Recently, Clive Promhows wanted to grab a sandwich on his way home so he attempted to drive his bicycle through the McDonald's drive-thru at 707 S. 1st St. However, he was refused service.
"The very rude manager said I had to have an engine to use the drive-thru, but that’s total bullsh*t," says Promhows. "There’s nothing on the drive-thru board that says ‘no bicycles.’"
OnMilwaukee called three fast food restaurants – the McDonald’s on 1st Street, Burger King at 1841 S. 14th St., and Taco Bell at 5560 N. Port Washington Rd. in Glendale – to inquire about their bicycle / drive-thru policies.
All three restaurants said they had a "no bicycles" rule for their drive-thrus. Two of the employees said it was for safety reasons and one said they had no idea why it wasn’t allowed, but that he was informed of the restriction when he started the job.
"There is no state law that enforces this as the driveways are private property and the owners can make the rules for operation on their space," says Jessica Wineberg, program director for the Wisconsin Bike Fed.
Most likely, the restaurants' "safety issues" revolve around either a cyclist getting mowed down by a motorist while in the queue as well as a fear / belief that it’s easier for someone on a bike – or on foot – to lunge through the window, grab cash and then get away because they don’t have a license plate number. The restriction could also be based upon insurance company policies.
Yet, denying bicyclists access to drive-thrus raises the questions if people who are unable to afford a car or are uninterested in owning one should be allowed the same conveniences and treated equally as motorists.
"I think they should serve bikes as the vehicle code designates bicycles as vehicles and gives their operators the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicle operators," says Wineberg. "Businesses should serve all vehicles or none, not just cherry pick motorized since there is no demonstrated safety issue."
Also, many fast food restaurants close walk-in service at a specified time, but the drive-thrus have extended hours. This means there is not an option at certain times of the evening for people to lock their bikes and order inside.
In some cities, like Portland, Ore., there are bicycle lanes in drive-thrus. In Milwaukee, there are some drive-thrus that are bicycle friendly, such as at the Educator’s Credit Union, 2243 N. Prospect Ave. Riding a bicycle through Walgreens drive-thrus is also permitted.
"We have no policy that prohibits the use of bicycles or other vehicles at our drive-thru locations," says Alyssa Bronikowski, the manager of media relations for the Walgreens Co.
Safety may or may not be a real concern with bicyclists and drive-thrus, but this issue raises the larger question of whether or not bicyclists are seen by motorists as "real" drivers. As people's economics and personal philosophies change, more people are opting to bike over drive a vehicle and in doing so, demand the same rights.
"Bicycles were here before motorized vehicles and will still be here long after they're gone," says Promhows.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.