Quarter of bicycle owners admit to having cycled while drunk

Menace of drunken cyclists lays to rest the myth that it’s not against the law

Police should be taking the problem of people cycling while under the influence of alcohol as seriously as they take drink-drivers.

That’s the opinion of a national car leasing company which has found that over a quarter of bike owners have admitted to taking to the roads while drunk, while nearly 90% are unaware that there’s a specific traffic offence

The Flexed.co.uk car leasing company says that while cyclists are probably at more risk to themselves while under the influence, there’s still the possibility of serious life-changing accidents that can easily be avoided with a simple phone call for a taxi home from the pub.

“Unfortunately, the myth that being drunk in charge of a cycle isn’t a crime still persists,” says Flexed.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “It does, it’s real, even though it doesn’t mean getting points on your driving licence if you get caught.”

Flexed.co.uk asked 1200 people who own (or have owned) a bicycle whether they’ve ridden it while drunk:

  • 27% said Yes
  • No: 73%

We then asked if they’d ridden a bike while drunk specifically to avoid getting points on their driving licence because they knew they’d be ‘having a few’

  • Yes: 16%
  • 84% said they hadn’t

Among those willing to speak to Flexed.co.uk about their experiences, one (anonymous) cyclist said: “I’ve got nine points on my driving licence as it is. I take the old bike to the pub, just in case I have a few jars too many.”

One drinker was unaware that they might be putting pedestrians at risk, telling Flexed.co.uk without any remorse: “I’m not stupid, I stay off the roads and ride on the pavement instead.”

Another who said she was an occasional drunk cyclist said: “I had no idea it was against the law! I might take a taxi in future.”

In fact, nine out of ten asked didn’t know that drunk cycling was a specific offence. Asked by Flexed.co.uk, 88% were unaware of the letter of the law.

  • According to Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act, riding a cycle on a road or other public place under the influence of drink or drugs is guilty of an offence. In practice, this means that the culprit will be fined, but will not have their driving licence endorsed, as you don’t need a licence to ride a bicycle.

However, figures show that this is a power that is regularly exercised. Sussex Police hit the headlines in 2013 after it emerged they had only arrested one cyclist in three years for being drunk, and he was released after being given “some words of advice”. In other countries where the problem is taken more seriously, offenders can face prison sentences .

  • One young rider told Flexed.co.uk of his brush with the law that made him vow never to do it again: “I was pulled over while wobbling all over the place coming home from a mate’s party. The cops took my name and address and made me walk home, where I found both my bike and my angry dad waiting for me. A week later I got a strongly-worded letter saying that I was lucky they weren’t going to press charges.”

Police tell Flexed.co.uk that riding a bicycle while under the influence of drink or drugs can be just as dangerous as driving a car. Drunk cyclists are more likely to lose their balance, ignore traffic signals and junctions, and are a greater risk of injuring pedestrians if they choose to ride illegally on a pavement.

“Seriously, how can so many people still believe that it’s OK to ride a bike on British roads when you’re drunk?” Flexed.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall asks. “It’s common sense, but that’s usually the first thing that goes out of the window when drink is added to the equation.”

Hall asks: “Is it worth getting a criminal record for the sake of the cost of a taxi?”