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DUIs and bicycles

On another message board, the questions came up–Can you get a DUI on a bicycle? Should you be able to?

As for the first question, the answer is dependent on the state in question, but (generally), Yes, you can.

As for the second question, I’m of two minds on it. On one hand, I feel that, if bicyclists want legal access to the majority of the roads, then they must accept being held to account for operating according to motor vehicle laws.

On the other hand, I do wonder if a markedly lessened or eliminated DUI penalty might be a valid “harm reduction” technique. (I.e. a truly dedicated drunk might not forgo the trip to the bar, regardless of the legal consequence, but if there were a substantial difference in the penalties, he just might ride instead of drive, with a greatly reduced capacity to cause injury/death.)

Your thoughts?

Every study booklet I’ve ever read for the various license tests I’ve taken as I’ve moved around the country has said that bikes are considered road vehicles, and have to obey the same rules of the road as cars. They have to stop at stop signs, they can’t speed, and you can’t be drunk on one if you’re on a public street.

I read somewhere that a ticket was issued for DUI for a rider on a horse. Perhaps these tickets for non-motor vehicles are given for something else, like “public drunkeness”.

I have known some drinkers who will throw a bicycle in the back of their pickup truck before heading out to the bar so they still have a way to get home without driving. This is done on the premise that they believe they will not jeopardize their driving privileges. There are still, of course, consequences of getting caught riding a bicycle while drunk. There is a possibility of getting a public intoxication fine and being held liable for property damage done as a result of wrecking your bicycle or causing an accident, probably even getting hit by a motorist. There probably is still risk to your driving privileges attached to operating a bicycle while drunk, and I think it is justifiable. Many people have to lose their license before they will consider sobering up. I suppose, given the choice, it is better that a drunk fool be piloting 30 pounds of metal rather than 3,000 pounds of metal, but neither should be happening. Besides, many bars will pay your cab fare to get you home safe, and if they won’t, a lot of cab companies will eat the cost of getting a drunk person home if it means keeping them off the roads. Sometimes they even advertise this on the radio, particularly around “drunken” holidays.

When younger and more capable, I was stopped for speeding on a bicycle. The decision to was up to the officer. Writing a summons out for a bicycle operator is one thing and making it through the station the next day w/o a lot of ribbing is something else.

In short, while you can for drinking, would you ? Highly unlikely. If you could ride a bike in traffic while alcohol impaired and not kill yourself in short order, you may be apt to pass a sobriety test.

Smoking cannabis is a different story. You can ride a bike OK but may want to jump over cars at the intersection.

It’s doubtful they ever attempted to ride the bikes while impaired enough to be pulled over in a car. They still have to make decisions and when to drive or not is the hardest for a drinker to make correctly.

Having lived in a jurisdiction where a law was passed specifically to make drunken bike riding illegal (which means it wasn’t before) I wouldn’t depend on driver’s license tests for legal advice. The last one I took, the “correct” answer to one of the questions was wrong.

Also, in many jurisdictions you can legally ride a bicycle on a sidewalk.

And in Texas, it used to be the case that you could drink WHILE driving; I think they changed that but I’m not sure.

I hope you framed the ticket you got for speeding on a bicycle. Anyone can be stopped for speeding in a motor vehicle, but it is a real achievement to be stopped for speeding on a bicycle.

If state-issued materials explaining traffic laws are wrong, that’s the state’s problem, not mine. Until the state tells me otherwise, or someone points me to the statute refuting it, I’ll continue to view bicycles as “traffic” when on the road :wink:

I doubt there’s a nightly check of speeding tickets. Actually bringing someone in for a DUI is another thing.

I’ve been stopped for it; 3 in the morning, and one of those rare cases of an officer looking for something to do; to be fair, I had no lights (violation!). He pulled me over on a short suburban street, all lights flashing for the duration, and I had to do the whole kneel down cross your ankles and put your hands on top of your head thing. I passed the sobriety tests but would have flunked the breathalyzer (whether you pass the sobriety test is completely up to the officer). He said he’d love to get a DUI that night and I kept my mouth shut about “yeah, but they’re gonna laugh at you”.

It was a relatively new law at that time.

I told him truthfully I’d already ridden 5 or 6 miles but lied about where from just on general principles.

He let me walk the bike home 2 blocks away.

The issue isn’t a statute, it’s lack of statute. For instance, in most jurisdictions bicycles on public roads are not required to have license plates or brakes.

I’ll Drink To That !

All driving beer drinkers should pedal their way around. Cut them some slack. Leave them alone. Besides, they can appoint a designated pedaler.

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The trick isn’t the speeding, it’s the getting pulled over. This could have been one of those rare case of an officer looking for something to do, speeding in a hospital zone or parking structure, or some other unrevealed circumstance. Sometimes the officer just wants a wee chat.

A drunken bicyclist can be a hazard to themselves and others. Sure pedal your drunken buns around town and I am all in favor of no citation other than being drunk in public, and it should not be a DUI as if you were driving a car, unless you drunkenly weave into traffic and cause an accident.

I watched the blue collar comedy tour where Ron White was kicked out of a bar and arrested for public intoxication. His claim was I was ok being drunk in a bar, they kicked me out, shouldn’t they get the ticket?

I have seen DUI for driving a riding lawnmower to the bar, congratulate all those that take a bicycle and don’t drive a car, and have some leeway in each situation.

I’m inclined to think you shouldn’t have to cause an accident to get a DUI. Drunkenly weaving into traffic should do it.

Where I live, being drunk in a bar IS considered public intoxication. I imagine the officer has a lot of leeway there.

A bicycle speeding down a long hill where the speed limit is 25 MPH is possible - maybe even probable.

Texas law defines DWI (not DUI) as applying to the operation of a motor vehicle, meaning mechanized and self-propelled (not an animal or bicycle). My uncle, wanting to avoid another DWI, rode his bicycle to drink with a friend several years back. He got picked up for public intoxication. The police took the bicycle to my grandmother’s house. She paid the fine the next day and he got out.

In Texas PI has a maximum fine of $500 and unenhanced DWI has a maximum fine of $2,000 as well as at least 3 days in jail and up to to six months in jail or on probation. That’s a pretty big difference.

I’m inclined to agree with Texas law that PI, including riding a bicycle, is much less severe than driving drunk. The potential for harm is very different.

I’ve found state statutes very easy to find online, and not difficult to look up and understand. That is the best source for learning laws.

The Texas open container law is fairly new. I believe it was effectively federally imposed. In the 90s my uncle would drink while I would drive, and it was legal at the time. It would have been legal for him to drive, too, as long as he wasn’t intoxicated.

When I was stationed in Maine during my Air Force years our greenhorn 2cd lieutenant was cited for an OUI (operating under the influence). He was on his bicycle and he had been drinking downtown. We all got a good laugh out of it but our CO was not amused at all. We also had a local guy get a DUI on his riding mower a few years ago. If you need to drink…it’s best that you drink at home.

We visited my son in San Francisco and went to a bar he frequents which he termed a ‘biker bar’.
I saw more ten-speeds outside than motor cycles , 5 to 1.