Bicycle-Unfriendly Businesses?

Cody G sent in the following tale:

I know many cyclists out there already avoid Wal-mart for the terrible things they are doing to the world and our neighborhoods, but times are tough and sometimes you find yourself trapped into having to go to their vision center because you don’t have vision insurance. I rode to my appointment this morning as I do not have a car and commute 250+ miles a week by bicycle. Upon arriving I noticed they didn’t have any bike racks or anywhere to lock up a bike so I proceeded by visiting the garden center to ask if I could leave my bike by some empty shelves in the corner. Of course the answer was “no, and it has to go outside of the gates.” with no further explanation. I thought why not try Customer Service? Upon arriving to the counter I asked if I could place my bicycle out of the way by the edge of the counter during my eye exam I received a “no, its against policy.” I explained that there was nowhere else to lock up a bike; their response was to [lock it to] a pole outside that all you had to do was lift the bike over the pole to steal it. I explained I wasn’t comfortable with that as I have no other forms of transportation — I quickly received another “no.” I asked to speak with a manager for an opportunity to give me a solution in which she had none and told me I had to leave and could not keep my bike in the store for “liability purposes” from a store that sells bicycles and lets kids roll around with Heelys. No one offered any solutions, no one offered to help, they had no options for cyclists and told me to lock it up at Best Buy. Apparently you need a car or ride the bus to shop at Wal-marts.

I’m sure many of you have experienced similar situations…and God help us if we try to go through bank or restaurant drive-thrus on a bicycle! I don’t think these places actively discriminate against cyclists, but it sure feels that way sometimes. Mostly, folks just don’t get it: “why would you ride a bike instead of drive a car?” and those store policies reflect this ignorance and shortsightedness.

One suggestion I had was to file a complaint with the store manager, or even the corporate headquarters, of any business that doesn’t offer some type of bicycle-friendly amenities. Obviously, not EVERY store can offer such a thing as a secure bike rack, but surely any place (grocery stores, big-box retailers) that has two acres of parking lot can set aside some space, right?

Offering a solution as part of the complaint is always a good tactic, too. Simply relating the incident and then suggesting a “fix” such as adjusting store policies, providing input on a suitable rack location, or offering to meet with and speak with management can work wonders. This way, you’re not just some cranky nut but someone who might be able to offer a real solution!

Also, we can vote with our wallets — shopping at stores who offer reasonable solutions like bike racks or no-questions-asked “bikes-inside” policies and shunning those stores who refuse to help accomodate transportation modes other than cars. Let those “bad stores” know exactly why you won’t be shopping there anymore (and that you’ve told all your cycling buddies about the situation) and see how fast solutions might pop up!

We’re interested to hear if any of you have had run-ins with bike-unfriendly shops in your areas. If so, how did you handle the situation? Any success stories to share?


  1. Kelly

    Oh… this makes me crazy. The bank drive-thru thing bugs me the most. When my kiddos were tiny, they were in a bike trailer… so I’d have to pull my wee tots out of the cozy trailer – in the rain, usually – and of course the whole errand would be made much longer and much less fun (hello, 4 and 2 year old running all over the bank lobby?).

    I’ve since upgraded to an X with one kid on the back, the other kid on her own bike. I drive through the ATM drive-thru and woe be the employee who gives me any stink-eye! I’d like to file a formal complaint or whatever about the lack of allowing bikes to use the drive-through teller, but I just fear my comments would fall on deaf ears.

  2. Elizabeth

    I’ve used the drive-through pharmacy – especially in the rain! Love it. (so far no problem)

    Most Wal-Marts are on roads that aren’t very bike friendly! (I’d be scared just navigating there on my bike – with all those car drivers on their tunnel-vision mission to low prices) 😛

  3. bike Jax

    Jack, This is a post we are working here at Bike Jax. I’ve received so many complaints from cyclists denied service via a drive-thru.

    As far as the bike parking situation, Jacksonville zoning requires retail & commercial structures to provide bike racks. The problem is most don’t comply and those that do make the racks so inaccessible that that they’re not even practicable for use.

  4. SY

    I’ve ridden to two bicycle shops in Auckland, New Zealand with lots of car parking and none for bikes. Eh?!

