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.
"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?"
Sam Levin Denver Police Chief Robert White.
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.
"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.
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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."
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