Should bicycling drunk be illegal?
Some important bicycle-related debate has been going on in South Dakota for the last few weeks. That’s right, South Dakota.
Should cyclists and horseback riders be able to ride while intoxicated — since it’s usually a much safer alternative than drunken driving? The state Supreme Court just ruled that the current law says No: Bicycling can be considered “driving” because it qualifies as operating a vehicle. So cyclists still can be, and sometimes are, cited for DUIs in South Dakota.
While this comes as bad news for imbibing anti-car velorutionaries (who needs a DD when you have your trusty cruiser? I mean, really?), from a legal standpoint it could provide a solid basis for enforcing cyclists’ rights on the road. After all, as any Critical Mass rider will tell you, cyclists don’t block traffic, we are traffic.
Meanwhile, South Dakota’s legislature, concerned about drunk driving but much less so about drunken cycling and horseback riding (and rightfully so, as I see it) have introduced a bill that would effectively make the court ruling moot and allow drunken cycling once again. The bill has already passed the state House, with a Senate vote expected soon. Cycling advocates in the state are hoping the pending bill, if and when passed, would specifically guarantee cyclists’ rights to the road even as it allows bicycling under the influence. Good luck pulling that one off, but I’d love to see it happen.
My personal feeling is that if anyone can manage to stay upright on a bike in uber-windy South Dakota, whether they’re drunk or not, they should be rewarded, not reprimanded. And if you’re too drunk to stay upright, as the chap at the center of the Supreme Court case was, who are you going to hurt (besides maybe yourself) any more than if you were just walking drunk? It’s hard to get up any sort of potentially-injurious-to-others speed when you’re busy falling off a bike every few hundred feet or so.
Gerald Bordeaux was arrested in Sioux Falls on the afternoon of Oct. 2, 2004, when a witness called police after seeing Bordeaux repeatedly falling off a bike he was trying to ride on a city street. A police officer arrested Bordeaux, and a test indicated Bordeaux’s blood-alcohol content was 0.225 percent, or nearly three times the legal limit.
Bordeaux was charged with one count of driving or having actual physical control of vehicle while intoxicated and one count of driving or having actual physical control of a vehicle while having a blood-alcohol content exceeding 0.08 percent.
Pretty loose definition of “actual physical control” though, isn’t it?