Sunday, June 15, 2008

Drunk and in charge of a bicycle

An Anonymous reader says: "While I'm at it, I enjoy your blog but cannot stand it's title. Drunk and in charge of a bicycle sends the wrong message. Sorry."

We've had this conversation before - regarding David Byrne. In order to clear things up for readers like this, let me explain the title of this blog. First, the title comes from Ray Bradbury's collection "Zen and the Art of Writing." And so, to begin with it isn't actually a statement of any suggestion or a representation of actually being drunk while riding a bicycle. That said - there is absolutely nothing wrong with drinking and riding a bicycle.

As the venerable proprietor of Copenhagen Cycle Chic says:
Drunk on a bicycle?... This features at number 9 on the list - 18 Ways to Know That You Have Bike Culture at

"9. The odd-person out in your circle of friends is the one who has never fallen off their bike while riding home drunk. You mock him/her regularly."

And Henry of Henry WorkCycles, writes:
Anybody with such a problem with drunk cycling should really avoid visiting any Dutch or Danish city in the evening. Amsterdam, for example, is just a buzzing, happy parade of intoxicated cyclists on a nice saturday night.

No doubt some serious accidents occasionally occur but I've only had and heard of the minor fender benders. We like to tease my wife about the time she bumped into a parked car in front of the police station... with half a dozen cops watching.

In any case better to have drunk cyclists than drunk drivers and there's no way a whole pack of drunk bike riders could ever be as dangerous as a single Amsterdam taxi driver!


Charlotte said...

I agree with you completely, however I know of a man who was cited in Boulder, CO for DUI on a bicycle. It went on his car-driving record, affecting his insurance costs, etc.

A google search for this information shows that the enforcement of this seems to vary state-by-state, depending on whether that state's laws say "operating a vehicle" or "operating a motor vehicle". Le sigh.

My father is an attorney and argues a lot about the utility of laws. The problem is the purpose of the law. Is the purpose of the law to protect the vehicle operator from himself? To protect others? Or to generate revenue for the state? (yes, that last point is rather cynical)

Michael said...

Charlotte - thanks for the great perspective on this. Yes - I wonder about the legality as well. After all, it's illegal for more than a certain number of people to assemble without a pre-approved permit in NYC...

That said, considering I counted about 60 people bicycling the wrong way (toward me) on a one-way bike lane last night and none of them had lights - the police in NYC don't seem to care too much about bicycle laws.