Drive-Thrus: A New Approach


Im sitting here (while working from home today) with my web browser open with about a billion tabs open, all having a different article open having to deal with the Drive-Thru debate that is once again a hot topic in London. (for a little tidbit check out the London Free Press Article).

Although I could sit here and reiterate my views and opinions on the topic I thought it would be far more productive to take a different approach to this on-going debate as it seems that the conventional arguments (all of which hold substantial ground) are getting no-where with the drive-thru lovers out there. If you want to know what my initial thoughts are on the drive-thru issue, please check out my post over at

With that said the approach Im going to take is going to be one from an academic standpoint, one based on research (contemporary, not historical) and the findings.

Now first off, since Im working from home today I dont have access to the resources I would like, so I dont have the luxury of complementing this post with relevant maps, so for those of you who will be unable to understand what Im saying due to a lack of “pretty colour diagrams” I apologize in advance and just hope you can follow along somewhat.

Rather than basing my argument on the standard issues (environment, esthetics etc) the argument that Im going to make is one based around obesity and the physical health of society, primarily the children and youth in the city, but Im sure you could make the very same argument for the majority of the city wide population.

There is a strong link between the obesity in children and their proximity to fast food restaurants. The number and distance between fast food locations (as well as variety stores) is alarming. There are far too many fast food locations too close to where children go to school, live and play. Im going to be saying fast food locations as the majority (I would argue 90% +) have drive-thrus, this includes Tim Hortons and Starbucks, and please don’t try and argue the point otherwise

Not only can children (and they families) easily walk to these locations to feast on calorie after calorie, but they are all outfitted with drive-thurs that make the experience and trip even that more un-healthy for the children.

Think about it: if it wasn’t bad enough that we give them poor food choices but we make the situation even better by saying, “hey, since you’re going to eat crappy you might as well not walk there and drive instead, exercise is stupid”. As funny as that may sound that is essentially what you are saying to children and this will produce a cause and effect that will last until they are old enough to have children and in-turn drive to the store instead of walking.

Now, Im not going to dismiss that we live in a car-centred culture, that’s a fact and I cant deny that (although I hate to admit it) but we don’t have to let it dictate every moment of our everyday life. Maybe the problem isn’t so much drive-thrus but fast food joints in general, that may be the case, but since the mass majority of fast food joints have drive-thrus Im pretty sure we can connect the two together.

Now Im not saying that fast food restaurants are alone too blame, because that’s not the case. We have drive up and pick up at East Side Mario’s, Swiss Chalet and Montana’s, just to name a few, but Im just making the point that drive-thrus are a place to start and by far they are the greatest culprit.

If you actually took time to read proposals and the arguments presented you would realize and understand that banning ALL drive-thrus is not the case (nor the answer). Rather, it’s the banning of the ones adjacent to residential areas. This is something that Im for based on the reasons mentioned above as well as those in my other post on the same subject. If you have a drive-thru next to a highway it makes somewhat more sense as there is no other conflicting land use surrounding it, no residential neighbourhood adjacent to it and the use of a drive-thru is fitting to its placement unlike in a urban and/or suburban neighbourhood where the emphasis should (and will) be on the pedestrian and walking.

As I said previously, Im not at work and don’t have the maps, articles or other materials to formally back me up and for that reasons you can call bullshit if you would like, but much of this is common sense and people with even the smallest hint of it (common sense) wont need a formal study to explain it to them.

For heaven sakes people, stop thinking about that cruller, bacon double cheese burger or double double start thinking at least about your health and if not your health than the health of the children.

Food for Thought:

If smoking has been banned in cars while children are present which is liken to child abuse, why cant we ban drive-thrus that promote obesity in children and subsequently adults?


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3 Responses to “Drive-Thrus: A New Approach”

  1. Phronk Says:

    I haven’t used a drive through in years, and even when they’re available and I’m in a car, I go inside. I’d rather have time to decide what I want. And I agree that they are a contributor to things like obesity and a dirty car-centric city.

    So it’s with no personal bias that I say I don’t think banning drive throughs is the right solution. It seems like a random target and a needless restriction of freedom. If obesity is the problem, maybe we should ban fast food. If cars are the problem, ban cars. It seems odd to ban something that’s a few steps removed from the real problems. And as the above examples illustrate, I don’t think banning is the right way to do it anyway.

    Rather, we should make people WANT to be healthy, and WANT to have a clean city. Education can be part of it. Part of it will just be seeing people around us die from obesity and lung disease and not wanting it for ourselves or our children. But these things have to happen naturally, and randomly picking drive throughs to ban as an artificial band-aid solution will, in my humble opinion, do more harm than good.

  2. Gord Harrison Says:

    Clarifying where drive-thrus can go makes sense, which I think is what the city is trying to do at this time.

    Restricting the location and even the number of drive-thrus makes some sense; telling the business community “no, not there” or “no, we have enough of that type of convenience” is responsible in many cases. (E.g., as some businesses grow they leave one building in one area of town and set up shop in another, sometimes leaving empty shells and plazas behind. Poor city planning in my opinion.)

    When businesses respond so loudly to ‘clarification’ imagine the ruckus when restrictions are discussed.

    Much the same process occurred when smoking in school staff rooms (among other locations) was introduced in the 70s. Now, we wouldn’t bat an eye to that restriction.

    Drive-thrus came into being e.g. in London, ‘most likely’ because there was money to be made from the high and consistent traffic volumes in many parts of town, not out of a desire to help the disabled (though it may have done that too) or assist the Mom who had a baby strapped into a car seat (we didn’t strap babies down at that time in the safe way we do today).

    Now, there are so many people on the road (leading such busy lives they don’t even have 5 – 10 minutes in the morning to make their own coffee or prepare lunch for school-aged kids) that drive-thrus are huge business.

    Most complaints from Tims or McDs wouldn’t relate to their fear of losing the ability to serve the disabled or busy Moms but to their concern re profits.

    As fuel prices rise more and more drivers will look to ways to save a buck and they may start making their own coffee and lunches and – bad news for drive-thrus – take fewer trips in the car.

    I’m pretty sure when I’m motivated to put fewer kilometers per year on the old Civic I’ll be driving-thru and idling in place and eating Big Macs or drinking double-doubles a lot less.

    If I had spare time now to make a placard it wouldn’t be about drive-thrus. I’d be trying to convince people to drive less in order to, directly and indirectly, lower carbon emissions – with a cup of my own coffee in hand.

    Gord Harrison

  3. Mincir sainement Says:

    a strong link between the obesity in children and their proximity to fast food
    >> IMO there are several factors to explain youthful obesity:
    – fast foods
    – less sport activities
    – parents not showing how healthy we have to eat

    All this leads to disaster.

    we live in a car-centred culture
    >> May be as the petrol is more & more expensive we’re going to reconsider this fact to save money & ensure a better life – healthy life –


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