biking under the influence



biking under the influence

Arrest in Warwick for biking under the influence.

First thought: the real crime here is that his bike is a “Roadmaster.” 😉

More importantly: it’s good that bicyclists in Warwick are treated as vehicle operators, with the responsibilities thereof. I do wonder, though, if the City of Warwick respects the rights as well. Any Warwick (or other) residents who can tell us more about how the City of Warwick treats bicycling in general?


  • Feb 18, 2009 at 5:05 am

    Wow, the first ticket I've heard of a cyclist receiving anywhere in Rhode Island, since I moved here just over 10 years ago.

    This is one of those times when I wish I knew more about the law. I'm really curious to see whether or not this charge will stick. Is it actually against the law for someone to ride a bike while intoxicated? Also, what punishment can the court impose, a fine? I've often wondered whether they could actually apply points to someone's driving license for an offense on a bicycle. You aren't required by law to have a license to ride a bicycle, but if you do have a license… From what the article said, it certainly sounds like the police could press some charge, but I wonder whether DUI/DWI can be made to stick.

  • Alan Barta
    Feb 18, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Warwick treats bicyclists with utter contempt.

    Ever try riding a bike on Bald Hill Road, Centerville Road, East Avenue, Post Road, Warwick Avenue? None of the citiy's major thoroughfares are bikeable, except for Sandy Lane and sections of West Shore Road. This is in direct violation of federal mandates.

    “There is no question that conditions for bicycling and walking need to be improved in every community in the United States; it is no longer acceptable that 6,000 bicyclists and pedestrians are killed in traffic every year… and efficient modes of travel have been made difficult and uncomfortable. United States Department of Transportation is committed to doing all it can to improve conditions for bicycling and walking and to make them safer ways to travel.” Federal Highway Administration, January, 1999.

    It's 10 year later and we're still waiting.

  • Dennis
    Feb 18, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    After speaking with an officer, I came away with 3 points…

    1. DUI refers to operating a "motorized vehicle", so bikes are not covered.

    2. The commonly used term of "public intoxication" is not legal offense. Apparently, I can be drunk as a skunk, standing on the sidewalk downtown, and as long as I don't break any OTHER law I'm just a harmless drunk

    3. While riding a bike after drinking to excess might be a terrible idea, the only ticket I'm going to get might be based upon my swerving into traffic or some other behavior.

    It is nice to see more people riding a bike and even the attention that we get when bike riders do stupid things. We might expect to see more of this as more people hop on a bike.


  • Feb 18, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Actually, under state law, the police have every right (and obligation) to arrest someone operating a bicycle while drunk. Unfortunately (but unsurprisingly), the officer you spoke with was misinformed.

    See the following:

    "Every person riding … a vehicle by human power shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle…"

    That includes operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

  • Feb 19, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    I much prefer someone drunk on a bike than drunk aiming deadly automotive mass.

    A bicycle is NOT a vehicle (anywhere but RI). On a bike you're just a quick pedestrian. The standard among law officers has always been, "If you can walk home, we won't bust you." A drunk in a gutter or propped seated against a wall will be collected to sleep it off in jail, mostly for their own protection. Therefore, someone riding a bike obviously can propel themselves well enough.

    All I ever hear on this forum is people trying to preserve road access for motorists. What kind of a bike forum is this? I don't really care much for motorists. They hate anything and everyone in their way. They buy VEHICLES to go fast, then get frustrated when they can't on overcrowded roads. For what they're paying, on average $7,600 per year, can you blame them? I choose not to always drive because it adds to the gridlock, disturbs serenity, impoverishes people globally, poisons groundwater and oceans, pollutes the air, results in wars. More bicyclists visibly around will urge motorists to likewise give it up or learn patience and share the lanes.

    Life is a dance. I normally let motorists go around me. I ride to celebrate my vitality. I drive only when I'm forced to. I honk my horn a good blast at motorists acting badly while talking on cell phones; this lets them AND whoever is conversing with them know just how ignorant and rude they are. I gladly give the right of way as specified, and promptly take it when required; to do otherwise just to fein good manners is no blessing, rather it's confusing and dangerous. But most people don't know the rule, anyway.

    When I'm on the bike, I'm a much smaller target, and can dance around moving cars without worries. When I drive, I'm often anxious that some horrible, inconvenient, life threatening collision will occur. A few extra minutes to get wherever I'm going is just not worth the risk.

  • Feb 19, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    I much prefer someone drunk on a bike than drunk aiming deadly automotive mass.

    Wow, something we can actually agree on. However, from what the article said, the cyclists was swerving in and out of traffic. If this is the case, then the guy deserved a ticket. Had he been under control of his vehicle (yes, it is a vehicle), then I'm sure the cops wouldn't have bothered him.

    A bicycle is NOT a vehicle (anywhere but RI).

    Literally thirty seconds on the internet took me to the MassBike page on bicycle regulations which states:

    Every person operating a bicycle upon a way, as defined in section one of chapter ninety, shall have the right to use all public ways in the Commonwealth except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibiting bicycles have been posted, and shall be subject to the traffic laws and regulations of the Commonwealth and the special regulations contained in the section, except that: (1) the bicycle operator may keep to the right when passing a motor vehicle which is moving in the travel lane of the way, (2) the bicycle operator shall signal by either hand his intention to stop or turn, and (3) bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks outside business districts when necessary in the interest of safety, unless otherwise directed by local ordinance. A person operating a bicycle on the sidewalk shall yield the right of way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian.

    which sounds mighty similar to the laws in Rhode Island.

