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Drunk biking: No big deal, or time to get real?

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 8th, 2010 at 1:52 pm

"Alcohol use leads to a host of unsafe bicycling practices, increased head and brain injuries, and costs to the cyclist and community."
— From the conclusion of a January 2010 study published in American Journal of Emergency Medicine

A story reported by the Associated Press today underscores an issue I've had in my story queue for a long time: bicycling under the influence.

The story was about an Oregon Court of Appeals ruling that said a citation for bicycling while intoxicated still counts toward the "three strikes" rule. The court ruled that the state could revoke the driver's license of a man who was guilty of biking drunk in 2008, even though a driver's license isn't required for operating a bicycle.

Like it or not, BUI comes with the same consequences as DUI. However, unlike DUI, drunk biking has nowhere near the cultural awareness drunk driving has. As more people use bikes to get around, is it time to up our awareness and education around this issue?

Biketobeerfest at Hopworks -64
A long line at the "Biketobeerfest"
event in 2009.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Mara Woloshin, a public relations professional based in Portland is researching the topic of pedaling under the influence. Back in August, she launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issue on behalf of local lawyer (and her client) Adam Greenman, who specializes in DUII and traffic crimes. Woloshin points to what she sees as an increase in fatal bike crashes in Oregon that involve alchohol as a sign that more people need to be aware of the dangers — and the consequences — of biking under the influence.

Greenman reminds his clients (and prospective clients) that a conviction for pedaling under the influence carries the same fines and charges whether you're operating a vehicle with or without a motor. "But it’s worse than that," Greenman says, "because the danger of serious physical injury is much greater for a cyclist than for a driver behind the wheel."

Biketobeerfest at Hopworks -37

Woloshin's firm sent out a press release about pedaling under the influence that specifically cited "several cycling websites packed with information, and listing dozens of cyclist-friendly watering holes where cyclists can park, drink, and swap stories." The release went on to say:

"A drive past one of these Portland locations on a warm summer night demonstrates their incredible popularity with bike racks overflowing, and a cycling crowd that often spills onto the sidewalk. Good clean fun? Not always."

A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine backs up Woloshin and Greenman's claims. Alcohol, bicycling, and head and brain injury: a study of impaired cyclists' riding patterns, found that among the 200 patients studied "Alcohol use showed a strong correlation with head injury" and that, "Impaired riders were less experienced, less likely to have medical insurance, rarely wore helmets, were more likely to ride at night and in slower speed zones such as city streets, and their hospital charges were double." Here's the study's conclusion:

"Alcohol use leads to a host of unsafe bicycling practices, increased head and brain injuries, and costs to the cyclist and community. The interrelated characteristics of the riding patterns of the cyclists who use alcohol might help target interventions."

Woloshin says her interest in this topic goes beyond her PR work. "I will continue to try to build awareness about this because cycling is part of our Pacific Northwest lifestyle. I question why there is a PUI law on the books — yet most folks are not informed and don’t know about it. With bike clubs meeting at bars, law enforcement now has a rich resource for citations, fines, arrests, which generate money and can be devastating to citizens."

Madsen beer bucket-1
Beer on ice at a recent
BikePortland meeting.

According to the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division, there have been 14 fatal bike crashes in Portland since 2005. Of those, the person on the bike was found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol six times (and the bike operator was deemed at fault in three of those).

To say biking and drinking are closely intertwined here in Portland is a major understatement. From the Hopworks Beer Bike and beer hand-ups at local cyclocross races to beer stops on group rides and pub crawls — beer consumption is a pillar of the local bike culture. Have we gone too far? Is it time for a wake-up call on this issue? Should advocacy groups and transportation agencies do more to spread awareness about the consequences of drunk biking?

I would love to know what you think.

---

[NOTE: This article was originally published with a photo of a Team Beer jersey and a reference to them as well. Team Beer is a local bike club/team that I felt was a helpful illustration of how closely intertwined beer and bicycling has become in Portland. However, after I read comments and emails from several Team Beer members (and friends) who felt their association to this story was misleading, I decided to delete any mention of Team Beer from this article. Thanks for the feedback.]

