Up For Debate: Drinking and Bicycling

March 29th, 2010 by Kathy McManus

Should it be illegal to bike while intoxicated?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Earlier this year, police in East Naples, Florida, pulled over a man who smelled of alcohol. In his possession were two cans of beer. The 51-year-old suspect was jailed for the night and charged with DUI — drunk while riding his bicycle.

Cycling under the influence has for years sparked discussion in bicycling communities around the world. “I would never consider driving a car after a few sips of wine, but somehow I think it’s OK to jump on my bike after four beers,” one London writer posted on his blog, asking, “Is it OK to drink and ride, or is it irresponsible and dangerous?”

When The New York Times reported that 21 per cent of New York City bicyclists who died within three hours of a bike accident had “alcohol in their bodies,” many readers echoed the following comment: “It’s important to note that the big problem with drinking and riding is getting hit by a car,” as opposed to drunk driving, where “you are much more a harm to others.”

Not so, say French police, who have arrested and fined tipsy cyclists in famed Bordeaux. “If we didn’t allow these people to sober up in custody we’d be leaving them in a dangerous condition where they’d be liable to commit an offense,” said the police chief.

Food- and wine-loving cyclists disagree, saying “it is impossible to savor the country’s cuisine without its best-known beverage.” Complained one, “Soon we’ll be arrested if we walk home drunk.”

Tell us what you think: Is it irresponsible to drink and bicycle? Should friends let friends bike drunk?