced, however, to put an end to it when a customer decided to unlatch the window, climb through, and help himself to a handful of condiments before becoming aggressive towards us and forcing us to physically restrain him and remove him from the store. This happened twice with pedestrians, and once with a cyclist. This has _never_ happened at my store with a car driver.

  9. March 28, 2015 at 23:28

    How can a low speed environment such as a drive thru be considered lethal? I’d be interested to learn of any recorded fatal motor vehicle collisions on McDonald’s property that led you to describe them so.

    I also suspect the aggressive behaviour you describe is more to do with the individuals’ choice of intoxication than their mode of transport.

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