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It’s now a Portland city code violation to deny “drive-thru” service to bicycle users

Posted by on May 29th, 2018 at 3:57 pm

The drive-thru at Burgerville on NE 122nd Ave.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus)

Something quietly profound happened last Thursday May 24th: The zoning maps and zoning code of Portland’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan went into effect.

Among the many updates and additions is a new policy on “drive-thrus”. Specifically, it is now against city code to deny service at outdoor windows to people using bikes, feet, and mobility devices.

The new code is found in chapter 224 of the new plan. In 33.224.070 Multi-Modal Access the code states, “When a drive-through facility is open and other pedestrian-oriented customer entrances to the business are unavailable or locked, the drive-through facility must serve customers using modes other than a vehicle such as pedestrians and bicyclists.” This applies to not only food establishments but banks, gas stations, pharmacies, and any retail business that has an outdoor service window. Portland has about 308 “drive-thrus” citywide.

Of course businesses that “get it” won’t limit bicycle users to limited access hours and will allow non-drivers to use outdoor service windows at any time.

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This code was inserted into the Comp Plan as an amendment in 2016 by Portland Planning and Sustainability Commissioner Chris Smith. As we reported in September of that year, Smith felt like enshrining the right to service even if you’re not using an automobile was an issue of basic fairness. “Ideally you can’t refuse service based on mode,” Smith told us. “In a city that aims to be less than 30 percent single-occupancy vehicle mode share, that’s just not cool.”

You’ll note that the new code only applies when main doors and entrances are closed. Smith says this was done for three main reasons: to make the change more politically palatable; to recognize that some drive-thrus are inherently unsafe for people outside of cars; and to not create undue insurance/liability burdens on business owners. “The driving public policy motivation for me was access to the service/business, which can be achieved either by providing access to the drive-thru or by leaving the front door open,” Smith shared.

The origin of this code update dates back to 2009 when Portland writer and self-described “family biking evangelist” Sarah Gilbert was denied service at the window of the Burgerville restaurant at SE Powell and 25th. Her story went viral and Burgerville was ultimately persuaded to change their policy.

Smith says if you’re refused service while on your bike and if access to the business is otherwise unavailable, you can file a zoning code complaint online or by calling (503) 823-CODE.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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KYouell
Guest

And all because a mama on a cargo bike wanted to roll through Burgerville with her 3 boys on the back. Thanks, Sarah Gilbert, for getting this ball rolling!

Toadslick
Subscriber

When a drive-through facility is open and other pedestrian-oriented customer entrances to the business are unavailable or locked

Welp, that killed my excitement pretty quickly. Not that I’m eager to sit in a line of exhaust-spewing SUVs, but limiting it to drive-thru-only hours undercuts much of the fairness and utility.

One of the benefits of a drive-thru being open to bike users is not having to take the time to lock up your bike – if there is bike parking at all – and not having to remove your lights and panniers to prevent them from being stolen. I see loaded bikes and cargo bikes much more frequently during daylight hours, and hardly ever during the sort of hours when fast-food joints are drive-thru-only.

Chris Smith
Guest
Chris Smith

Happy to be able to turn Sarah’s experience into an opportunity for change!

maxD
Guest
maxD

I have walked and bike through Burgerville and US Bank without any problems. The one and only time I attempted to go to Taco Bell , it was the location on Interstate/Going, I was on a bike and I was denied.

Todd Boulanger
Guest

This is great news – thanks Chris and Sarah!

1) Burgerville’s successful adoption of this has helped (FYI Burgerville is Vancouver based corp.)

2) The public policy of the origins of this issue date to my 2006 Pedal Palooza ride called: “Serve Me or Arrest Me – Drive Thru Equity)…& thanks Shift2Bikes and those who rode on the ride!

SERVE ME OR ARREST ME – DRIVE THRU EQUITY
N Portland Blvd MAX Stn – 11:59pm
A ride and food cruise to highlight the transportation inequity of national fast food restuarants not serving bicyclists (pedestrians too) in drive thru lanes at night. Does one have to rent a car to get a $1 burger? Think of this as a lunch counter sit-in for bicyclists. If these lanes are truely ‘not safe’ for bicyclists (as Ronald and Jack sez) then how come local jurisdictions allow them to be designed so? Restaurant suggestions accepted – for those that serve and do not serve bicyclists.
21+ Only.
https://bikeportland.org/2006/06/23/pedalpalooza-daily-623-1554

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

The new code is welcome and the fact that cyclists were refused service at some establishments was dumb.

But how often do people really want to bike in a drive thru, starting with why support a business that’s optimized to encourage driving? I won’t even do that, and from what I can tell I’m considerably more sympathetic to cars here than most. I can’t remember the last time I even had the desire to use a drive thru, let alone actually used one.

Hauling food intended for immediate consumption on a bike is both awkward and going to make it taste worse. Locking while removing panniers, lights, etc is the same as with any destination which takes seconds which are typically recovered in the often shorter indoor waiting times.

Aside the fact that huffing exhaust while listening to nonstop engine noise isn’t fun, a lot of customers in drive thrus are drunk or stoned — particularly late at night. I’d rather be on the roads where I have a chance of figuring out which ones they are and still have the ability to dodge rather than be standing there with little ability to move.

rick
Guest
rick

Is there a city code to no longer allow the construction of new drive-thrus ?

Brian
Guest
Brian

I was refused drive thru service last year at that same Burgerville, glad the policy and the law have been changed now!

Dave
Guest
Dave

Did you have to show Muchas Gracias? I’m hungry now.

billyjo
Guest
billyjo

will a bike set off the sensor telling them that there is someone at the board to place an order?

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I’m just glad cyclists and peds can finally utilize tunnel wash services previously available exclusively to motorists — the blatant discrimination against VRUs really got my goat.

As 33.224.020 clearly states, “The regulations of this chapter apply to all uses that have drive-through facilities.”

Those who get messy from riding in slop or working outdoors can finally enjoy convenient wash services as drivers have for many years 🙂

pruss2ny
Guest
pruss2ny

had never considered the social injustice created by not allowing bikes/pedestrians through drive throughs….I had always understood the reasoning being that it was for the window-person’s safety–that it is easier for a person on foot/bike to reach in and assault/rob a window late night vs. a person somewhat stuck inside a car…

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

At the end of the day, this is good but mostly just symbolic. Not many businesses keep their drive through windows open while locking their walk through entry.

I’d like to see an ordinance that retail ground floor businesses must permit bikes inside unless they have some minimum number of bike racks within X feet of the entrance.

Rivelo
Guest
truthseeker
Guest
truthseeker

get ready for lots of bike up armed robberies

Wanderer
Guest
Wanderer

Personally, I think my cat would freak out whether she was being transported by car or bike (in a cat carrier). She’d suspect, probably rightly, that she was going to the vet.

Aren’t some of those coffee places purely drive up? So by definition under this code provision they wouldn’t have walk in service and would be required to serve bikes at the drive up window.

Brad jacks
Guest

Why are bikers allowed to ride their bikes with a strobe light on the front of their bike. When nobody else can have anything on the road but a strobe light except emergency vehicles. When that bike with the strobe light gets them know night vision for themselves and they ruin everybody else’s Night vision