Drunk cyclists: Under new Denver policy, DUIs for bike riders won't affect driving records

DCR cyclist.jpg
The news that the Denver Police Department will now be enforcing state drunk cycling laws and giving out DUIs to intoxicated riders has sparked a lot of debate.

But as word spread earlier this week, DPD officials said it was unclear how DUIs for cyclists would affect their driving licences. Now, police have an official answer: It won't.

The new policy in Denver, announced internally last week, is an alignment with state law in Colorado, which says cyclists can be charged for cycling while drunk. Denver had not been enforcing this law, but after an official researched the matter in response to a citizen complaint, the department's leadership decided there was no good reason to maintain a contradictory non-enforcement practice.

Cyclist in downtown Denver.jpeg
Sam Levin
Denver cyclists on 15th Street
Still, the announcement has raised a lot of concerns in the cycling community about the logic of the policy and whether it makes sense for cyclists to be subject to a DUI charge when biking under the influence is arguably much safer than drunk driving. And some cycling advocates -- worried that DUIs for cyclists could inadvertently incentivize drunk driving -- argue that less harsh policies for drunk cycling in other states are much more reasonable.

One of the lingering questions has been about how DUIs for cyclists -- which is really actually a BUI (Biking Under the Influence) -- impacts their driving record and license. In an original memo Denver Police Chief Robert White sent out, he explained that bicycle operators are not subject to having their license revoked if they refuse to submit to a test. This is correct.

But the memo also said that a bicycle operator charged with a DUI, DUID (Driving Under the Influence of Drugs) or DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) would receive a "zero point alcohol violation" on their record, which wouldn't actually impact the status of the driver's license. Turns out that this is not quite right.

DPD Lieutenant Robert Rock, the Traffic Investigations Unit overseer whose research led to the policy change, writes to us in an e-mail:

I have received the definitive answer from the Department of Revenue that any violation on a bicycle is not supposed to be recorded on a person's driving history and no points are to be assessed. As you know, sometimes a conviction will be sent to DOR that may be ambiguous and is entered in error. If someone becomes aware of a bicycle violation that is on their driving record, they can appeal to DOR and it will be deleted.
In other words, a cyclist charged with a DUI won't have anything on his or her driving history -- not even a "zero point" violation.

This is less harsh than the law in Oregon, where drunk cyclists are essentially treated exactly the same as drunk drivers and face the same consequences.

Regardless, Brad Evans, founder of the Denver Cruiser Ride, the well-known Wednesday-night group ride that includes stops at bars, says he is still concerned about the new enforcement plan and would like to see more data on cycling accidents to better understand if the policy shift is really necessary.

"Right now, this is reactionary," Evans says, noting that the change only came about because of a citizen complaint from someone unhappy that a drunk cyclist wasn't charged after an accident. "Let's take the morality out of this and look at it in a purely fact-based way. The damage a bicycle can cause is so, so much smaller than damage that a car can do. So why are we applying the same rules?"

He adds, "I'm not saying there shouldn't be rules, regulations and penalties; I'm saying they shouldn't be the same."

But the fact that BUIs won't affect driving records makes sense, he concedes. "You don't need a license...to ride your bikes. If you don't need one, then your license shouldn't be affected by it."

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Johnathan Jordan letter clears co-defendant in murder -- but will anyone believe it?"

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

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Mike Bailey
Mike Bailey

Bikers out having a good time??!!! Arrest them! Get back in your cages you criminals! People don't need bikes to do stupid things. Just look at these comments

Chris Estus
Chris Estus

What a joke! you are on the road with a moving vehicle and you are drunk. Sounds like it should be on a driving record to me. I guess if I hit a drunk biker that is all over the road it won't go on my driving record either.

Courtney Washburn
Courtney Washburn

How about don't drink and drive anything...no fines will be had. Why are people looking to bargain this and call me hateful because I am honest. I've never hit a cyclist nor have I ever considered riding a bike drunk. That's called responsible decision making. Sorry if you feel wishing harm to me or my possessions is the way to go craig or accepting his "hateraid" as "nice" sums up your desire to start an "intelligent conversation" Benjamin. Juat stop riding your bikes like a bunch of assholes with entitlement and people won't call you on your bullshit. Have a great day, may it be blessed with good luck and fortune.

Benjamin Bradburn
Benjamin Bradburn

Nice Craig. Courtney, please put down the haterade. If you want change, then we need to have an intelligent conversation. If you just want bikers to be punished in some way, then you're vindictive and that doesn't serve anyone. There are still fines. I'm glad they got the driving record part right, but the fines should be less severe also.

Craig Hammersmith
Craig Hammersmith

Courtney Washburn, may your tires be blessed by dozens of 3/4" roofing nails.

Courtney Washburn
Courtney Washburn

Amazing and laughable how cyclist are all up in these "so and so got hurt/killed..do something" post whining and bitching about how they want to share the road and demand respect. You just got some equality on the road cyclists, sorry it isn't what you were expecting but then again neither is losing your friend on a bike cause he/she decided taking a cab wasn't safer then peddling their drunk ass home. And to the dude who runs the drink and bike event on wednesday asking for injury statistics....try a more appropriate form of transportation that falls into the law like walking or renting a party bus. If you want statistics, just go back this year and last on westword and look up the dude who ran his bike into olivers market and severed his arm and died or the chick last month who thought the bike trail was inconvenient and ultimately killed herself when hitting a curb. Go look at all those comments from the cyclist community demanding something be done to help. Congrats on that denver bike community, something was finally done to control your issues on bikes via our roads.

Kris Anger
Kris Anger

If it does not impact their driving record, so be it. BUT, they should be made to take classes (education), community service, pay fines. And if someone has multiple BUI's (sounds silly), then maybe that person should be one to look at. If they break the law multiple times just on a bike, they may not be handling their vehicle appropriately either.


hotaydonkey again you failed to do your research only that you pulled up a Q&A article from Bicycle Colorado rather than look up the statutes for yourself.  42-4-102 is a "Lesiglative Declaration" under the Uniform Motor Vehicle Law

While it is possible to be charged with DUI on a bicycle the law will not be applied the same as operating a motor vehicle.  Enforcement of the law should be left to the discretion of the officer and if the cyclist poses a threat to the safety of him / herself or others.  I wonder if your the person who filed the citizen complaint to begin with......hmmmm.  

42-4-1412. Operation of bicycles and other human-powered vehicles(b) Any person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle who violates any provision of this article other than this section which is applicable to such a vehicle and for which a penalty is specified shall be subject to the same specified penalty as any other vehicle; except that section 42-2-127 shall not apply.

42-2-127. Authority to suspend license - to deny license - type of conviction - points

donkey's statute research = Epic Fail


DonkeyHotay topcommenter

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

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

Accordingly, it is a Criminal Offense to ride a bicycle while intoxicated.

Just as it is a crime to operate a Boat --- or even ride a Horse -- while intoxicated in Colorado.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Mike Bailey  "Bikers out having a good time??!!!"

Drunk ... on Public Property ... in Traffic ... endangering themselves and others ... 

... they can finish up their "good time" in JAIL with the rest of the public drunkards.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Jim_Beam  "Enforcement of the law should be left to the discretion of the officer and if the cyclist poses a threat to the safety of him / herself or others."

LOL! ... right, like DUI should be left up to officer discretion too, eh moron? Like the old days where cops would let the drunk drive on home if they promised to be careful.

Bicycling While Intoxicated is is a CRIMINAL OFFENSE -- a Misdemeanor subject to JAIL time -- same as DUI in an automobile.

What part don't you comprehend?

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