Want a meal on 2 wheels? Utah may halt bikes in drive-thrus

AP News
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Posted: Feb 20, 2015 4:42 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Hungry cyclists thinking of grabbing a quick taco or hamburger while cruising through Salt Lake City could soon find that Utah has restricted their two-wheeled meals.

The state Senate on Friday passed a bill that would allow Salt Lake restaurants to ban cyclists from drive-thru lanes, a move that overrides a city rule passed just a few months ago. The proposal now heads to the governor.

In September, Salt Lake City required restaurants to open drive-thru lanes to cyclists if the lobby is closed. The bill by Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, prohibits cities from making such regulations and allows businesses to decide whether to serve cyclists.

"I don't believe it's appropriate for a city to do that," Anderson said. "They've gone too far."

Two Republicans joined the majority of Senate Democrats in voting against the proposal.

"This is just one of those issues that should be left up to city councils who have a special place in their heart for bicycles," Salt Lake City Democrat Jim Dabakis said.

Anderson thinks having bikes in drive-thrus is dangerous for cyclists and could lead to more accidents and robberies at drive-thru windows, although he said he is not aware of any such incidents locally.

When the city was considering the rule, Salt Lake County Sheriff James Winder raised public safety concerns. He said the hours when lobbies are usually closed, between 10 p.m. and 6 p.m., are particularly dangerous because of dimly lit drive-thru lanes and the increased presence of drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

A Salt Lake City police spokesman said the department has not noticed an increase in accidents since the rule took effect but has not been closely following the issue.

Luke Garrott, a Salt Lake City councilman who proposed the pro-cyclist regulation, said the rule aims to help "correct the imbalance of the transportation system in Salt Lake City" and make it more accessible to people who do not want to drive.

Some restaurants were closing their lobbies in the evening but keeping drive-thrus open, said Garrott, meaning that only people in vehicles could order food. Allowing that situation contributed to residents' dependence on cars, he said.

In response, Provo Republican Sen. Curtis Bramble asked whether bicycle valet service would be the next right demanded by cyclists.

The Utah Restaurant Association supports allowing businesses to decide on bikes, calling the city's rule unusual, spokesman Andy Stevenson said. The only other place with a similar provision is Maine, he said.

Although Maine does not require that cyclists be served at drive-thru windows, it does have a law waiving liability for businesses that do.

The increased potential for crime or injury may cause liability insurance rates to rise, said Stevenson, who spoke in favor of the proposal during a Tuesday Senate committee hearing.

A regional official for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, a large liability insurance company, said the increased risk of allowing cyclists in drive-thrus would definitely be factored in to insurance premiums.

The risk and potential insurance increases are being overstated by those favoring the proposal, said Garrott, who called the concern about additional crime a "red herring."

One Republican who voted against the bill was Sen. Todd Weiler of Woods Cross.

"It's kind of arrogant for the Legislature to come in and say, 'I know better than you do,'" he said.