I know many here were ambivalent toward the issue of cyclists being denied the same convenience as motorists and I thought if I gave it some time I might too see it as a non-issue. After five months, however, I find I am still bothered that cyclists are deprived of the privelege without valid or justifiable reason. Perhaps because I went to my local McDonald's---one of five urban locations here in Toronto that has a drive-thru---for the first time in five months yesterday (I only go maybe three times a year), my indignation was raised again.
This is a copy of the letter I have submitted to various news outlets as an op-ed piece and forwarded to McDonald's Canada as well.
An Open Letter To McDonald’s
Cyclists Unwelcome At McDonald’s?
I contacted your office in writing in mid-April, five months ago, regarding the apparent discriminatory policy of not permitting cyclists or pedestrians to use the convenient drive-thru services for take-out you currently offer only to a select group of customers; motorists, but have not yet received a reply, leaving me with the distinct impression that McDonald’s has been contacted so often regarding this issue, they are fed up with explaining their irrational policy or McDonald’s simply does not value the concerns and issues of its’ customers.
After having decided to go to the media, I decided it would only be fair and equitable to allow you a second opportunity to address the issue.
I spoke with a condescending and rude Assistant Team Leader at your Dufferin & Dupont location as well as Pilar, a Customer Relations representative and was advised that the policy is in effect ‘for safety reasons.’ I asked each to elaborate on what the danger is that would deny as many as 900,000 cyclists (NOW Magazine, 2005) from using the pick-up window at the five urban locations in Toronto, but neither could offer an explanation.
I asked if it was a fear that cyclists were putting motorists lives at risk, somehow running them over or causing property damage. No, that wasn’t it. I asked if it was a fear of a cyclist being struck by a motorist. Pilar assented that was, indeed, the fear. I then asked how that makes sense, how is it logical? She was silent. I asked how the danger is any different for a cyclist in a drive-thru lane than it is for a motorist, but she had no answer. A car can hit another car as easily as it can hit a cyclist, I offered. I asked if there was any research data or documentation that confirmed that a genuine threat exists to cyclists in drive-thru’s. No, unfortunately. I asked if McDonald’s had ever let cyclists use their pick-up window and due to experiencing a high number of collisions that followed, they had to deny cyclists the use of the convenience. No. Cyclists have never been allowed to use the service. So how does McDonald’s know cyclists are prone to being hit in drive-thru lanes? What proof is there that any accidents of such nature would occur at all?
I suggested that traffic speeds in drive thru’s are usually very low and low speeds reduce the opportunity for collision. Thousands and even millions of cyclists share the road every day with motorists who are traveling anywhere from 10-90 km/h with few mishaps, so it seemed implausible that collisions would occur when cars are moving at around 5 km/h in a much more controlled lane. I asked if collisions were such a threat in drive-thru lanes---and since cars strike other cars more often than any other object, vehicle or person (according to Transport Canada), presumably there have been car on car collisions in drive-thru lanes, wouldn’t it be more likely that two cars would collide in a drive-thru lane than a car and a bicycle? Bike-car collisions are one of the lowest types of collisions, according to the National Safety Board and Transport Canada, I reminded the representative, but she did not have an answer for that either. I asked if collisions were such a threat on their property, was McDonald’s considering banning cars from drive thru’s and parking lots altogether because of the danger they obviously posed, but she said no. I reminded the representative that the second most common accident type is cars hitting---and killing---pedestrians) and, therefore, greater threat existed to pedestrians on their property than to cyclists. Were they going to prohibit people from walking into their restaurants as a result?
I then asserted that it seemed cars were the real danger, not pedestrians or cyclists, but it is pedestrians and cyclists who are ‘punished’ rather than irresponsible or inattentive or distracted or reckless motorists. Neither representative had any comment.
I can cite verifiable facts. McDonald’s can’t. It seems McDonald’s policy has no valid justification and may very well be in violation of The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No private policy that discriminates supersedes the Charter after all. But that is not for me to decide.
Other services such as banks and pharmacies offer drive-thru convenience, but do not ban cyclists and there have been no instances of rampant cyclist deaths as a result of motorists hitting them. So, it must be concluded that McDonald’s merely presumes this sort of situation will occur without any data to suggest it is fact. Either that or they simply do not want cyclists on visiting their restaurants.
The reasons this issue is compelling is not only because of the obvious discrimination, but how this policy flies in the face of common business practices, a society-wide awareness of and commitment to actively reducing pollution by riding bikes more often as a general means of commuting and their own statement on their website: ‘At McDonald's Canada, we are committed to doing what is right, to being a good neighbour and a valued partner in every community in which we live and work. At McDonald's, giving back to the community is more than simply a commitment -- it is the foundation upon which our company has been built.’
It is clear how the above statement contradicts McDonald’s anti-bike policy. Is depriving cyclists and pedestrians the use of a pick-up window ‘doing what is right?’ Or ‘being a good neighbour?’ I hardly think so. If the people that lived next door to me were idling their cars for hours every day or banning cyclists from their ‘private property,’ failing to afford the same rights granted to me by the federal government, they would be the most despised neighbours in the community, not valued members of the neighbourhood.
Promoting irresponsible car use and depriving environment-conscious cyclists and pedestrians use of your conveniences only further contributes to global warming. I have witnessed long lines of cars idling and spewing exhaust for several hours in many McDonald’s drive thru’s and aside from the obvious hazard of polluted air, the cars prevent those who are trying to make it inside your restaurants from getting in there safely. I suggest that McDonald’s either get rid of all urban drive-thru’s or allow everyone to use them when they want take-out.
Most corporations and businesses are seeing the wisdom and profit in catering to an ever-increasing ‘pro-green’ lifestyle. The city of Toronto even offers awards and other benefits to ‘environmentally-responsible’ and ‘bike-friendly’ businesses, many of which are thriving as a result. Federal, municipal and provincial governments all promote cycling and bike-commuting, going so far as to even offer incentives and privileges for those who make a conscious effort to reduce their environmental footprint. McDonald’s seems to be openly hostile to that concept. Doesn’t that seem odd for a company that has enjoyed such tremendous success that they would thumb their nose at the estimated 100,000 full-time, year-round cyclists in this city? Especially when that number is growing steadily. That’s a lot of business you’re possibly losing.
Perhaps it’s time for McDonald’s Canada to get with the program. I hope you’ll take this issue seriously, because it is a serious issue and one day in the not too distant future you’re going to wish you’d done the right thing and been a good neighbour.