Cycling Under the Influence
As everyone is well aware, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only dangerous, but completely illegal. If you’re caught behind the wheel while drunk, you could face up to six months in prison and find yourself on the receiving end of a huge fine.
But what does the law say about cycling under the influence?
According to the Road Traffic Act of 1988, it’s a criminal offence to cycle in a public place when you’re under the influence:
“The Road Traffic Act makes it an offence to ride a bike on a road or other public place, which will include a path or pavement, when you are unfit to ride through drink or drugs” – the Road Traffic Act 1988.
So if you ride your bike when you’re unable to retain full and proper control of it in a place where others could be harmed as a result of your actions, you can most definitely face legal action.
Richard Gaffney, Serious Injury Lawyer at Slater and Gordon, explains:
“The best advice I can give is not to drink alcohol if you intend to cycle. If you do drink then there is a good chance you will be committing a criminal offence."
“It is illegal to ride your bike under the influence of drink or drugs, and you would be guilty of this if you were unfit to ride to such an extent as you are incapable of having proper control of the bicycle.”
So what exactly happens if you’re caught cycling after having consumed an excessive quantity of alcohol or taken drugs?
For a start, you can be breathalysed by a police officer. However, unlike in the case of drink driving, it’s possible for a cyclist to turn down a breathalyser or urine test, though an officer can take things further if he or she believes that the cyclist is not able to adequately control their bicycle.
Mr Gaffney explains: “Although it is an offence to cycle under the influence of alcohol, a police officer cannot force you to provide a breath, blood or urine sample.
“They can ask, but if you refuse and subsequently charged with cycling under the influence, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) wouldn’t be allowed to use your refusal as evidence against you.”
If, however, a cyclist refuses a breathalyser or urine test and is later charged with cycling under the influence, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) cannot use the refusal as evidence against the cyclist.
The next question you may have is – what happens if I’m convicted of drink-cycling?
If you’re convicted of cycling under the influence of drug or alcohol, you can be fined a maximum of £1,000, though you can also receive a fine this large for riding your bike in a careless or inconsiderate manner. If you cycle in a way that’s deemed dangerous to yourself or others, you can be fined as much as £2,500.
“If a police officer notices that you appear to be incapable of having proper control of the bike, then there is a high likelihood that you will be stopped and may face prosecution,” explains Hannah Parsons, Principal Associate Solicitor at DAS Law.
Can drink-cycling result in points being added to my driving licence?
Currently, if you’re convicted of cycling under the influence you won’t receive points on your driving licence.
However, according to Cycling UK, “it’s often overlooked that the court does have a general power under the Power of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 to disqualify anyone from driving, without imposing penalty points, for any offence, including a cycling offence.”
So while you won’t get points added to your driving licence for an offence committed while riding your bike, you can still receive a driving disqualification.
What happens if a drink-cycling offence isn’t proven?
Mr Gaffney explains that even if the courts aren’t persuaded that you were drunk at the handlebars, you could still be convicted if you were cycling in a dangerous or inconsiderate way:
“If, for example, you cycled through a red light and were stopped by the police who suspected you were under the influence they could charge you with careless or inconsiderate cycling AND cycling under the influence. The Magistrates could then find you guilty of the careless and inconsiderate cycling charge but not the cycling whilst under the influence.”
So if you’ve been drinking, your best option is to find a way home that doesn’t involve you being in charge of a vehicle or bicycle – it’s simply not worth the risk to yourself or others.