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Walgreens now “welcomes” people on bikes at outdoor service windows

Posted by on May 14th, 2013 at 10:06 am

“We welcome bicyclists at our drive-through lanes… riding a bike is just the kind of healthy, environmentally-friendly activity we welcome at our stores.”
— James Graham, Walgreens corporate media relations

Walgreens, America’s largest drug store chain, has responded to concerns that one of their policies unfairly excluded customers who ride bicycles. As we detailed last week, for at least the past several years people have been refused service by some Walgreens employees at outdoor service windows (a.k.a. drive-thrus) based solely on their mode of transportation. When asked about this refusal, store managers have listed a number of reasons — from safety concerns to liability insurance constraints.

Before we published that story, we contacted the Deerfield, Illinois-based corporate offices of Walgreens Company to ask for a clarification about this policy. James Graham in Walgreens’ corporate media relations department responded and confirmed that they had heard feedback from “bicycling customers” about this issue and they agreed to review their policies. This morning we received the following statement from Graham:

At Portland-area Walgreens stores, we welcome bicyclists at our drive-through lanes. Some bicyclists have recently said that our bicycle policy was inconsistently applied, so we began this week to inform our Portland area store employees that they can serve bicyclists at our drive-through windows. While we spread the word, we appreciate our customers’ patience. We are committed to helping our customers stay healthy and happy, and riding a bike is just the kind of healthy, environmentally-friendly activity we welcome at our stores.”

Aloha Todd and Low Bar Tour - Pedalpalooza-30

Biking through a window
at a fast-food place in Vancouver,
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As we learned in this situation, the application of the “no bicycles” stance at Walgreens windows was inconsistently applied. That makes it difficult for people to rely on being served if they arrive by bike. This clarification of policy from Walgreens will now make it more explicitly understood that outdoor service windows are open and accessible to all customers, regardless of what type of vehicle they arrive in. Now the next step for Walgreens is to consider making this a nationwide policy in all 8,300 of their stores. And of course, it would be great if other companies followed suit and made similar policy clarifications. It is National Bike Month after all!

For more on this topic, watch for an article about it by Peter Korn in the next issue of the Portland Tribune.

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  • longgone May 14, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Good. This story didnt surprise me, after being rejected at various drive thru’s for 3 decades or more. I am happy to hear of the change, as it will ripple along to other companys and managers that follow this silly policy.

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  • Kate May 14, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Wow- I am truly impressed. I never thought I’d see the national leadership of Walgreens respond positively to a local demand for a “specialized” treatment like serving bikes in the drive-through, and do it so quickly without some kind of protracted nationwide consumer campaign.

    But you still have to get OFF your bike and actually go into the store itself if you want to buy cigarettes and box wine…

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    • was carless May 14, 2013 at 10:23 am

      Drive-thru liquor stores are illegal in Oregon, so that would make sense…

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  • spare_wheel May 14, 2013 at 10:20 am

    a big thank you to bolles, maus, and others for helping make this happen.

    (and a raspberry to all the critical commenter’s on the last thread.)

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    • spare_wheel May 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      commenters (gah)

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  • was carless May 14, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Here, I corrected their statement for you:

    At Portland-area Walgreens stores, we welcome bicyclists at our drive-through lanes.

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    • John Lascurettes May 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      Indeed. Why not just change the policy nationally? Bikes are street-legal vehicles in every state as far as I know.

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  • GlowBoy May 14, 2013 at 10:25 am

    So the policy change only applies in the Portland area, because we’re the squeaky wheel?

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  • Adam May 14, 2013 at 10:38 am

    It’s a welcome change of heart from the company, and I hope it will be consistently applied.

    It’s funny that this story was on BikePortland this week, because the same week, I read a story about horses and McDonald’s drive-thrus. And it got me thinking, wow, McDonald’s is more welcoming than Walgreens. Has the world gone mad?!


    Who’s organizing the Pedalpalooza Drive-Thru Ride then, eh? 😉

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  • buny May 14, 2013 at 10:43 am

    now about that burger king… (50th & powell)

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  • IanC May 14, 2013 at 10:54 am

    The folks at the Walgreens on 39th and Belmont did not bat an eye when I rolled-up on my bike to use the “outdoor service window” last week. I love this place!

