Sunday, November 30, 2014

What would it say to America if McDonalds became "Bike Friendly"?

If you're "bike aware" (and likely you are because you're reading this blog) and have ever visited a fast food restaurant you've undoubtedly seen bikes haphazardly parked to anything secure all around the restaurant site.  A vast majority of these bikes are undoubtedly owned by members of restaurant staff who depend on their bikes to get to their jobs in the restaurant.

A bike parked on a street sign outside the McDonalds on Milltown Road in North Brunswick, NJ.

Knowing that a number of their employees rely on a bike to get to work everyday, one would think that these fast food restaurants would provided some official organized bicycle parking that preferably meets the basic APBP bike parking standards.  Unfortunately this is almost always not the case and the sight of bikes parked to whatever the owner can find is common sight not only in New Jersey but at most fast food and chain sit-down restaurants all across the country.

The above two photos and the one below were all taken at the same time at the
North Brunwick McDonalds. There are three bikes in this photo plus the one bike in the first
photo. Including the author's bicycle (I ate there too), there were five bikes parked at this
McDonalds location at one time, a very high actual demand.  The underutilized lawn
shown here would have made an ideal location for APBP compliant bicycle parking.

And given no official bike parking and left with few other options, owners will often lock their bikes to trees.  Chaining a bike to a tree will damage the bark and eventually kill the tree.  Trees are expensive to replace if they are replaced at all, so the landscaping at the restaurant sites is often left permanently damaged and never given a chance to mature.

This tree shows clear signs of structural damage which was likely caused by bike parking.

So this is why we ask, "What would it say to America if McDonalds became 'Bike Friendly'?"  We are not picking on McDonalds.  Far from it!  We focus on McDonalds because they are clearly the industry leader and we respect them for that.  If McDonalds makes the move to standardize bike parking for their employees and guests, WalkBikeJersey believes that it would send a message across the entire restaurant industry.  Their engineering consultants that do their local site plans would also be educated about proper bike parking design and hopefully the message would get out to the towns that do the site plan review and then possibly even to McDonalds' competition.  There is clearly the potential for a positive feedback loop here.
Employee bicycles locked to the signpost marking the handicapped parking space
at the McDonalds on Route 22 in Somerville NJ.  The signpost is much closer to the
door than the provided bike rack that fails APBP Guidelines.  As such the bicyclists
park on the signpost which could then block wheelchair users from accessing the door.

Also, McDonalds is known for remodeling their restaurants at regular intervals.  Both McDonalds featured in this story were entirely remodeled inside and out within the past 2 years and the North Brunswick location has been remodeled 3 times in the past 15 years.  Their frequent remodeling schedule would allow them quickly implement universal APBP compliant bike parking at large portion of their restaurants.

This APBP non-compliant "wave rack" located at the Somerville NJ McDonalds
was far from the door and not immediately visible.  It was also located too close to
the bushes seen here to be used properly or easily.

Some locations like the Somerville McDonalds have tried to do bike parking but didn't get the details quite right.  This is a good sign but just the beginning.  We hope McDonalds takes the lead here because not only would good bike parking be good for their employees but it would prevent damage to their landscape trees, limit liability when bikes are haphazardly park to signs and it would be good costumer service as well.  And if McDonalds is smart, and we know they are, they could turn this into a great public relations opportunity.

Now if we could only get them to turn the "drive-up window" into a "walk-up window."  We can dream, no?


Anonymous said...

Maybe you need to start an online petition.

Frank Warnock said...

An on-line petition will yield disappointing results in a case like this, because the target audience tends to be indigent and computer illiterate (or, simply not interested in advocacy even when it suits them). Been there, done that.

A good first start is an ordinance at the county level, that mandates bike parking. New Castle Country Delaware has it in the code to provide bike parking and a bike lane out front for any new construction that parks 20 or more cars.

Of course, this would be very difficult to achieve without a strong advocacy org to be a presence, lobby and push it through every county govt in the State. We're lucky it's been in place in Delaware for almost 15 years now, and you see lots of racks now. Unfortunately, most are wheelbenders or wave racks and can be worse than nothing at all. The City of Newark, DE in response, came up with their own code calling for racks that have both wheel and frame support. It has helped a lot but it is ashame that in the end, it's the rack companies who kill us. They (at least the major makers) should know better than sell these worse than useless "bike racks". And it's impossible to stop it, because the average business manager who orders one doesn't ride and has no clue what to buy. Essentially, a racks a rack to the average Joe.

Frank Warnock said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frank Warnock said...

Here is a link to the New Castle County unified development code for bicycle parking and access:

I was initially wrong; it's 1 bicycle parking space for every 10 cars. In other words, parking for 50 cars = 5 bicycles.