Is it illegal to ride a bicycle when drunk?
Alcohol consumption affects reaction times, reduces inhibitions and can render a cyclist incapable of controlling a bicycle. Does that mean cycling under the influence of drink or drugs is against the law?
Is cycling when drunk illegal?
Yes. It is an offence to ride a bike on a road or other public place when unfit to ride due to drink or drugs.
Specifically, Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states:
"A person who, when riding a cycle on a road or other public place, is unfit to ride through drink or drugs (that is to say, is under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle) is guilty of an offence."
In the above excerpt, the definition of "a road" includes bridleways, so it would also be an offence to cycle off-road, as well as on the pavement.
The Highway Code Rule 68 also states that cyclist must not:
"ride when under the influence of drink or drugs, including medicine", or "ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner".
Could I be convicted for cycling when drunk?
If you were stopped by the police for cycling when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could be arrested and charged. In practice, fixed fine penalties are more common.
If you were to cause damage to property or if you injured another person, you could find yourself in court.
What are the penalties for cycling when drunk?
The maximum penalty for cycling whilst under the influence of drink or drugs is a £1,000 fine.
Cyclists are expected to abide by the same laws as drivers and other road users, including obeying road signs and signals. With the risk of alcohol lowering a cyclist's judgement or inhibitions, a drunk cyclist might ignore road signs and thereby commit further road traffic offences.
Recent research has shown intoxicated cyclists are ten times more at risk of being injured in a cycling accident than sober cyclists. A drunk cyclist also risks the safety of others.
A police officer could stop you for riding in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner. You could be asked (but not forced) to provide a breath, blood or urine sample.
If you were to refuse to provide a sample and were subsequently charged with cycling under the influence, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) would not be allowed to use your refusal as evidence against you.
What if it cannot be proved that the cyclist was drunk?
Sometimes it cannot be proved that the cyclist was drunk. However, riding in a dangerous manner could still lead to a conviction for a separate offence.
For example, if you were stopped by the police for cycling through a red light, and the police also suspected you to be drunk, you could be charged with careless or inconsiderate cycling, and cycling under the influence.
If the court could was unable to demonstrate that you were drunk, you could still be found guilty of careless and inconsiderate cycling.
The maximum fine for dangerous cycling is £2,500.
Ignoring a red light risks a Fixed Penalty Notice of £30. Although a cyclist's driving licence cannot be endorsed for this, or any other cycling offence, the courts may disqualify a cyclist from driving a car.
According to the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000:
"The court by or before which a person is convicted of an offence committed after 31st December 1997 may, instead of or in addition to dealing with him in any other way, order him to be disqualified, for such period as it thinks fit, for holding or obtaining a driving licence."
How can Quittance help?
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Questions about cycling accident claims?
Frequently asked questions:
- How will a personal injury claim affect my benefits?
- Will I have to pay tax on my injury compensation award?
- Can I claim if I was injured cycling without a bike helmet?
- Can I claim injury compensation if there were no witnesses?
- Can I claim for an injury if partly to blame for an accident?
Get all the answers in our comprehensive FAQ section:See more FAQs