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Minneapolis tears down an American car culture icon with ban on drive-throughs

Minneapolis recently took the first step in denying the significance of automobiles in American culture when the city council enacted a ban on drive-throughs. The local authority argued that getting rid of drive-throughs will result in safer roads for drivers and pedestrians and cleaner air, according to StreetsBlog.

The blog also cited research that shows drivers who are distracted before they pull in to order food and again when they pull out after receiving their orders create a greater than a normal danger for pedestrians.

Minneapolis has a city-wide goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. Banning drive-throughs should reduce vehicle idling, thereby improving air quality.

In order to reach the city’s goal, the Minneapolis 2040 plan includes several measures the city hope will help. Other steps in the 2040 plan include eliminating off-street-parking minimum times and limiting the construction of new surface parking lots. Also, Minneapolis wants to rezone neighborhoods to allow multifamily residences in all areas of the city and to impose strict parking restrictions near mass transit stations. Car repair businesses will also be prohibited close to Minneapolis Metro stations. Another step yet to be enacted is a ban on new gas stations throughout the city.

The bans on drive-throughs and gas stations both apply to new structures only. Existing locations will be grandfathered in, but the pressure to improve walkability throughout the city may have economic effects on all businesses that rely on people in cars.

Drive-throughs aren’t limited to restaurants but also include liquor stores, cleaners, banking, grocery shopping, postal services, pharmacies, photo processing shops, ammo and bait, and much more. Starbucks has drive-through windows at 40% of its current coffee shops and plans to include drive-throughs in 60% of new locations. McDonald’s fast-food restaurants first offered combo meals to accommodate customers using drive-throughs. More recently, the chain began using artificial intelligence with drive-through menu boards to tempt customers to make extra purchases.

The irony of the Minneapolis ban is that the Mall of America, the largest shopping mall in the United States is in nearby Bloomington, Minnesota. Shopping malls are another car-centric American retail fixture that began with residential suburbs enabled by widespread automobile ownership.

Six hundred miles south of Minneapolis via route 35, Sheldon “Red” Chaney created the first drive-through at Red’s Giant Hamburg restaurant in 1947 on U.S. Route 66 in Springfield, Missouri.

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