  5. evie

    I had to get some blood work done at my local hospital, so I rode my bike there. It’s a beautiful, relatively new facility and I was shocked to find it did not have a single place for me to lock my bike. Not a rack, not a pole, nothing. They did have a large parking garage for cars (charging $5/hr), but nothing for bikes. I walked it across the street and attached it to a street sign. Not the best for many reasons, but I was stuck.

    If a health facility cannot be bothered to put in a single bike rack, what hope is there?

  6. Steve A

    My Walmart HAS bike racks, unlike Walgreens or most of the other local businesses, including at least one bike store.

  7. Wendy P.

    The Walmart here is right next to Adventure Cycling’s Pacific Coast Trail, and fortunately they are quite bike friendly. The greeters are always nice to me and they have allowed panniers and helmets to be piled into the shopping cart.
    Certainly would like to see that at every large shopping area.

  8. Ghost Rider

    @Kelly — deaf ears or not, it’s always good to let your voice be heard. You may be surprised at the positive reception, but you won’t know until you do your part!

    @Matt — is there a mechanism in place to have the City of Jacksonville enforce their zoning rule in these cases?

    @evie — that’s troubling, indeed, when a hospital can’t even provide bike parking. Sure, most of their patients aren’t coming in on bikes, but perhaps employees and visitors might want to?

    @ Steve and Wendy — reassuring to hear. Not every WalMart is the neighborhood “boogyman”…some actually try to get along with the communities they’re located in. For the record, neither of the WalMarts (and Targets, too) in my immediate area have bike parking. That sucks. And, all four are located on bike-unfriendly streets…but luckily there are access roads behind them that are much calmer.

  9. Aaron

    My wife walked into the Price Chopper supermarket near our house with her bicycle to complain that there was nowhere to lock her bike while she shopped for groceries. She got the managers ear and told him that until they get a bike rack she won’t be shopping there. This store is less than a mile from our house so its a bit silly to start up the car just to run down the street, which she also explained.

    Less than a month later there was a bicycle rack. Although it was a pretty crappy rack, but its better than nothing.

  10. rick

    I always speak with someone when I go somewhere without secure parking. It took almost an entire summer of pestering to get one grocery store to put up racks, but it worked.

    It’s not always successful, but I try.

    I understand the idea of not putting up racks if the perception is only one person will use it. But, after the racks are up, there is usually more than just my bike.

    If nothing else, it helps cut down on the clutter from the kids who ride their bikes. They stop setting them on the sidewalk if there are racks.

  11. tiago

    I have used a bank drive-in many times without a problem. It is a small credit union though – OSU Federal – and I used to know the staff by name.

  12. Ghost Rider

    I’ve tried the bank drive-thru a couple times in the past…”this IS my car!” fell on deaf ears and I was required to lock up to a pole and go inside. I haven’t tried it recently.

    Our own Noah has a success story where he convinced his local market to address the problem with a bike rack. Read all about it here:

  13. Chad

    I feel fortunate. The Wal-Mart near me has a bike trail run right to its back door. And the store has a bike rack outside. The Target, which is quite hard to get to, has a really nice set of poles designed for bikes.

    Like Kelly, I usually have kids attached to my bike, and that makes drive-thrus very convenient. I have used the one at my bank several times without issue. I have even went through the drive-thru at the liquor store once just for grins.

    However, the place where I do most of my grocery shopping does not have a rack, even though I have asked them to install one repeatedly. That said, they have several places to viably chain a bike. They have also allowed me to bring my bike inside when I have forgoten my lock or make an unexpected stop.

    It just varies from city to city. Reading this does make me feel better about the town where I live.

  14. Emily WK

    One thing you can do is contact the corporate office and talk to them. I used to, as part of my office manager job, take a deposit to a branch of a bank that was located inside a grocery store. For the amount of time it took me to drop it off, it would have been absurd to lock my bike up outside (and there wasn’t really a designated place to), so I just brought it in with me.

    I was told that I wasn’t permitted to. In a grocery store. Because of the dirt, they said, because you’ll get in the way of people. I think the other part of the problem is that people assume that someone who rides a bike for transportation is like unto a child who rides a bike for fun, and will thus behave accordingly. A store may think that they can’t accommodate a 30 year old transportation cyclist without inviting along a bunch of 13 year olds who they believe will cause problems.

