With the huge national and local spike in Covid cases thanks to the omicron variant, testing demand has skyrocketed, and suppliers can’t keep up. At-home tests are scarce, and if you can manage to secure an appointment at one of Portland’s testing sites, you might bump into an unrelated problem: navigating a drive-thru testing center without a car.
So it begs the question: What’s the deal with using a bike at a Covid testing drive-thru site?
Hau Hagedorn, associate director of the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) at Portland State University and a bike advocate, tweeted about her qualms with a Portland Kaiser Permanente Covid “drive up” testing site, and I reached out to learn more.
“The assumption is that everybody who comes to get a test has access to a vehicle, and that’s not the case,” Hagedorn tells me.
This particular testing location is right by a MAX stop, making it a great location for people who use public transit — until they get up to the door and see the drive-up sign.
Hagedorn was able to get tested via bike, but it was apparent that that was unusual to the people working at the site.
“Because these establishments or services are designed to assist people in a certain way, when people do something that’s outside the norm, the folks that are there to serve you aren’t quite sure how to deal with it,” Hagedorn says.
I’ve been to lots of different Covid testing sites that handle this issue in different ways. At Walgreens, where I’ve been tested several times, it seems to be required to drive through to the pharmacy window (I think it’s up to the individual store’s discretion whether or not someone who isn’t in a car will be able to get tested).
But other places are more friendly to people on foot or bike. Driving four blocks to the ZoomCare clinic on Hawthorne Blvd to get tested in my car would’ve been ridiculous, so luckily the providers didn’t bat an eyelid when I walked up. The Curative free testing site at Rose City Futsal in Northeast Portland is set up in an outdoor mobile clinic where people wait in line standing outside, and I saw someone with a bike walk up.
When Burgerville started allowing bikes to join the ‘drive-thru’ line in 2009, cycling advocates across the Pacific Northwest saw a vision of a world where car ownership isn’t taken for granted. In 2018, it became enshrined in Portland City Code that drive-thrus must accommodate biking customers.
So the answer to the question is: Your mileage may vary. Like many things bike riders face, it will often be up to each individual person to advocate for themselves — and in so doing, hopefully more care providers create processes that don’t assume everyone drives a car.
Have you tried getting tested for Covid without a car? Have you been turned away or welcomed? How do you think we can turn the tide even more to normalize ‘bike-thrus’?
Get more of your burning questions answered in our Ask BikePortland archives.
Taylor has been BikePortland’s staff writer since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org