City urged to ban takeout windows

Joel Kom, Calgary Herald

Published: Thursday, June 26, 2008

Calgary should consider banning new drive-thrus, two aldermen say — a suggestion that received a chilly reception from some drivers Wednesday.

In a city trying to put pedestrians first and cars last, blocking new drive-thrus from being built makes sense, said Ald. Brian Pincott.

“We’ve got to start designing and building our city for people and drive-thrus are not about people, they’re about cars,” he said.

“We are addicted to convenience, and a lot of times that addiction is to our detriment.”

Ald. Druh Farrell backed the idea.

“We’re making huge strides away from our auto focus,” she said. “I think we need to look at all sorts of means to reduce our carbon footprint, and this is one of them.”

Both aldermen said banning new drive-thrus would drop carbon emissions from idling cars that wait in line, while Pincott said it would improve communities by making people talk face-to-face instead of through a speaker.

The proposal follows a move by council to ban new drive-thrus in a small area near the Chinook LRT station, a move aimed at transforming auto-centric areas into pedestrian-friendly spaces.

Pincott and Farrell said they wouldn’t look at doing away with drive-thrus already in place, but they want any new ones to be discouraged where it makes sense to do so.

Some drivers, however, panned the move. “They’re out of their minds,” said Andy Shiplack, a multiple sclerosis sufferer, as he drove his electric mobility scooter through a Chinook Tim Hortons drive-thru.

“(Drive-thrus) are a lazy thing, but they’re convenient; they’re quick. I’d say leave them be, they’re a good thing,” said Shiplack.

“I think it sucks,” Allan Scheller said of the proposed ban as he drove his pickup truck through.

“No one wants to get out (of a vehicle) unless they have to go to the bathroom.”

Parts of Calgary already have policies discouraging drive-thrus, including Hillhurst and Sunnyside, as well as several blocks along the 16th Avenue corridor between 14th Street N.W. and 4th Street N.E.

Ald. Jim Stevenson said he’d have to hear more about the idea, but on the surface, he didn’t like it.

“I think we’re interfering in how business operates,” he said. “I’m just not convinced that’s the way we should go.”

Mark von Schellwitz, the Western Canada vice-president for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said he understood the ban in terms of development concerns.

“If you and your community have an area that’s going to be pedestrian-focused, obviously drive-thrus don’t fit into that plan,” he said.

But he rejected any notion a ban would drop carbon emissions, saying drive-thrus contribute minimally to emissions overall and sometimes result in fewer emissions compared with people stopping and restarting their car.

Drive-thrus are also convenient for the elderly, people with disabilities and parents with several children as passengers, he said.

Danielle Smith, the Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said it is a business’s decision to have drive-thrus and a customer’s to use them — not city council’s.

“We have nine months of winter, and we have a structure to our city with a huge downtown commute,” she said.

“It’s nice to think people can walk or ride their bike, but nine months of the year, people are in their cars.”

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Unusual Drive-Thrus

– The Junior Drive-Thru Funeral Home in Pensacola, Fla., offered an optional drive-thru viewing window. The business closed and the funeral home was converted into a church.

– A unique project, billed as Canada’s first drive-thru contemporary art window, opened in Vancouver in July 2006.

– Ottawa Public Library opened a drive-thru window in 2005.

– Quickie Vegas weddings became even faster with the opening of the Drive-Thru Tunnel of Vows in 1991.

– The Climax Gentlemen’s Club in Pennsylvania offers oglers a nude drive-thru lane.

– In Sheridan, Wyo., customers can purchase a bottle of liquor or a six-pack of beer via a drive-thru window.

Did You Know?

– In 2003, Gray Davis, then governor of California, declared July 28 to be Drive-Thru Day.

– McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain, is testing the use of a remote call centre to handle drive-thru orders.

– In 2007, police launched Project WULF in Surrey, B.C., to crack down on suspected drunk drivers. An officer stationed at the drive-thru booth looks for signs of impairment and alerts a second officer, who stops the vehicle as it leaves, resulting in a number of charges.

Sources: Canwest Archives; Wikipedia

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