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Yes, you can get arrested for bicycling while intoxicated

The Sacramento Bee: Yes, you can get arrested for bicycling while intoxicated

By Tony Bizjak
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009 - 9:08 am

The arrests Friday night of seven people for riding bikes while intoxicated is a reminder that under California law, bicycling under the influence is as illegal as driving under the influence.

"It is unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle … while under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug," the state vehicle code says.

A California Highway Patrol task force made the bike arrests as part of a DUI operation in central and south Sacramento that nabbed 57 people believed to be under the influence, officials said.

California Highway Patrol spokesman Mike Bradley said officers pulled over cyclists who were riding erratically in – and across – traffic. One cyclist determined to be under the influence was hit by a car and seriously injured Friday night on Florin Road, Bradley said.

The arrests reflect what some say is the downside of a growing lifestyle trend in the region’s urban areas, such as midtown Sacramento, where more bike racks are going up in front of restaurants and bars, and more people are joining organized pedaling pub crawls and grub crawls.

The cost of being caught biking under the influence is not nearly as steep as the several thousand dollars for a drunken driving conviction, but it’s hardly insignificant. In Sacramento County, the fine and penalties for pedaling under the influence total $570.

The arrest goes on a person’s driving record for three years, officials with the Department of Motor Vehicles said, but it is placed there without any sanctions or points against the person’s driver’s license.

When a person is pulled over for riding erratically on a bike, law-enforcement officers can cite the cyclist for being under the influence without giving the person a breath test, the CHP’s Bradley said. If an officer determines the person is riding unsafely due to alcohol or drugs, he can be cited even if his blood alcohol level is less than the normal 0.08 percent threshold.

Sacramento city police said they rarely arrest cyclists for biking under the influence. Records show just four arrests so far this year, and 15 last year.

"We’ve made it a point over the last couple of years to bring awareness to DUI, including bikes," police spokesman Konrad von Schoech said. Despite the low number of arrests, Von Schoech said police will pull a cyclist over "if we see a bicyclist riding erratically."