It’s supposed to be one of the safer options for getting home.
How many of us have had a couple pints too many at the local pub after a long bicycle ride, then continued our journey back home, a little soused and wobbly? And when in doubt, there’s always the sidewalk, right?
Police in Montreal, however, think those who drink and ride their bikes are a real danger and they want new rules to get them off the street (or sidewalk).
“Someone who’s inebriated while riding a bicycle represents a hazard for themselves and for others. This is why we’re concerned,” says Inspector André Durocher of the Montreal police.
Right now, the law goes just halfway for cops in Montreal. It is illegal to drink while riding a bike in the city, but there is no specific law preventing someone from getting on their Schwinn when they are already drunk. Durocher says this leaves the force without many options to keep a drunk off the road.
“The only tool we have is a municipal bylaw in Montreal which is the same one that we use when people are inebriated when they come out of bars, so we’d like something specific because you know riding a bicycle requires your attention,” he says.
In other parts of Canada the story is the same. Police say they can charge you under laws like the Liquor Control and Licensing Act or the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, but there are no specific laws that prevent the act of cycling while drunk.
Some will without doubt argue don’t fix what isn’t broken: there are very few high profile cases of a cyclist causing harm to others, especially when weighed against the continued scourge of distracted driving, which many studies say is actually worse than drunk driving. But one police officer thinks drunk cyclists suffer from a false sense of security.
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“People think ‘Well I know I can’t drink and drive a car, but I’m okay to drive a bicycle,” says Sergeant Tim Burrows of the Toronto Police Traffic Services unit. “Well realistically you’re probably worse off because you don’t have that protection of a metal body around you.”
Burrows comments touch on the real issue at the root of the problem: despite the popularity of bike-sharing services like BIXI in Montreal and controversial bike lanes in Vancouver, the vast majority of Canadians reside in places where the car is king. Would drinking and cycling be less of an issue if we didn’t?
In Holland, believe it or not, it’s actually illegal to drink and ride a bicycle. And forget about .08, you are breaking the law there with a blood-alcohol content of just .05.
How effective is the law at preventing cyclists from throwing down a few? Not very. Researchers from Groningen University recently administered a breathalyzer to cyclists on a Thursday and Saturday between 1am and 3am. They found 68 per cent were over the legal limit.