    Anyway, I called the corporate office and explained and they told me that of course I could bring my bike inside, and that’s what I told the next person who challenged me.

    So, if the manager doesn’t work, try the next level up.

  15. Matt P

    As an instructor at the local community college, I regularly bike to work and I’m fortunate that there is a bike rack for our building. Since our building is not on the main campus I often need to go to man campus for meeting and what-not. The first time I rode over I could not find a bike rack anywhere. Not by the student union, not the admissions office. No where! So I called the maintenance folks and asked them about the shortage of bike racks. They said that it was something that they had been talking about and agreed that it would be a good idea. I couple weeks later, viola, more racks. It seems odd to me that a shortage of parking spaces, it doesn’t occur to anyone to encourage people to ride their bikes. Nope, just build more parking.

  16. Ghost Rider

    Matt P – the “campus crunch” is the subject of an upcoming article…thanks for bringing it up, and stay tuned for more on this topic.

  17. Amy

    No racks at the big chain grocery store less than a mile from my house. I asked the Sheriff on patrol there where I could find one and he said there weren’t any. It’s a strip mall shopping center and none of the stores have places for bikes, despite being in a very urban area with many people who do not have cars. I generally drive to a better store because of the bike hassle but would prefer to get the last minute stuff by bike at the local grocer!

  18. Gavin

    I do most of my riding in a college town that is increasingly bike friendly. The college students are known for using bikes as transportation, and commuters like myself are increasing in numbers. Theft is not a huge problem in this community, so locking outside is not a giant concern espescially because most businesses have racks outside. Walmart has a rack, as does most of their competition. There are racks provided by the city in the downtown shopping district. My major complaint is with the cyclists, the majority of which are sidewalkers and salmon, who do not foster realistic expectations with the motoring population.

  19. Quinn

    I guess I’m the odd man out, all the Wal-Marts in my area have bike racks, and for thos businessess that don’t, I just lock my bike to the nearest tree/handrail/fence/etc, what’s thhe big deal? if they complain, I complain right back, The funny thing is I have never had a complaint about where I lock my bike.

  20. Ghost Rider

    It must be a Tampa thing (Cody lives in my area). Bike racks are few and far between outside of the downtown business district, and the few places that DO have them set them up in very inconvenient places…or they go for the cheapie “wheel bender” models.

  21. Kermit

    On my visits to Lowes and the Home Depot I am usually searching for the closest but out of harms way shopping cart retrun to lock up to.

  22. Iron_Man

    I’ve ridden to my local Wal-Mart that has bike racks. It’s actually a very pleasant experience IMO. I’ve used the drive-thru at my credit union on numerous occasions and never got hassled (the tellers get a kick out of it). I’ve been to the movies and been forced to anchor my bike to a parking sign as they didn’t have a bike rack. But that was no big whoop. We can all share anecdotal instances of good or bad experiences, but so what? I honestly have a tough time justifying forcing businesses to spend money on cycling structures when we are such a woeful minority to their normal clientele. If enough cyclists show up and let the manager or owner know, politely, that it’d be nice to have a bike rack that’s certainly OK. If there are enough requests it would be a good business decision for the shop. But I would never demand all businesses provide them. Too nanny state for my tastes.

    Though a bike shop without a rack is just blasphemous, not illegal, but blasphemous all the same.

  23. Ghost Rider

    Iron_man, the point is not to be a dick about demanding racks…but the more racks installed throughout a city, the more encouraging it is for other folks to maybe take a gamble on riding rather than driving.

    You’re right — not every store can offer secure bike parking, but in those places that have acres and acres of paved parking spots (which we cyclists wind up paying for with every purchase, even though we don’t use them), surely they can sacrifice one or two for a bike rack, no? For me, I’ll frequent the stores that “get it” and shun the others when I can.

  24. Shanyn

    I always ask to speak to the manager if there are no bike racks or if the racks provided are full/inadequate. I am very pleasant while doing this and have been pleasantly surprised at how receptive managers and business owners are. It also helps to mention how much you spend in their business on an average basis.

