Friday, August 21, 2009

Two-wheeled Risk (You Want Fries With That?)

[Welcome Industry Radar readers!]
While not strictly an insurance issue, this story does pose some interesting risk-management questions:
[ed: we'll table the discussion about the seeming contradiction between eschewing a car for a bike but ordering a cheeseburger instead of a salad]
The gist of the story is that this particular chain, known for its "green policies," banned bike riders from using the drive-through, citing safety concerns. Other national chains also do this, but Burgerville has decided, as a result of Ms Gilbert's experience and response, to delete (or at least modify) that policy. One supposes that's good news, at least for the bicyclists.
But is it sound risk management?
Here's why I ask: if you're on a bike going through the drive-through, aren't you at greater risk of being run-over than if you simply parked the bike out front and walked on in? I don't know the answer to that, and I spent quite some time Googling around trying to find stats to prove the case either way.
No luck; perhaps one of our resourceful readers has access to this info and would be willing to share it?
Of course, this same principle would apply to drive-up ATM's [ed: and BTW, what is it with braille markings on drive-up ATM's? Isn't that oxymoronic?], and I didn't see any stats on that either.
While I understand how riders must feel when they find themselves barred from the drive-up, how big is that lawsuit going to be the first time one gets creamed by a Caddy? Which also begs the question: is this policy driven by insurance company rules as much as common sense?
It's funny how things snowball: when I began to write this post, I had two questions that were still unanswered: one, stats on bikes and drive-throughs and two, whether or not insurance carriers played a role in the "no bike" rule. Since this falls under the general aegis of "P&C," I called on my colleagues in that field. There seems to be a mixed bag of answers: it doesn't appear to be a general industry rule that Wendy's et al post and enforce a "no bikes" rule. There may well be carriers which include that verbiage, but it doesn't seem to be a standard policy clause.
One colleague suggested that it may have to do with the inherent risk of letting people walk up to the window: if they pull a gun and ask for money, they can be gone pretty quickly. If they're in a car, they're likely blocked front and rear (and, of course there's the license plates). There's also a slippery slope here: in my research, I noted that there were at least a few incidents where folks on "Rascals" (motorized wheelchairs) were also turned away, presumably for the same "safety concerns" as the bikers. If Burgerville lets bikers use the drive-through, what can they say to Granny in her Rascal. Or Joe in his "regular" wheelchair?
The other concern regarding safety is this: at drive-through speeds, if my Honda hits your Buick, there are some scrapes and dents, but no one's getting care-flighted. But if my Ford hits you on your Schwinn, there could be some major injuries.
The bottom line, such as one exists here, is that this really isn't as cut-and-dried as it might at first appear. Risk management means taking into account all the variables (or at least as many as possible), and sometimes we don't like the answers.
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