Fort Collins

Colorado Springs

D’oh! DUI?: Bicycling Whilst Drunk

Now that spring is officially here, it’s ever so tempting to hop on our bicycles, pedal down the Cherry Creek Trail, and maybe stop for a beer or two in the Colorado sunshine on the way home. Steer clear of getting too tipsy, though, or you could earn yourself a DUI.

That’s right. In 2012, the Denver Police Department issued a new enforcement policy that holds drunk cyclists just as accountable as drunk drivers. Even though Colorado’s DUI laws apply specifically to motorized vehicles, the police argued bicycle operators must obey all the same traffic laws as motor-vehicle drivers in the first place—which means you could be ordered to dismount your bike and perform a roadside sobriety test if you show signs of inebriated riding.

States like South Dakota, on the other hand, actually amended their laws to make bicycling under the influence legal because they would rather people ride drunk than drive drunk. In Oregon, however, drunk biking has all the same consequences as drunk driving. At the same time, a BUI (Bicycling Under the Influence) in California could include a fine of up to $730 and even possible documentation on one’s driving record.

“Bicycle culture has strongly embraced drinking,” Chicago Bicycle Advocate Brendan Kevenides told The Daily Beast in 2010. “I suppose it’s viewed as a fun thing to do while posing little risk to the general public—far less than drinking and driving, anyway.”

The truth is biking drunk can be incredibly dangerous, especially for the rider. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about one-fourth (23 percent) of the pedal cyclists killed in 2011 had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 g/dL. Furthermore, alcohol involvement was reported by either the cyclist or a motor-vehicle driver in more than 37 percent of the traffic crashes, resulting in pedal cyclist fatalities that year.

There hasn’t been a dramatic rise in the number of bicycle DUIs in Colorado recently, but that’s no reason to think our law enforcement entities are simply making empty threats about riding drunk. In Boulder, one of the nation’s most bike-friendly cities, police handed out five DUI arrests to cyclists in 2010. Just last year, a drunk and stoned Fort Collins bicyclist led the police on a chase through the Old Town before falling and being arrested with multiple misdemeanor charges, including a DUI.

Our advice? Stay off the road if you’ve enjoyed a couple of drinks—or at least designate a sober frontman on a bicycle built for two.


As spring ushers in the delightful prospect of cycling under the warm Colorado sun, bicyclists must know the legal implications of riding under the influence. The Denver Police Department’s enforcement policy, treating drunk cyclists with the same accountability as drunk drivers, highlights the seriousness of the issue. While some states, like South Dakota, have taken a more lenient approach by legalizing bicycling under the influence, others, such as Colorado and California, maintain strict penalties akin to those for drunk driving. Despite the perception that biking under the influence poses minimal risk to the public, the statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration underscore the dangers, revealing a significant proportion of pedal cyclist fatalities involving alcohol.

As the intersection of bicycling and alcohol continues to be a topic of legal and cultural debate, individuals must exercise caution and responsibility. The enforcement of DUI laws for cyclists, demonstrated by cases in Boulder and Fort Collins, emphasizes the importance of sober cycling to ensure both personal safety and adherence to traffic laws. Ultimately, the advice stands clear: if you’ve indulged in alcohol, it’s prudent to stay off the road or designate a sober cyclist when enjoying the freedom of two-wheeled transportation. With the potential consequences of DUIs for cyclists, responsible choices contribute to a safer and more enjoyable cycling experience for everyone on the road.

Do you have further questions or concerns? Call us or contact the attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and we will be happy to help.

Skip to content