  25. Steven Soto

    Jack, your “bad news” link to the story about a Burgerville drive-thru turning down a cyclist is actually a good news event. Burgerville stepped up and should be a model for how businesses solve this problem.

  26. Brian

    Jack–if you’d like photos of some of the saturated bike racks on the U. of Massachusetts Amherst campus, just let me know (but soon, since it’s already late October and pretty soon they’ll start to empty out!).

  27. Iron_Man

    I totally agree with you Ghost. Perhaps I read into Cody’s note a sense of entitlement that irritates me—perhaps it was all on my part. There was also no mention that the store most likely had some very valid liability issues that Cody failed did not address or recognize concerning the bike on the grounds, coming into the store and/or leaving it unattended.

    There are so many freakin’ lawyers lurking around every corner (cool ones that visit this blog excluded of course), who knows how much more friendly our shopping experiences as cyclists would be without all the meddling? Think about a shop owner in a busy section of town that is not particularly bike friendly. Most Wal-Mart parking lots are pretty hectic. That owner encourages bike access by installing some racks, but then does he face liability issues when a cyclist gets injured on their property? What protections do they have against litigation? I’m not sure about that.

    Frankly I’m surprised that a Wal-Mart does not have a bike rack simply because every one I’ve shopped at seems to have a handful of employees that ride to work.

  28. Ryan

    We have two Walmarts here.
    The older one has two bike racks that are covered. The only problem is that the employees will sit on them to have a smoke.
    This Walmart will be moving in a few years, and Walmart has indicated it will be a much more pedestrian friendly one.

    Our other Walmart had two bike racks, however they are expanding and moved the racks. Now there is only one…At least I can only find the one.

    I see their employees bringing their bikes to the back (warehouse) sometimes.

  29. rapps

    The local Trader Joes (very busy with cars and some foot/bike traffic on the side walk) leases it’s space from the property owner. That owner planted huge HUGE! grasses at the entrances to the lot. ????? After there was no response from the property owner I turned to the city zone enforcement office which sited the owner for the violation (limiting the sight of the drivers). The plants were cut back and partly removed. In the end it’s still a danger with whats left, as it’s too high still and of coarse the drivers of the cars are stunned, amazed that there is a sidewalk suddenly there, “where did that come from!” I’m considering a fog horn next.

  30. BikeWhenYouCan

    Whenever possible when advocating for bike parking, point out resources for good bike parking design/implementation. Here’s one such resource:

  31. Little Tiny Fish

    The Walmart close to my house has a ton of high quality bike racks and the Target far from my house ALSO has bike racks, but it’s few and far between that I actually see them used.

    I tell almost all businesses that don’t have racks that they should put some out. There are occasional businesses (like the Foam and Rubber supplier) where I recognize that the vast majority of people aren’t going to be cycling and I let them have their peace. (Though ironically half their employees ride bikes…)

  32. Ghost Rider

    @Steven — yes, I should have pointed out that the Burgerville story had a happy and satisfying ending…

    @BikeWhenYouCan — that’s a fantastic resource! I will definitely direct folks to that in the future.

  33. thomnola

    I’m not sure about the Wal-mart here but I did approach a parking garage around the corner from my work and asked if they would be interested in putting a bike rack there and charging a fee to let our employees park their bikes there out of the elements. I got the “Are you from Mars” look and the manager never returned my calls.

  34. zendude

    In Tucson, all the stores that I go to(Trader Joe’s, Wal-mart, Sam’s Club, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) have racks. My only beef is that many of the racks are designed for kids bikes, so I have to be creative when securing my bike. We are also starting to get bike corrals downtown!

  35. ksteinhoff

    Boca FAU college students are complaining about the lack of car parking.

    On a positive note, my daughter-in-law griped about the lack of bike parking at her grocery store and management responded quickly.

    I pointed out to a friend who volunteers at the local zoo that it doesn’t have bike racks. He brought up to the manager, who is exploring installing a rack/s.

    Most businesses don’t have bike racks on their radar unless they’re required to provide them by code or unless customers complain.

  36. Moe

    I complained to a Jack in the box about not having bike racks, they installed them a week later. Why? half of their employees rode a bike to work and were locking them on the trees by the drive thru and it was a little “unsightly”. All I had to do is point that out.