    Furthermore, I challenge your notion that a cyclist is just a fast pedestrian. At the speeds I ride on the quiet roads I prefer, I'm much closer to the speed of an automobile than a pedestrian. In general I'm cruising at 2/3 the speed of a car (or more) on these types of roads, which ends up being 6+ times the speed of a pedestrian. This is a significant difference.

    This is a bicycle forum, we may just not all agree with your idea of a bicycle. I for one want motorists to view the bicycle as a vehicle. It would go a long way towards gaining some sort of legitimacy in their eyes, currently I think most just view transportational cyclists as eccentric people who have never grown up. Rather I like to view myself as an every day hero, saving the world one pedal stroke at a time 😉

  • Feb 19, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Mark, well put; thank you.

    The prior commenter wrote, "All I ever hear on this forum is people trying to preserve road access for motorists. What kind of a bike forum is this?"

    The answer: this blog is read by, and contributed to by, bicyclists who wish to see conditions improved for themselves and other bicyclists. I have yet to read a single comment here which had the intent of improving access for motorists. What kind of bike forum is this? Clearly, it is one that is open to all comments, without regard to hyperbole.

  • Feb 20, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    None of what this forum offers will do anything at all to make bicycling safer… unless it's to convince legislatures, municipalities and the state to obey existing laws to amend bicycling and pedestrian access.

    Nothing you do as a cyclist has much effect either on overall safety, unless it's to ride badly, slowly, as do the majority of cyclists (not you or your small minority of speedsters), and more frequently and thus create UNCERTAINTY among motorists.

    In RI, 1:6 is illiterate, the 35,000 or so avid cyclists do whatever they want, go on average only 3 – 5 times the speed of pedestrians, don't care about your laws written to control automotive momentum not bicycles, but have the sense to stay out of the way. That bicycling is onerously over regulated is a sad fact.

  • Feb 20, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Alan, you fail to grasp our purpose here. We do not contribute to this blog hoping that matters will somehow magically improve for cyclists in Providence and the burbs if only we complain enough. We blog here because sharing news and ideas helps build a community of cyclists. And by building a strong bicycling community, we are better positioned to effect positive change. You may not believe in our purpose, or share our optimism, but as a member of the area's cycling community, you are still welcome to contribute here.

  • Abe
    Feb 22, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    Most states do not recognize "BUI." The boilerplate language that bikers the the same "rights and responsibilities" as cars refers to traffic rules. DUI is a separate and distinct area of the law with criteria of its own.

    Specifically, most DUI laws use the term "motorized vehicle" which excludes bikes. Likewise, you won't get a DUI for riding a skateboard or rollerblades drunk (for anybody that thinks wheels and drinking = DUI).

    Even where a motor is involved, many states further do not give DUI tickets for vehicles that do not require a license. Ie, golf carts. Furhtermore, many police forces simply do not enforce any law that might cover golf carts on private property, or bikes on the road.

    Lastly, consider that giving a ticket for BUI is contrary to the policy and rational of all DUI laws. DUI laws serve mostly to protect the innocent from the drunk. A buzzed biker is probably only going to injure himself. A drunk biker should perhaps qualify for a public intox ticket or similar.

    Most of these "BUI" arrests don't actually result in a DUI conviction. Most get tossed or pled down, as I expect this one will.

  • Feb 23, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Eric said…

    Do you know what the notion of community entails? Diversity of opinion is chief among them. Consensus only needed on key issues.

    As an activist of 10 years with considerable effort and success at "complaining", contributing, and getting results, I already know that you don't need consensus. I don't buy into your community's platform which can't boast of the same.

    They want bikeways. I want bikeways that are maintained year round just as well (or better than) roadways. They don't light, patrol, plow or sweep half as well as I'd like, so I don't use them much.

    They don't care about real roads, where I mostly ride, except to grouse about grates (in gutters where they don't belong). They aren't vocal about laws designed to protect bicyclists, only those that limit, marginalize and restrict them. I want every single road to at least carry a reasonable shoulder to escape from the travel lane – where you're supposed to ride – when traffic is unforgiving. I don't want this left to motorists, some of whom actually drive in shoulders as if lanes. Lacking space, sharrows would be okay; I'd prefer one-way designations with a bike lane.

    They are so fixated on bikeways that they don't consider how you ride to them. Adjacent roads are next on the agenda of bikeability. The object of a bikeway is to create a flat spine to connect bikeable roads off to real destinations. Just like a highway, its success depends upon continuity. How many people are going to commute by bike between, say, Providence and Worcester? Probably nobody. It's in segments that people use such facilities, just like motorists use highways.

    Mostly, since I ride on a lot of sidestreets – pushed off main street by design – I want many small projects that "connect the dots". You can't ride on Warwick Avenue. You can't take a parallel side street either. City is in contempt of federal law. But, incredibly, there is an entire succession of public places lined up along its length that are ALMOST (maddeningly) connected, including city parks, elementary schools, and waste areas, a potential route that kids might take to play and school in safety. This year's Ride of Silence will point them out.

    Obama wants a shovel ready project? Here's one I'd endorse wholeheartedly. Hardly even needs a shovel, only some buckets of paint and and idea.