Monday, May 2, 2011
Can you get a DUI for bicycling while intoxicated?
by John Greenfield
[This article also runs in Time Out Chicago magazine, www.timeoutchicago.com.]
Q: When I ride my bicycle home from a bar drunk, am I breaking the law? Does it fall under the same blood-alcohol-content DUI regulations as operating a motor vehicle? —Easy Rider, Logan Square
A: Crocked Chicago cyclists can’t be charged with a DUI, says Brendan Kevenides, a lawyer who specializes in bike cases and calls himself the Chicago Bicycle Advocate.
In 1995, the Illinois Appellate Court decided this issue in People v. Schaefer, upholding the dismissal of criminal charges against a drunk bicyclist. Since state law doesn’t define a bike as a “vehicle,” the court found that Illinois’s DUI statute did not give cyclists fair warning they could face harsh penalties for pickled pedaling.
Kevenides notes that cyclists can be charged with public drunkenness or disorderly conduct, but the penalties for such offenses are substantially less than those for a DUI.
Even so, Active Transportation Alliance’s Margo O’Hara says it’s “dangerous and irresponsible” to spin while sauced.
But Mark Cuneo, a manager at the bike-centric Handlebar Bar & Grill, recommends one reason to choose two wheels over four for a night of carousing. “Instead of driving home drunk or leaving your car overnight, you can always throw your bike in the trunk of a cab.”