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Drunk biking targeted by Denver: Advocates worry policy could encourage drunk driving


Evans says he always encourages responsible behavior at the Cruiser Ride. He even launched a specific bike safety campaign this year. But he still thinks cycling is a safer option for people going to bars and worries about how strict enforcement of a DUI policy for cyclists could encourage bad choices.

Robert White, DPD Media Academy.jpeg
Sam Levin
Denver Police Chief Robert White.
"My concern is, is this the best use of resources? And is this a menace? Is people riding on bikes [after drinking] a menace?" he wonders. "The raw question is...is it as bad to ride your bike after drinking as it is to drive a car?... What are the ramifications of those two things?"

He explains that if cyclists make bad decisions and ride under the influence, they are more likely to hurt themselves than anyone else -- whereas drunk driving has well-documented dangers that are much more serious.

Referencing his so-called Cruiser commandments, he adds, "If you choose to drink, for the love of God, just do it responsibly.... We are not gonna be your mommy.... Know your limits.

"We've always told people, don't be stupid. Don't get completely obliterated on your bike and ride home on the sidewalk and cause an accident."

Piep van Heuven, executive director of BikeDenver, the city's main advocacy group for cyclists, says impaired individuals should always be encouraged to find alternative, safe ways to get home and not use any vehicle -- and she notes that cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as those who drive.

Even so, she hopes police prioritize enforcement that saves the most lives.

"My concern is that there is a difference between the danger that you create if you are driving in a vehicle versus [riding a bike]," she says, adding, "One concern would be that, if you are under the influence, you are actually gonna be safer and feel more protected when you are in a vehicle yourself...but you are more of a danger to others on the roadway."

Bike advocates are wary of any policy that could inadvertently incentivize drunk driving.

Van Heuven says BikeDenver will monitor how the number of DUIs change with this new policy implementation.

Denver Cruiser Rider 1.jpeg
Slide show: Denver Cruisers: F Yeah!
"It will be interesting to examine Denver's drunk driving statistics a year from now to see if there are any positive or negative changes that result from the policy change," she says.

She also says she is interested to see how many of the traffic fatalities that were tied to drunk driving actually resulted from improper use of a bicycle.

For his part, DPD's Rock says he doesn't think the policy would encourage people to drive drunk and that if someone is going to make that kind of dangerous choice, it may be difficult to stop him or her regardless of the circumstance.

"You have other options.... There are designated drivers -- we promote that every year. There's taking cabs -- we promote that every year," he says. "If it's close enough to bike to, it's probably close enough to walk to. It comes back down to, we want to encourage responsible drinking activities."

The policy is not intended to target any specific organization, he says -- but he emphasizes that there have been incidents of crashes involving intoxicated cyclists.

"We have no plans at this point and time to go out and do specific riding-under-the-influence type enforcement actions," he says. "It's just one more law that we enforce."

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "James Holmes's alleged "confession" about theater shooting: The National Enquirer version"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.



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101 comments
SometimesBikeCommuter
SometimesBikeCommuter

If I am riding my bike after drinking and cause an accident or am clearly out of control swerving in traffic, sure it's fair to stop and breathalize me and maybe give me a DUI. That is fair.

However, I am concerned that this law may lead to targeting of bicycle related events (cruisers, tour de fat, urban assault, jazz in the park...) where people often have a few drinks (New Belgium sponsors a ton of them) but don't necessarily ride irresponsibly.  We'll have to wait and see how it's enforced.

For example, as an average weight woman if I have 3 glasses of wine over 2 hours at jazz in the park, this technically would put me over the legal limit.  While I choose not to drink and drive my car AT ALL, I certainly would  not be too impaired at that point to responsibly ride a bicycle.  To have to operate under the assumption that I could possibly face jail time for doing so is completely absurd.

Additionally, I want to say that calling for licensing, taxation and registration for bikers is completely ridiculous. 

1. Children ride their bikes to school.  Should they be forced to wait until they are 16 to ride? Cycling is a healthy and safe way for kids to get around.  With the obesity and lack of exercise related illnesses facing our population, why would you discourage it?

2. Many low income families rely on bicycles for part if not all of their transportation.  It is, after all, the least expensive way to travel. Imposing a new tax on those people would provide an unfair burden on that population.  

3. Bicycles, due to their weights and average speeds cause relatively no wear and tear on roads when compared to cars and trucks.

4. Encouraging cycling reduces traffic congestion in general because IT GETS CARS OFF THE ROAD. People who choose to drive everywhere they have to go should be thankful that those of us who bike some or all of the time have chosen that as our mode of transportation.  

5.It reduces air pollution created by travelling.  

6. It is healthy and fun! With increasing concern about the public costs of healthcare, why would you not want your fellow commuters to get more exercise?  