  37. Lovely Bicycle!

    You know, let WMart keep doing what they are doing. Maybe they will go out of business that way, as more and more people are choosing cycling as their mode of transportation. Good riddance.

  38. Ghost Rider

    Ha…I definitely tend to agree with you!

  39. Linna

    I’ve experienced this problem of no bike racks in Greensboro, NC and Fort Wayne, IN. In all honesty, I bike places that most people don’t think is possible. So I end up securing my bike to the shopping cart racks anytime I encounter a store with no bike racks. The Walgreens and other such places are a bit more challenging then I resort to the handicap parking signs! Neither of these are great solutions since your bike could get brushed by a car, but I’ve never had any trouble.

  40. Outdoor Outlet Boulder

    Customer Service is not a priority for walmart. They make up for lack of customer service by offering low prices.
    Great business model. That is why they are Evil.

  41. Joel

    I think there has to be some understanding on both sides of this issue. My work history includes working for a couple of large retailers. Liability IS an issue on several levels. There are always people looking for an easy buck or free product. I let you leave your bike behind a counter and when you come back the tire is flat. What’s going to happen? Are you going to say it wasn’t flat when you brought it in and demand a new tube? And if I, as the manager, give you one I’m going to have to explain why to regional if not corporate powers. And what if someone does damage your bike, say one costing $1500? That comes out of my paycheck when you want a new bike, one way or another. Another is where the service stops. Do I stop at 1, 10, or 100 bikes? If its raining and I let bicycles in, how about mopeds and motorcycles? These are all legitimate questions that managers, who are already plowed under by not having enough hours to hire the people they need, are handling. You not having a lock for your bike is simply not at the front of my list.

    So before thinking something is unreasonable, consider the other side of it. As far as bike racks and the like, good luck. A regional manager might be able to do that, but most probably it will be corporate. And let me tell you, unless you can show that there are plenty of customers needing that service, good luck. One option that would be viable is getting a bike group together and buying a rack yourselves.

    I have been a bike commuter for 6 years, averaging 22 miles a weekday, the last 2 years biking at night. After the first two years I got rid of my car and have been strictly bike since. I use a trailer all the time, getting groceries, taking my dogs to the park, once even strapping an easy chair to the trailer and taking a friend around (there was a carnival 😉 ). The problems encountered are ones I know about. But before saying a situation is unreasonable, try to see both sides.

  42. Ghost Rider

    Joel, you raise good points, particularly about the liability issues.

    But, it never hurts to ask the regional or corporate managers, right (as long as you do it politely and reasonably)? You never know until you ask!

  43. Tampa car dodger aka tampa bike commuter

    Regions banks in my area are promoting this new Green initiative complete with marketing all over bank windows of people joyfully riding bikes. No bike racks in site to accomodate for bike commuters though!
    I used to lock my bike at the bike rack provided by the Walmart in my area, until i walked out and noticed cigarette ashes all over my front bike panniers. Now I lock my bike to a sturdy rain gutter on the side of the building that is close to a security camera.

  44. Al

    The Walgreens near my home (only 4 blocks away and on my commute home from work) did not have a bike rack for the longest time. They have lots of wide sidewalks on one side of the building and two parking lots, neither huge, but two! It’s also adjacent to a huge new “green” building/housing area where walking and cycling is encouraged. Still no bike racks – I used a tree for a couple years until the tree grew too big and the landscaping filled in. So I wrote to the manager. Nothing, not even a response.

    So I emailed Seattle DOT who have a bike rack installation program. They first contact the business who is given the opportunity to voluntarily put in a bike rack. Must have been a “no” because 4 weeks later there was a decent staple rack installed in the landscaping on the public right-of way right outside the front door. Whoo-hoo! So there!

  45. clever-title

    One thing to remember is that stores are often just tenants and have no ability to install bike racks. You need to find out who owns the building and contact them to get the racks installed.

  46. Winter Ryder

    My local Dairy Queen lets me ride through the drive through for my obligatory ‘ride reward’ twist cone. Now that’s service!

