Ride Your Bike When You’re Out on the Town, but Don’t Get a DUI!

In the last issue, I wrote about the lighting and reflector requirements for bicycles between sunset and sunrise. In that context, I encouraged fellow cyclists to go “out on the town” on their bikes this summer. From what I have seen, more and more cyclists are doing so!

As part of the increased number of riders during the evening, I have had an increase in inquiries concerning a subject that comes up frequently. There is a good deal of misinformation out there with respect to whether or not you can get a DUI while riding your bike in Colorado.

The short answer is yes, you can get a DUI if you are operating a bicycle and your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is above the legal limit. Colorado’s DUI statute is found at C.R.S. § 42-4-1301. It specifically speaks to any person who “. . . drive[s] any vehicle . . .” C.R.S. § 42-4-102(112) specifically includes a bicycle under the definition of “vehicle”, and accordingly, the DUI statute does apply to any person operating a bicycle.

A bicycle rider with a BAC between 0.05 % up to 0.08 % is presumed by law to be “driving while ability impaired”. If the BAC is 0.08 % or greater, he is presumed to be driving under the influence. Further, if the bicycle rider is under 21, it takes a BAC of only 0.02 to be presumed DUI.

Alcohol concentration in the body tends to differ among individuals to some extent, and your BAC depends on several factors, including your weight, the period of time in which you were drinking alcohol, and the amount of time that has passed since your last drink. Though somewhat unscientific, there are several good online estimating tools if you have concerns about your own ability to safely consume alcohol, ride a bike, and be confident that you are not legally under the influence.

All of this notwithstanding, as a practical matter, unless you are clearly endangering yourself, others or property, it is unlikely that you would be randomly stopped and given a field sobriety test while riding your bicycle. This is especially true if you are not acting belligerently, or otherwise bringing unnecessary attention to yourself. Please understand, however, that there is no question that it is a violation of the state DUI laws to ride a bicycle while legally intoxicated. Further, you are quite likely risking your own health or safety, so if you are concerned about whether or not you would be able to safely drive a car, you may want to think twice about jumping on your bike, especially if you intend to share the road with motor vehicles.

If you should be unfortunate enough to receive a DUI citation while riding your bicycle, you will at least not have any points assessed against your motor vehicle driver’s license. That is an administrative remedy that applies only when a DUI occurs during the operation of a motor vehicle. If your motor vehicle driver’s license is incorrectly assessed points for such a violation, you can request that the Department of Motor Vehicles remove the points due to the fact that you were on a bicycle as opposed to a motor vehicle.

It is great to see so many people out riding at night; however, please use good judgment and stay safe. There may be a time when it makes more sense to walk home or call a cab.