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Comments
  • Esther December 8, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    To paraphrase an old joke by Drew Carey: There's a DriveToBeerFest every night, and it meets at the bar.
    The issues here are much bigger issues of addiction and substance (in this case, alcohol) abuse in our culture. I have witnessed plenty of dangerous behavior by people who were BUI, but then again I have also witnessed plenty of dangerous behavior by people who were just walking around drunk.
    I do believe that people need to be aware that they are operating a vehicle in roadways with dangerous vehicles when they're BUI...of course, alcohol impairs judgment, which makes that difficult. However, I still think the dangers are far far less than they would be if those people were driving instead.

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  • Charlie December 8, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    What's missing from the discussion is that while bicycling drunk poses a bigger risk to an individual vs drunk driving, it poses far LESS of a risk to others on the road. If a drunk bicyclist crashes, he/she is certainly not going to injure someone else as much as if he/she were driving.

    It seems to me that one of the primary reasons why penalties for drunk driving are so high are because of the risk posed to others on the road. Since bicycling drunk doesn't pose nearly a much risk to others, in my opinion the penalties should be much less as well.

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    • fool December 8, 2010 at 3:01 pm

      well said, this precisely mirrors my thoughts.

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    • Max December 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm

      My thoughts exactly. I find it rather ridiculous that you could have your driver's license suspended, when you're not required to even have one!

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    • BB December 9, 2010 at 8:04 am

      The country is broke, and safety nannies want introduce more debt and use resources we don't have.

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    • Did I miss it? Again? December 9, 2010 at 10:39 am

      Charlie-
      Perhaps it is missing because it is not the topic at hand; the scope of the study was not driving drunk v. riding drunk,it is narrowed to drinking and riding.

      If one were to create a study of airline incidents due to intoxicated pilots, should the first response be pointing out that flying while drunk poses less risk than drinking and driving?

      At what point do we recognize that regardless of means of transportation, if you are driving/riding/flying/skippering while intoxicated, you are increasing the risk to yourself (acceptable), but also to other people (which is not acceptable).

      I know this is also a hot button, but being that cyclists are not required to be insured, why should the motorist or pedestrian be held financially reponsible for damages caused by an intoxicated cyclist? Please do not answer "Because it is safer than driving drunk."

      There are vulnerable road users in this situation and they are (most likely) those who are not intoxicated.

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      • oboe December 9, 2010 at 11:16 am

        Better yet, if the issue was whether we should give the same penalties to drunken passengers as we do to drunken airline pilots. After all, while inebriated airline pilots pose a *massively* greater danger to themselves and everyone else, inebriated passengers have a much higher incidence of injury, liver disease, and violent outbursts.

        Ergo, the penalties should be the same.

        And yes, both the BUI arguments, and the above hypothetical are equally f-ing stupid.

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    • Joe December 9, 2010 at 11:21 am

      If I ever got a BUI, my statement to the judge would be this. "Your honor, I was trying to do the right thing by choosing to ride my bike to the bar that night. The message you are sending is that I might as well have gotten in my car and put others at risk."

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      • Paul Johnson December 10, 2010 at 10:54 am

        Please get a BUI, I'll fly back to Portland just to watch the judge laugh at you for not making responsible transportation arrangements.

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    • RWL1776 December 10, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      Imagine YOU are the driver of a car, and a drunken cyclists swerves in front of YOU, and they are killed by the impact of your vehicle. Now YOU are going to remember that instant for the rest of your life, and it was THEIR actions that have ruined your life, and taken theirs. Just putting this hypothetical situation out there for discussion. How would you deal with that flashback for the rest of your life?

      If you are operating a transportation vehicle on the road, the laws should apply equally to everyone.

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      • Jackattak December 13, 2010 at 1:28 pm

        Couldn't have put it better myself. Well said.

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  • Bryan December 8, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Drunk biking by itself isn't a good thing, but when you consider it as a replacement for drunk driving, it is a vast vast improvement.

    Given a choice between sharing the road with drunk bikers or drunk drivers, I would pick the bikers every time.