  47. Jack Byers

    One thing I do when I ride my cargo bike (a nirve classic with a big basket a child seat) is carry an extra long cable, I think it’s about 12′, as well as my normal lock. I can almost always find a place to park. Also, when you talk to someone ask for their card. If it does ‘t say general manager, keep asking for the manager and stay calm and happy. Much of the time the GM is much more open to helping you than the line worker who love the chance to be rude and show their small amount of power.

  48. 100poundsago

    I am a Union Firefighter who upholds the AFL-CIO boycott on Wal-Mart. If you paid me I wouldnt shop there bike parking or no bike parking. Not suprised in the least they wouldnt allow some kind of courtesy for bike folks. On the other hand I like to go to Whole Food Market where they are more than happy to let me bring my bike in the store and park it near the registers…no one even blinks at such a thing.

  49. Russell Rogers

    I complained to the local Costco about the lack of a bike rack and within a week there was a bike rack. Later I complained that it wasn’t installed correctly and caused damage to my wheels. The next day the Costco manager was working with me to find a solution. At other stores, such as Walgreen’s and Rite-Aids, my request for a bike rack simply falls on deaf ears. The result is that I spend thousands of dollars at Costco per year, and probably under 100, if any, at the other places. I’ve never had a problem with the drive through windows at my bank.

  50. Charles

    Austin has a bike rack installation program also, and I believe there may be a mandatory percentage of bicycle parking; there’s certainly plenty of it at our Costco, Target, HEB, etc.

    The only place I’ve been turned away from in Austin was a GNC (yes, a nutritional store! — I asked them, and they indicated a folding bike wouldn’t have been welcome inside either, even with no other customers present [as was the case]).

  51. Barb Chamberlain

    Here in Spokane there is an active effort under way to get more bike racks installed. Thanks to a state grant aimed at increasing transportation efficiency in high-density employment centers, the Downtown Spokane Partnership ( was able to partner with the Commute Trip Reduction program ( to put in racks. They invited downtown businesses to request a rack (I think the cost was $50 to the business) and we have 20 or more new staple racks around downtown. The visible signal is so important.

    I work for Washington State University Spokane ( We have bike racks next to every building–one at each entrance for some buildings–and have indoor hanging racks in the loading bays. We’re on the east end of downtown with the Centennial Trial running along the edge of our campus, and it’s about 5-7 minutes from our campus to the central shopping district, City Hall, the main library, movie theaters, restaurants–you name it. We have more bikes in the racks all the time.

    I don’t know if anyone has taken a run at this from the policy side: Another way to work this problem is to look at what your comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances require. That’s what the building owners have to start with.

    In every city you will find commercial buildings are required to have X parking spaces per square foot/person/trip/what-have-you. So they HAVE to have the big parking lot because they generate vehicle trips.

    If the ordinance gave them credit for accommodating a certain number of trips generated by having bike racks, they might just do it–a decent-sized bike rack is far cheaper than dealing with the equivalent in parking spaces.

    In Spokane they’ve been working on an impact fee ordinance to get new development to help pay for the cost of associated infrastructure. Impact fees are getting more common around the country, and are calculated in different ways and used for various types of services–everything from streets to fire service to schools and parks.

    If you have an impact fee ordinance, does it give developers any kind of credit for installing bike/ped/transit elements that help reduce SOV (single occupancy vehicle) trips? If not, partner up with transit riders and work for this. Again, it’s usually a lower-cost element of the infrastructure than car-oriented stuff, and it adds to the desirability of their development as a destination whether it’s residential or commercial.

    Transit makes a good partner because they extend the potential range of bike trips and vice versa.

    On the question of creating liability by installing a bike rack, what kind of liability do they have because of the parking lot? People get hit, cars get dinged, runaway shopping carts are a menace, car tires go flat. That’s what insurance is for, and I can’t imagine a rack creates any greater potential risk than they already have. We’re most likely not going to kill anyone we run into, unlike the drivers on their cell phones.


  52. rick

    I’m pretty sure that Maine passed a law a year or two ago allowing bicycles to pull up to drivethru windows. It was a liability issue for the businesses but Maine enacted a law taking the liability away. Of course, I haven’t tested this since I rarely use drivethru’s.

  53. r4i

    Wow this is interesting, i liked it. You explain each thing you wanna explain in wonderful manner.I really appreciate.

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