There are irresponsible bikers out there, just like there are irresponsible drivers, irresponsible pedestrians, and irresponsible drinkers.  But don't generalize all cyclists as scofflaws who should be punished and stay off the road.  That is foolish and shortsighted and unproductive.  This "us vs. them" attitude between cyclists and car drivers doesn't lead to productive dialogue. 

Please just realize that we are all different people who need to get places! We all have different priorities and reasons for making the transportation choices that we make and we should all be allowed to have a voice.

SuuperB
SuuperB

Many of you seem to be missing the point. Any fat idiot with one arm, one leg, and stomach full of booze can end or ruin one (if not a dozen) lives. A drunk cyclist may cause minor property damage, or kill themselves, but they can't take out a church van or a school bus.

The act of riding a bicycle requires a huge amount of intesimal corrections needed to simply stay on the machine. Here's an interesting link:

". What most of us don't realise is just how complex the art of riding a bicycleactually is. So complex, in fact, that researchers are just beginning toinvestigate how on earth we manage to propel ourselves, constantly rocking backand forth with the movement of our legs, on two skinny wheels; simultaneouslynavigating movement in multiple planes while trying to avoid countlessobstacles.

Ibreakfixies
Ibreakfixies

Look at alllll the poor children whining about having to be responsible. Put on your big boy pants, you wanted to be treated the same as drivers, well-- here you go. Ive had moronic hipster douchebags swerving and weaving in the middle of the street in front of me in heavy traffic, acting like they were kings of the fucking road. Now you want to be able to ride around while totally wasted? LIke Ive told one otehr person- go ahead-- go get waaaasted and then play in traffic. Just dont blame the hapless motorist who accidentally runs over your drunk asses due to you being a spoiled little brat. It doesnt matter how heavy the vehicle is, it matters how stupid the person is. Over the course of the last few years Ive seen some extremely stupid cyclists in this city. Im a cyclist and a driver, and the majority of cyclist here completely disgust me. What a collection of assholes. Oh, and Denver Cruisers-- PICK UP YOUR SHIT! You leave garbage EVERYWHERE.

doyle4
doyle4

"If you choose to drink, for the love of God, just do it responsibly.... We are not gonna be your mommy.... Know your limits.

There are a few things wrong with this statement.  One, the first thing that goes when drinking is judgement, so how can one know their limits or judge whats responsible when intoxicated?  Two, the vast majority of people with DUIs etc. do possess some sort of drinking problem e.g. having a DUI is not a problem related to drinking?  You'd rather put yourself and others in harms way because you"feel" you can drive home?

I agree that there needs to be more definition with the laws surrounding bicycle based DUIs and they should not be held as severe as car related ones.  But the city still has some obligations to ensure the safety of both the individual and community at large so this is acceptable IMHO.  Attempting suicide is illegal after all...  

So what happens? You're court ordered to do some counseling?  Not a bad trade off for making the choice to drive/cycle while impaired.  Don't forget all RTD buses have bicycle racks, really no reason for it, and if it's more important to spend bus fare on one last drink, perhaps there is a problem...

Gilbilly
Gilbilly

You do not have to submit to any kind of sobriety test while riding a bicycle.  They cannot take your license for refusal.  Do not give the police evidence to convict you by submitting to a sobriety test.

ctduran1
ctduran1

I'm all for responsible drinking, but this seems absurd.  The law clearly doesn't address a bicycle as a vehicle when it comes to the penalties for a DUI, so how does that make sense? Someone needs to write a bill to clarify the bicycle laws and create a penalty that fits the crime.  What if the cyclist does not drive? If the C.R.S. are silent on bicycles, there needs to be a clarification. 

yourdad
yourdad

Curious how many people against this are part of Cruisers.

SamP
SamP

"If it's close enough to bike to, it's probably close enough to walk to" NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

benrellick
benrellick

Here's what'd I'd like to see: what if they treated this like the Secondary Seat Belt Laws? In Colorado, you can't be ticketed for the singular act of not wearing a seatbelt, but you CAN be ticketed in conjuncture with another traffic infraction. So riding your bike while intoxicated wouldn't be punishable in and of itself, but if you ran a red light or caused an accident then they could tack a DUI charge onto it. I think that'd make a hell of a lot more sense than the black and white logic of "note: don't enforce this law" vs "we'll enforce it but not excessively *winkwink* " I mean, if you don't plan to seek out drunk cyclists, then codify that shit! Nawmean?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

And those Biking DUIs go on one's driving record, same as a DUI in an automobile !

It's time to end the Free Ride for bicyclists!

  • Mandatory Registration and Use Taxes for ALL Bicycles that operate on the Public Roadways!
  • Mandatory Licensing for ALL cyclists, including written testing to ensure they know the laws!
  • Mandatory License Plates for ALL Bicycles, so scofflaw cyclists can be more easily identified and brought to justice!
  • Mandatory Liability Insurance for ALL bicyclists that operate on the Public Roadways, so their victims can be compensated for damages and loss!