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    • Paul Johnson December 8, 2010 at 6:25 pm

      Tell that to the toddler that was killed a few years ago by a drunk driver on a bicycle at the Rose Quarter.

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      • Schrauf December 8, 2010 at 10:38 pm

        What's your point? There are exceptions to every "rule". If you could choose to be hit by an average driver or an average biker, which would you choose, taking into account average speed, mass, vehicle structure, etc.

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        • Paul Johnson December 9, 2010 at 10:13 am

          I prefer all drivers, motorized or not, to be sober.

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      • eric December 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm

        Tell that to the toddler who was killed by an elderly man who had an episode just recently at lombard street and interstate. We need to start a public relations campaign about the dangers of mixing old age and vehicle operation.

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        • Paul Johnson December 9, 2010 at 4:20 pm

          For a long time now, I've advocated mandatory retesting instead of automatic renewals, and much shorter terms, for driver's licensing. Stupidity knows no age, and the rules of the road change enough over time to necessitate reprinting the driver's manual at least once every other year as it is. Even though you're already expected to keep up on this information as a driver, most people don't unless there's a barrier to continue driving without doing so.

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    • k. December 9, 2010 at 9:02 am

      This is my only worry about cracking down on drunk cycling; that it will inhibit people from seeing it as an alternative to drunk driving. While neither on is good, drunks on bikes are exponentially more benign than drunks in cars. If someone's determined to go to the bar and drink (and many are) I'd much rather they take their bike then their car.

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      • Paul Johnson December 9, 2010 at 10:15 am

        This is a good thing, though. You don't need to be operating any vehicle while drunk. I find it unbelievable that people are looking at drunk driving and drunk cycling and comparing which is worse based on severity of the injury, given the odds are essentially the same. Getting hospitalized because of someone else's stupidity is very likely a ruinous event given the expense of privatized healthcare.

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  • BURR December 8, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    This is not universal, it is on a state-by-state basis

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    • Paul Johnson December 8, 2010 at 6:26 pm

      The only state that doesn't prohibit drunk driving on a bicycle is Minnesota.

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      • Schrauf December 8, 2010 at 10:39 pm

        Wrong. Washington is another.

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        • Paul Johnson December 8, 2010 at 10:45 pm

          Last I checked, bicyclists in Washington are bound to the same rules of the road as motorists (as is the case in most states). You can't drive drunk in Washington, unless something's changed since October.

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          • matthew vilhauer December 8, 2010 at 11:16 pm

            paul-you are incorrect. i spoke with a vancouver police officer personally on this matter last friday. he strongly suggested if someone has been drinking to not ride but the law does in fact allow people to do so in washington.

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      • Opus the Poet December 9, 2010 at 12:39 pm

        New York also doesn't prohibit drinking and riding a bicycle, and drunk cycling arrests (actually those would be public intoxication) can't be used against you as previous DUI any more than any other public intoxication charge could be.

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  • Peter December 8, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    BUI is the lesser of two evils by far. Much less chance of hurting an innocent bystander. Wear a helmet, use a light, and don't try to hold a beer at the same time.

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  • BURR December 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    The point of DUI laws is to prevent harm to others, and you can do a lot more harm to others with a motor vehicle than you can with a bicycle.

    So, for the same reasons cyclists should not be paying the same traffic fines motorists do, they should not be subject to the same DUI laws.

    If you cycle drunk and fall off your bike and hurt yourself, you have caused harm to no one but yourself.

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  • Matthew December 8, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    Sure, because no one in a car has ever swerved to avoid someone on a bike and then hurt themselves / someone else.

    This is really even a debate? Good lord.

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    • Spiffy December 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm

      that's called a poor reaction... you don't take evasive actions if those actions will result in further incidents... if people keep avoiding bad drivers then they'll continue to drive badly...

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    • BB December 9, 2010 at 7:51 am

      Yes but they broke the law also. You are supposed to be in control of your car a all times.

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  • Jake December 8, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Re: Matthew,
    With this logic drunk walking should be outlawed as well. Would you go that far?

