Alcohol and cycling

Alcohol and cycling

The legal limit of alcohol in the blood whilst driving was reduced in Scotland from the beginning of December, prompting me to seek clarification regarding cycling and alcohol. What does the law say?

Richard Frew

The best advice is not to drink alcohol if you intend to cycle. Alcohol consumption affects reaction times, causes disinhibition and also an ability to properly manage, steer and control a bicycle. Research conducted for the Transport Research Laboratory in 2009, entitled ‘Collisions Involving Pedal Cyclists on Britain’s Roads: Establishing the Causes’, revealed that intoxicated cyclists appear to be 10 times more at risk of injury than sober cyclists.

If you have had a drink, then there is a good chance that you will be committing a criminal offence by riding your bike. The charge would be for ‘cycling under the influence of drink or drugs’, and you would be guilty of this offence if you were unfit to ride through drink or drugs – that is to say, under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle. You can commit this offence when cycling on footpaths, as well as on roads.

Perhaps surprisingly, a police officer has no power to require you to provide a breath, blood or urine sample. They are allowed to ask you, but if you refuse, and are subsequently charged with cycling under the influence, the Crown Prosecution Service would not be allowed to rely on your refusal as evidence.

Without any kind of sample, you may wonder what evidence could be used against you at the Magistrates’ Court. This would likely be the police officer’s own testimony as to why they thought you were under the influence, e.g. you were slurring your words; you were cycling erratically; they could smell alcohol on your breath. If you were cycling erratically then there may also be CCTV evidence of this.

Even if the magistrates were not convinced that you were cycling under the influence of drink or drugs, if you were cycling in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate way, then you run the risk of being convicted under one of these separate offences.

The maximum penalty for cycling under the influence of drink or drugs is a £1,000 fine, and this is also the case for the offence of careless or inconsiderate cycling. The maximum penalty for dangerous cycling is a £2,500 fine.

None of the offences mentioned in this answer allow for penalty points to be added to your driving licence, should you have one.

Paul Kitson

 

This was first published in the April / May 2015 edition of Cycling UK's Cycle magazine.

Q&A     Legal     Technical advice
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Sponsored Advert
Join Cycling UK to help us change lives and communities through cycling
Join Cycling UK to help us change lives and communities through cycling
Membership gives you peace of mind insurance, discounts in cycle shops, rides & routes – for just £3.88 a month!