Russell Hebets April 23, 2013

Feeling the breeze in your hair, burning some extra calories, saving gas money, seeing your community from a different perspective, and keeping fossil fuel emissions out of the atmosphere are only a few of the benefits of cycling. Boulder and Denver consistently make the list for top bike-friendly cities in the country. Given that biking is encouraged in Colorado at both the state and local level, does that encouragement extend to a night out on the down? If you’ve had a few drinks, you would think that state law would encourage you to ride a bicycle rather than drive, right? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think.

Colorado law explicitly includes bicycles as a “vehicle” under the vehicle and traffic code. This isn’t a case of a bike being lumped in with cars, motorcycles, mopeds and scooters by accident. The legislature made a specific reference to include bicycles as vehicles (for those of you wondering, wheelchairs were specifically excluded from this definition). Let’s take it one step further and look at Colorado’s DUI statute. Under Colorado law it is illegal, while under the influence, to drive a motor vehicle or vehicle. That’s right folks, in Colorado you can get charged with a DUI for making the seemingly responsible decision to pedal home from the bar rather than drive, and you will face the same potential repercussions as if you were behind the wheel.

OK, so the law is on the books, but is it enforced? There is good news and bad news here. First the good news: I’ve been practicing criminal law for over 12 years and I can count the number of times that I’ve seen a Biking Under the Influence case on one hand. Now the bad news: All the cases of Biking Under the Influence that I’ve seen were filed within the last 3 years. It sure seems like District Attorneys are pursuing these cases more and more aggressively. Biking is a much, much safer option than driving but beware, the police may be pulling over a Schwinn near you!