September 10, 2005

    Good Web site.
    I got chewed out by the bank teller yesterday for biking to the drive-up window at the Bank One/Chase in my neighborhood. She said it’s for my own safety that they will no longer serve me if I come thru on my bicycle. I must use my car to use this service or go into the bank and stand in the ridiculously long lines.
    My local branch has 12 teller windows but NEVER has more than three open tellers. There are usually about 20 people waiting in line. It is easy to incite a lively verbal exchange by pointing out that the bank is too cheap to hire adequate help and consequently wastes our time standing in their lines while at the same time the bank has bought more real estate a few blocks away and is proudly advertising that the new branch will be able to meet all our banking needs. Soon a few of us are openly demanding that they bring out MORE TELLERS. HERE! NOW!
    But I digress . . . except to explain that I don't like to go inside and would prefer to bike to their drive-up teller.
    What are my rights as a biker at drive-up service windows? Does the law say anything about it? Thanks.

Bryan S.

    When they say they care about "your safety" they mean "their liability," which I view as typical of a culture dominated by cars and litigation. On your bike the bank sees you as a small child who hasn’t learned to swim and without adult supervision, and this’d make them not just foolish, but irresponsible to let you swim in their pool.
    I don’t even play a lawyer on TV—but I nonetheless opine that there probably exist, from a legal standpoint, no existing hazards to bike riders from which the bank must protect itself with their bike ban. (I wrote about this at length in a case study.) So I believe you must appeal to their common sense and civic-mindedness, or shame them.
    Let’s take the latter first. Write the president of one of your bank’s chief competitors and explain your dilemma. Say that if the competitor doesn’t have a policy that bans bikes in its drive-thrus you’ll switch banks pronto—and you’ll gladly appear at the press conference where they formally announce their policy. The free market at work.
    Not enough theater in that approach? Try this one: Get a pal to videotape you. Then borrow a motorcycle and use it in your bank's drive-thru. Next do the same thing, but beforehand turn off the motor and push it thru with your feet. Next borrow a motor scooter and push it thru. (Presumably you get served each time with no problem.) Finally, go thru with a motorized bicycle and, ultimately, a regular bike. You probably won’t get served one of these last two times. You send the tape to local TV stations with a press release announcing a press conference at which you and other local bikers decry the bank’s inconsistent, senseless, and (of course) discriminatory policy.
    Second option: the appeal. Send a letter to your bank’s president, explaining that you chose their bank partly due to their fine reputation for community support, customer service, blah blah blah . . . so you feel certain that the president would not want to alienate any part of the community, especially one that champions a healthy and environmentally sound form of transportation. If your town has bicycle-friendly policies, cite those and even the mayor’s name.
    As for the law: In Chicago where I live, the municipal code (which you can see on-line, for other U.S. cities as well) doesn’t regulate what kind of vehicles or non-vehicles can traverse private property such as drive-thru lanes—a condition I expect to find typical elsewhere. This empty cup, the law, you must sometimes fill with your own brew. Drink hearty.

Mr Bike

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