If you cyclists don't like that, then ride you bikes on PRIVATE property and stay off PUBLIC roadways!

Kiko Woelfel
Kiko Woelfel

I find this entire hoopla hilarious. Some ass-hat on a scooter got all butt-hurt because he was issued a DUI while the bicyclist got nothing. Now the police have announced a change to an internal policy that merely tosses fuel on the fire of disagreement between bicycle enthusiasts and motorists. I'm a booze-hound myself, but I'm a pro: if I over-imbibe, I remove myself safely from becoming a public spectacle. I can't stand sloppy drunks, but to equate drunken bicycling to drunk driving is like saying if I attempt to punch someone it is the same as if I fired a gun at them. None of this changes anything in regards to making sure one doesn't act like an idiot whether on a bicycle, in a car, or on foot. Drinking and biking is one of my favorite things to do in the world, but I have left my bike when I've had too much to ride safely, just as I have left my car when I've had too many. The point being, people who have all this loathing and hatred for bicyclists need to shut the fuck up and get on a bike themselves. If you can't have fun on a bicycle, you're half-dead inside anyway so maybe you should be run over by a drunk propelling themselves along in whatever vehicle they choose. If nothing else, the attendance numbers for things like the Denver Cruiser rides should indicate that anyone choosing to shake their fists at bicyclists is on the losing end of that fight...

Jame Koopman
Jame Koopman

What crimes can the police be charged with? Wait, that can't happen, even on video. Next will be drunk tailgating, drunk in the recliner, drunk on the bar stool, drunk having sex, drunk riding in the back of a cab. Then suspicion of getting drunk later while leaving the liquor store. Pretty soon anything we say or think will be against the law.

Jonny D Foxtrot
Jonny D Foxtrot

Absolutely...cyclists want to be treated equally on all roads and streets in Denver - they should be subject to the exact same traffic laws as drivers. You can't have it both ways...

kylefree
kylefree

Key quote: "The intent is more to enforce it when it's related to an accident," Rock adds. "But clearly if there's an obvious violation, if an officer sees a person is intoxicated, then they have this option."

wtfk
wtfk

Because drunk bicyclists kill SO MANY people.

John Twigg
John Twigg

No, because a drivers license is not required in order to ride a bike. If they want to criminalize it, they should pass a specific law addressing the issue.

Chris Estus
Chris Estus

@James what happens when your drunk ass turns your bike in front of my car?

michael.roberts
michael.roberts moderator editortopcommenter

@SometimesBikeCommuter A really interesting and thorough post, Commuter. We're going to make it an upcoming Comment of the Day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Ibreakfixies
Ibreakfixies

@SuuperB You obviously dont think very much, do you? If some stupid drunk ass cyclist swerves into traffic, then all kinds of things can happen. Not to mention, the driver getting in trouble for something that wasnt his fault, and having to live with the notion that he was part of a deadly accident. Youre kind of daft, arent you? And spare us the cycling description- we all know how riding a bike works. There is much more to the picture than just the cyclist getting injured, but I guess simple minded people like you cant really conceive of this.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@SuuperB  "A drunk cyclist may cause minor property damage, or kill themselves, ..."

Even sober bicyclists KILL pedestrians!

No more Free Rides for Bicyclists! ... time for Mandatory Registration, Licensing, Plates and Insurance for anyone who rides on the Public Roadways!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Gilbilly = another legal imbecile

If you refuse to comply with a police DUI stop -- even on a bicycle, you can and will be taken directly to JAIL!

The DUI laws in Colorado DO APPLY to Bicyclists too, with the same CRIMINAL penalties.

Grow a brain, you ignorant douchebag.

doyle4
doyle4

@Gilbilly Remember this point people it's the truth.  But if you refuse a test while driving a car, you're guaranteed to lose your license, better to blow hot in that case.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@ctduran1  "The law clearly doesn't address a bicycle as a vehicle when it comes to the penalties for a DUI,"

Another MORON who doesn't know the law --

Colorado’s DUI statute, C.R.S. § 42-4-1301, specifies any person who “…drive[s] any vehicle…” 

and C.R.S. § 42-4-102(112) specifically defines a bicycle as a “vehicle.” 

Accordingly, the DUI statute does apply to any person operating a bicycle.

Sucks to be you, don't it drunkards?

doyle4
doyle4

@benrellick Donkey is correct here Ben, but your idea has merit and is ideal for implementing this law.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

"In Colorado, you can't be ticketed for the singular act of not wearing a seatbelt,"

Wrong!

