Can I claim compensation if injured when cycling drunk?

It's illegal to cycle on a road or other public place while under the influence of alcohol in the UK. But what happens if you are injured when cycling drunk and can you still claim compensation?

Cyclist thinking about riding his bike after drinking alcohol

In this article

    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 on some off-road routes, 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?

    Cyclists are expected to abide by the same laws as drivers and other road users, including obeying road signs and signals. Many cases have shown, however, that cyclists are more likely to ignore road signs and signals, as alcohol can compromise judgement.

    The police could stop you for riding in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner, and could be asked (but not forced) to provide a breath, blood or urine sample.

    Note that if you were to refuse to provide a sample and were subsequently charged with cycling under the influence of alcohol, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) cannot to use your refusal as evidence against you.

    Although you may be arrested and charged, in practice, fixed fine penalties are more common. If you were to cause damage to property or injury another person, you would be more likely to find yourself in court, however.

    The maximum penalty for cycling whilst under the influence of drink or drugs is a £1,000 fine.

    Could a conviction affect my driving licence?

    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."

    What if it can't 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.

    Could I still claim compensation for an injury?

    Recent research has shown intoxicated cyclists are ten times more at risk of being injured in a cycling accident than sober cyclists.

    You can still make a personal injury compensation claim if you were injured while cycling drunk, but your level of intoxication will be a significant factor in the claim.

    If it's determined that the cyclist's intoxication contributed to their injuries, a defendant's solicitor or insurance company may argue that the cyclist contributed to the severity of their injuries. This defence is known as 'contributory negligence'. Even if this defence is upheld, you should still receive some compensation, albeit a reduced amount in accordance with your share of the blame.

    It's essential to seek legal advice to understand how your actions may impact your claim.

    See also:

    Claiming compensation for a cycling injury

    I was partly to blame - can I claim?

    I wasn't wearing a helmet - can claim?

    I was cycling at night without lights - can I claim?

    I was injured when cycling on the pavement - can I claim?

    I wasn't wearing a helmet - can claim?

    What happened?

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