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

Cyclists who want to grab a quick taco or hamburger while cruising through Salt Lake City may soon find that Utah has restricted their two-wheeled meals.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow Salt Lake restaurants to ban cyclists from drive-thru lanes, a move that would override a city rule passed just a few months ago.

Since September, Salt Lake City has required restaurants to open drive-thru lanes to cyclists if the lobby is closed. A proposal from Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, would prohibit cities from making such regulations and allow 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."

A Senate committee approved the bill Tuesday, and the full chamber is scheduled to hold a final vote Friday.

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.

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, who represents downtown on the Salt Lake City Council and originally 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.

The Utah Restaurant Association supports allowing businesses to decide on bikes. The increased potential for crime or injury may cause liability insurance rates to rise, spokesman Andy Stevenson said.

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.

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