Colorado made Seatbelts a Primary Offense years ago -- it can be and is a cause to stop and ticket a driver in and of itself.

hth.

jpas1777
jpas1777

@DonkeyHotay 

Spoken like a true idiot. First of all, most cyclist do indeed own cars too, so they do pay taxes to operate on public roadways, but with that line of thinking in mind, we should charge people that drive hybrids a higher tax since they use less gas and that is where much of the money for roads comes from. Know the law, hmm, I'll remember that next time I almost get run off the road by a driver texting, not observing the 3 feet law, all while throwing a cigarette butt out the window. One more thing, please learn how to use capital letters properly before writing in anymore public forums. 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Jame Koopman  And of course Politicians cannot be arrested for DUI, as they are exempt from ALL misdemeanor arrest while the legislature is in session.

Tazmodious
Tazmodious

Bikes weigh less than half what the rider weighs, are human powered and travel at very low speeds (easy to control and stop). Cars weigh 100's to 1000's of times the driver's weight, are driven by powerful internal combustion engines and travel at very high speeds (very difficult to control and stop)

These differences alone present a good argument for why bikes can have it both ways

wtfk
wtfk

@Kynoceros One thing you can depend on, is for law enforcement to push the envelope when enforcing laws. They'll be writing up everyone they can--unless of course it's a cop or a family member

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@wtfk "Because drunk bicyclists kill SO MANY people."

They kill them when they are SOBER!

*** Cyclist Kills Pedestrian ***

A man on a bike hit an 81-year-old woman walking on the Four Mile Run trail and the woman subsequently died of the injuries.

The 62-year-old cyclist was heading down a hill and shouted "on your left" to warn the woman. Instead of either moving right or just being alert, she apparently turned around in a way that moved to the left, while exclaiming "what?" The cyclist then struck her, she fell, and her head hit the ground.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/15154/cyclist-kills-pedestrian-does-calling-on-your-left-not-work/

bmchargue
bmchargue

@wtfk No, but drunk cyclists can cause a sober driver to swerve, which can result in injury and death. 

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@John Twigg  Are you really that STUPID?

Riding a Bicycle DRUNK is already a CRIME in Colorado.

As is Operating a Boat while drunk, or even Riding a Horse while intoxicated.

Typical know-nothing Cycle Clown.

sherob2
sherob2

@DonkeyHotay.... so a 6 y/o boy is now going to have to have a license to ride his bike?  I won't even start down the road for poor/underprivileged registration and license fees... let alone insurance for those kids.  

Oh, is there an age cutoff?  Like a drinking age?

No thanks, Grinch!  

SuuperB
SuuperB

Should we also require plates and registrations for all the hover round scooters that the obese seem to love?

Gilbilly
Gilbilly

 @DonkeyHotay  If you are drunk and riding a bicycle and fail a test you will go to jail anyways.  The less evidence you give the fuzz the harder it is to convict you.  Also why the ad hominem attacks?  Don't have any valid reasoning to counter my argument?  Or is just because you're a trolly douchebag yorurself?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@jpas1777"most cyclist do indeed own cars too, so they do pay taxes to operate on public roadways"

Utterly irrelevant. 

Each and every vehicle that operates in the PUBLIC roadways is required to have ALL of the above, including plates, insurance, registration and use taxes --  no matter how many other cars you do or don't own.

Try again.

Ibreakfixies
Ibreakfixies

@Tazmodious Aw, whatsa matter-- you no like the idea that its dangerous to have drunken dumbasses weaving in front of you while youre minding your own business and trying to drive? Let me remind you- cyclists can cause accidents just as much as drivers do. Im sick of dealing with irresponsible morons riding in the middle of the street at 1:30-2 a.m. acting like self-entitled children. You want to have it both ways, eh? Well- go on- go get waaaasted and play in the traffic.

wtfk
wtfk

@bmchargue It's my experience that SOBER cyclists can cause a sober driver to swerve, which you seem to believe can result in injury or death. So you're advocating outlawing bicycles?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@SuuperB  ... if they were allowed on Public Roadways, then of course.

urinalcake
urinalcake

@DonkeyHotay

This is a noble war you'r fighting Donkey.  You're issues IRL are well reflected.  

bmchargue
bmchargue

@wtfk.....I can't tell if you're serious or not. Drunk cyclists are dangerous. Drunk motorists are dangerous. I never said nor implied that we should ban cyclists, I just said they should be held accountable for doing something very dangerous.  

Maybe you were confused because I inadvertently wrote "drunk drivers" twice, when I meant to write "drunk cyclists." 

wtfk
wtfk

@bmchargue It's not a question of how much more dangerous. Bikes are dangerous. They should be banned, by your logic. Otherwise, we could just hold people accountable for the damage they cause.

bmchargue
bmchargue

@wtfk What? No, of course not. Drunk drivers are obviously more likely to cause accidents, just as drunk drivers are more likely to cause accidents. I'm advocating for cyclists being held to the same standards and laws as motorists. If you guys want motorists to share the road, you need to obey the laws. 

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