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Denver Police to Enforce Drunk Bicycling Law

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Drunk chick on a bike

The photographer writes: “It was kind of amusing watching this drunk chick trying a fixed gear bike.” (Photo shot in Sacramento, CA.)

With bicycling accidents on the rise in Denver, Police Chief Robert White has ordered officers to start enforcing the state law that says a drunk bicyclist can be arrested for DUI, as CBS4 reports.

The change in policy came about after John Wright, a scooter driver, was in an accident with a drunken bicyclist, CBS4 writes. The incident happened in June 2011, and, at that time, police arrested Wright for drunk driving, but did not arrest the cyclist, even though police say the cyclist was equally intoxicated and caused the accident, according to CBS4. Wright found out that although state law prohibits drunk cycling, it was written into the Denver police manual not to enforce the law, CBS4 reports. “It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair at all,” Wright said.

Wright’s complaint found its way to Denver Police Lt. Rob Rock, the head of DPD’s Traffic Investigations Unit, who took steps with the Denver District Attorney’s office to rectify the policy, Wright told CBS4.

Sam Levin writes for Denver Westword Blogs that some bike advocates worry that enforcing drunk biking laws will encourage drunk driving in cars. Brad Evans, founder of the Denver Cruiser Ride (a Wednesday night group bike ride that includes stops at bars) told Levin: “My fear is… [I]s it forcing people back to cars? We’ve seen [biking] as an alternative to drinking and driving, and now that’s off the table.”

Evans also said to Levin: “The raw question is… [I]s it as bad to ride your bike after drinking as it is to drive a car?” If cyclists ride under the influence, Evans said, they are more likely to hurt themselves than others, unlike drunk car drivers.

Lt. Rock told Levin that drunk people have options other than driving cars or riding bikes, such as having a designated driver, taking a cab, or walking. If a bar is close enough to bike to, “it’s probably close enough to walk to,” Rock said.

Levin quotes Rock:

‘The emphasis here is being responsible,’ he says. ‘You can drive your car to a restaurant or a bar and have a drink or two over a period of time and… [I]t can be okay. It’s the same thing on a bicycle. But we don’t want people riding to liquor establishments, getting hammered, then riding their bikes. You are on the roadway… Riding your bike is still an activity that requires you to do multiple things at once… It’s still very dangerous… This is just encouraging people to be responsible, no matter what.’

Biking under the influence is a misdemeanor just like drunk driving, he says, explaining that this new enforcement could potentially lead to jail time or a substantial fine.

Image by Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious.

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