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  • dwainedibbly May 14, 2013 at 10:59 am

    It sounds like Walgreen’s is going to use Portland as a pilot for the new policy. That’s a reasonable approach for a large, conservative corporation. Hopefully it will go well and they’ll expand it to all of their stores.

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    • jim May 14, 2013 at 11:55 am

      After the first lawsuit the insurance pays out and the stores insurance rates go up, it will end. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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      • q`Tzal May 14, 2013 at 6:05 pm

        Using that logic automobiles using the drive thru would have been banned many years ago for running in to each other and the building.
        That and pedestrians would have banned wholesale because they can get run over in the parking lot.

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        • jim May 15, 2013 at 8:29 pm

          A car bumping another car bumper at 3 mph is not going to hurt a car, It will hurt a cyclists or pedestrian. That is why they are banned.

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          • 9watts May 16, 2013 at 10:07 am

            “A car bumping another car bumper at 3 mph is not going to hurt a car, It will hurt a cyclists or pedestrian.”

            3mph is walking speed.

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  • Spiffy May 14, 2013 at 11:23 am

    a small but important victory… thank you Walgreens!

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  • jim May 14, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Does this mean they will also do business for people walking up to the window? What’s the difference?
    I think the whole thing is foolish. You are putting yourself into a dangerous spot. People often roll their cars ahead into the one in front of them because they are sitting there looking down at their purse and don’t realize the car is creeping forward. This is the reason insurance companies balk at non motorized vehicles or pedestrians in drive through windows. It is from their costly experience they came up with these standards.

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    • longgone May 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      Is Walgreens liable for any other type of collision between two citizens in their lot?
      Is this truly a liability issue for them? Just asking, because it would seem that this would not be an issue for the business.

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      • jim May 15, 2013 at 8:30 pm

        It is entirely an insurance issue based on previous experiances

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  • 9watts May 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    I don’t want to lose sight of these facts
    * that Walgreens brass in attendance at the June 14, 2011 neighborhood meeting on the subject of their proposed but widely opposed-by-neighbors drive-thru jovially agreed that bikes were welcome in their drive-thru, or
    * that Walgreens insisted on hewing to their national model of converting their stores to drive-thrus even in our fairly densely populated, multi-modal neighborhood, and against neighbor opposition which was focused not only on the detrimental effects of the extra driving on neighbors’ health and safety, but also the detrimental effects on patients of dispensing drugs in this manner.

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  • Opus the Poet May 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Looking forward to seeing this done in Dallas…

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  • Todd Boulanger May 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Did their policy change refer to the insurance issue? Or is the silence on this reason just meaning it was no longer a real reason (or never was)?

    [I have always wondered how ADA (and the Access Board) treats “drive up windows” when the main entrance is closed to walk up traffic late at night. Hint hint wink wink…might make for a nice legal settlement if a local disabled citizen were to challenge some of the old line fast food restaurants who refuse service late at night.]

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  • stephry May 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    Jonathan – thank you! See – it pays to have media powerhouse Bikeportland on your side! Good work bringing the issue to Walgreens HQ.

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  • K'Tesh May 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Good NEWS!!! Now if other companies that have “drive up” windows would get the point.

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  • Todd Boulanger May 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    That photo of me reminds me of how things have changed in the last 5 years on this topic, back then only Muchas Gracias (and other non corporate/ immigrant owned fast food) and the old Burgerville (#2) would serve cyclists. The others would say it was a corporate policy (A: insurance issue; B: to deter hold ups; C: other) and then threaten to call the police if I or others did not leave the lane and the property. [The Wendy’s on Lombard actually did call the cops and I had a long chat with the PPB on the sidewalk until they closed the restaurant for the evening.] Then Burgerville changed their policy franchise wide. Now Walgreens. So when will McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell do the same?

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  • Sunny May 14, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Why do all the cyclists need drugs anyway? Sedentary people are the ones getting sick all the time.

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    • longgone May 14, 2013 at 3:59 pm

      And all my favorite performance “de-enhancing” choices do NOT come from Walgreens…

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    • jim May 15, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      Allergy medicine from sucking car exhaust and eye drops from the fumes. Asthma medicine.

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  • Jessica Roberts
    Jessica Roberts May 14, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    Jonathan, can you share contact info so we can thank Walgreens and emphasize that their decision makes good business sense? This is especially important if they are waiting to see how it goes before rolling out a new policy nationally.

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