Last month we talked about tips for bicycle safety to help cyclists enjoy their ride with less risk of accidents. One question that often comes up when discussing bike safety and the law is: Can you be arrested for drunk bicycling?
The short answer is yes, although the laws, enforcement and penalties vary by state.
Bicycling home may seem like a safer alternative to driving home after drinking. After all, bicycles go slower, have less momentum and cannot do as much damage as a car or truck. In many cases, bicyclists use dedicated trails or lanes and do not share the road with larger vehicles. However, drunk bicycling is dangerous for several reasons—regardless of the terrain:
- Bicycles travel between 5 and 20 miles per hour in most cases. Anything moving that fast under the control of an inebriated individual is unsafe, due to slowed reaction time and poor judgment caused by intoxication.
- Drunk bicycling is a threat to pedestrians who may share trails with cyclists. An individual struck by a bicycle can be seriously hurt, or even killed—particularly in the case of children.
- Swerving or unpredictable movements by cyclists can cause traffic accidents.
- DUI laws exist in part to protect the operator. A drunk cyclist may not hurt anyone else, but could be severely injured if they crash.
In Florida, these safety considerations are so important that the courts have deemed bicycles “vehicles” when interpreting DUI law. Thus, drunkenly operating a bicycle is considered exactly the same as drunkenly operating a car. That means the penalties are the same, too—including jail time, fines and a revoked driver’s license. Florida cyclists can and have lost their driving privileges (for motorized vehicles) after being arrested for DUI on a bicycle.
Under California law, bicycles are not considered a vehicle for the purposes of DUI enforcement; however, the state has a separate law for drunk biking. It authorizes police to take a blood, breath or urine test to determine blood alcohol content just like vehicular DUI law does. Although the penalties are not as steep for drunk bicycling as drunk driving, San Diego bicyclists can face a fine of $250—plus, most likely, a night in jail and a very embarrassing incident to explain to loved ones.
Some other states do not consider drunk bicycling illegal. However, all states have other relevant laws that could be used to ticket or arrest a drunk cyclist. Drinking and biking could be considered grounds for charges of public drunkenness or reckless endangerment depending on the jurisdiction.
Bicycling is supposed to be safe and fun. If you’re riding your bike to a party or any event with alcohol, we recommend staying sober or planning alternative transportation home.
Injured in a bike accident? We can help. Contact Steinger, Greene & Feiner for a free consultation about your options for achieving compensation when injured through an act of negligence. We are the bicycle accident lawyer that fights for you!