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    • April December 9, 2010 at 3:29 pm

      I've heard that walking while drunk is more dangerous (to the drunk person) than biking or driving, but that's probably per mile traveled.

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    • matt December 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm

      It might not be this way in Oregon, but walking drunk in California can certainly land you a night in Jail with upwards of $500 in fines--we call it Drunk In Public.

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      • Paul Johnson December 13, 2010 at 4:24 pm

        We already knew California was ass-backwards, though.

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  • lisa December 8, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I agree with Charlie. The distinction between threat posed to ones self and threat posed to others is key.

    A DUI person on bike poses a much smaller threat than does a DUI person driving car.

    This distinction is hardly ever made in the case of stop sign / red light running as well. A person running a stop sign on a bike is NOT the same as a person driving car running a stop sign / red light.

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  • Dave December 8, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I would think that perhaps a law which gives a penalty that is non-car-related might be a good idea, as there are an increasing number of people who don't own a car - maybe a fine or something. I'm not advocating riding drunk, but to me personally, not being able to drive would certainly not be a hardship.

    I'm kind of on the fence about how much this needs to be regulated and made a huge deal of, since, as with wearing a helmet, the person most likely to get injured by this behavior is the person engaging in the behavior. Yeah, it might be stupid to ride a bike while drunk, but you're still not that likely to do anything more than hurt yourself.

    The reason we make such a big deal about drunk driving, is that driving a car recklessly, you can easily kill other people (and I'm not so sure about the statement that the driver of a car who is driving drunk is safer than the person riding a bicycle drunk - that's a pretty broad statement, and a lot of factors play into that).

    It's more dangerous to a person to walk around the streets drunk too, but we aren't cracking down on them because they increase their chance of getting injured.

    Also, just because a lot of activities include beer in Portland doesn't necessarily mean that all the people drinking it are getting drunk. I love beer, and I really enjoy drinking it, but I rarely have more than 1 or 2 at a time, and rarely without food. I don't think the association of beer with biking activities in Portland is necessarily a bad thing, people just have to be responsible about it.

    So yeah, I think it's good to discourage riding drunk, and even have a law on the books that defines some reasonable penalty for it and make people aware of that, but don't go too over the top gung ho about it. Just my opinion.

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  • Mork December 8, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    When we imbibe, we do it close to home, in moderation (usually) and typically via pedal power. There are rare occasions when we "get" to walk our bikes home or leave the bike at the bar and take the bus.

    I get uncomfortable when I realize a friend has driven to a bar for the exact reasons highlighted by Esther and Charlie: I may be more likely to hurt myself if I ride home after a few, but the rest of my community benefits because I'm moving slow and have a tiny amount of mass so any potential impact is going to be negligible compared to a similar situation with a buzzed automobile driver.

    I think this article does a tiny bit of scare-mongering on the DUII front. If I remember correctly from a recent alt-weekly's report, for every 1000 or so DUII's issued to auto drivers in the area only 1 or 2 are issued to cyclists. I understand it's a risk we take, but without an actual step up in enforcement, it's a small one.

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  • matt picio December 8, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    This is already a serious issue to those who are directly affected: (i.e. those who get drunk and then bike) other than that, this is currently a very minor issue. Drunk cyclists are very unlikely to harm anyone other than themselves. In terms of the cost borne by family members, obesity, heart disease and diabetes are more more damaging than drunk cycling. For that matter, the cycling portion is far less damaging than the underlying alcoholism. The point of DUII laws is to prevent people on the road from killing others, not themselves. In this respect, DUII for cyclists has nearly no benefit. To combat drunk cycling (and alcoholism), recognition and treatment of the underlying issues needs to happen.

    I find it interesting that in the fatal incidents involving drunk cyclists, only 50% were the cyclist's fault. Clearly while this is a problem and should be addressed, there are other factors which are equally as deadly and should also be investigated and addressed.

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  • Allan December 8, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    To quote the book "Superfreakonomics", walking drunk is 8x more dangerous than driving drunk per mile. I would be interested to know how biking stacks up. The data is out there.

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    • Julian December 8, 2010 at 3:22 pm

      Per mile wouldn't be the exposure criteria I'd choose. Try per trip.

