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D’oh! DUI?: Bicycling Whilst Drunk

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Now that spring is officially here, it’s ever so tempting to hop on our bicycles, pedal down the Cherry Creek Trail, and maybe stop for a beer or two in the Colorado sunshine on the way home. Steer clear of getting too tipsy though, or you could earn yourself a DUI.

That’s right. In 2012, the Denver Police Department issued a new enforcement policy that holds drunk cyclists just as accountable as drunk drivers. Even though Colorado’s DUI laws apply specifically to motorized vehicles, the police argued bicycle operators must obey all the same traffic laws as motor-vehicle drivers in the first place—which means you could be ordered to dismount your bike and perform a roadside sobriety test if you show signs of inebriated riding.

States like South Dakota, on the other hand, actually amended their laws to make bicycling under the influence legal because they would rather people ride drunk than drive drunk. In Oregon, however, drunk biking has all the same consequences as drunk driving, while a BUI (Bicycling Under the Influence) in California could include a fine of up to $730 and even possible documentation on one’s driving record.

“Bicycle culture has strongly embraced drinking,” Chicago Bicycle Advocate Brendan Kevenides told The Daily Beast in 2010. “I suppose it’s viewed as a fun thing to do while posing little risk to the general public—far less than drinking and driving, anyway.”

The truth is biking drunk can be incredibly dangerous, especially for the rider. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about one-fourth (23 percent) of the pedalcyclists killed in 2011 had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 g/dL. Furthermore, alcohol involvement was reported by either the cyclist or a motor-vehicle driver in more than 37 percent of the traffic crashes resulting in pedalcyclist fatalities that year.

There hasn’t been a dramatic rise in the number of bicycle-DUIs in Colorado recently, but that’s no reason to think our law enforcement entities are simply making empty threats about riding drunk. In Boulder, one of the nation’s most bike-friendly cities, police handed out five DUI arrests to cyclists in 2010. And just last year, a drunk and stoned Fort Collins bicyclist led the police on a chase through the Old Town before falling down and being arrested with multiple misdemeanor charges, including a DUI.

Our advice? Stay off the road if you’ve enjoyed a couple of drinks—or at least designate a sober front man on a bicycle built for two.

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