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      • bikieboy December 9, 2010 at 9:37 am

        or length (time) of exposure.

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        • Allan December 10, 2010 at 12:24 pm

          but your trip is presumably a fixed length- ie from bar X to your crib. So lets consider what transit mode you want to use for that trip and per mile will be most accurate in assessing your danger on the equivalent trip.

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          • Paul Johnson December 11, 2010 at 11:22 am

            That doesn't wash. The overwhelming majority bicycle and car accidents happen within 5 miles of home for at least one of the parties involved.

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  • Dave December 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Regarding the statement that a drunk driver is less danger to themselves than a drunk bicyclist - this depends quite a bit on the type of car, the type of bicycle, and the manner in which each are operating them. I would tend to ride even more slowly and carefully if I was feeling tipsy, and so if I fell over, I'd be pretty unlikely to seriously injure myself, riding upright, I'm not likely to do anything more than scrape my hands or elbows up, unless there were outside factors playing into it (like getting hit by a car because my reaction time wasn't fast enough).

    Driving drunk at 40mph poses plenty of risk to the driver - (think freeway medians, bridge supports, other cars, etc).

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    • Allan December 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm

      The highways and roads are set up so that most of these dangers are mitigated by water barrels, angled guardrails, etc. You don't see head on obstacles very often on our major roadways

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      • Paul Johnson December 11, 2010 at 11:25 am

        There's still a few streets with unpulled stumps in them in Portland...

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  • BURR December 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Let's give the PPB yet another reason to single out and persecute cyclists, great idea!.

    But I've just got to ask, where the heck is PPB every morning at 2AM when the bars let out a whole bunch of drunks who mostly drive home?

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    • ron December 8, 2010 at 2:50 pm

      Bravo! Until they (PPB) start addressing speeding, hit-and-run incidents and drunk driving, I have a hard time getting on this bandwagon. It my math is correct, if there were 6 cycling deaths in Oregon over the past 5 years related to alcohol/drugs, or 1.2 per year. Multiply that by 50 states, you have 60 deaths per year nationwide. There are 25,000 drunk driving deaths in the US each year. I wonder why we keep trying to think of new things to fix when there are old thing we haven't fixed? Geez, so many do-gooders with new causes...

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    • matt picio December 8, 2010 at 3:12 pm

      Doing their jobs - responding to calls and writing tickets. There are only about 500 officers in the city, which is ~150 per shift. There are a few HUNDRED miles of streets in the city, leaving an average of one officer per multiple miles of street. And that's assuming only one unit responds to a particular incident. A single robbery in progress might tie up 6 units while they secure the area and hunt for the guy.

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  • Brad December 8, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Jake - there are public intoxication laws that cover pedestrians. If a cop sees you weaving about while ambulating then he can cite and/or arrest you.

    The bottom line is that we should have omnibus laws that prohibit any usage of public thoroughfares while impaired or intoxicated. It's a basic public safety issue. We can debate penalties but being drunk, while sometimes fun or funny, is irresponsible and can lead to horrible consequences.

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    • Duncan December 9, 2010 at 6:21 am

      I think this is the scariest thing I have read in a while. Sounds Orwellian, or maybe Utah-like.

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      • Paul Johnson December 9, 2010 at 10:11 am

        It's pretty common in the US, though Oregon doesn't have public intoxication on the books. Oklahoma does, so I'm not quite sure how that works out if I decide to walk home from the bar across the street after a couple drinks. Even then, there's a question of jurisdiction where I am: Does Oklahoma's law apply (which has public intoxication on the books) or the Muskovee Nation (which, as far as I'm aware, doesn't)?

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  • Matthew December 8, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    @ Jake - Public intoxication IS a crime.

    @ everyone else - Are you forgetting that people on bikes can just as easily run over people walking as people in cars can run over people on bikes? Maybe the risk of instant death is less, but that doesn't make it any more acceptable or forgivable.

    I'm not saying there should be special laws for drunken cyclists, I'm just saying the same laws that apply to people in cars should continue to apply to people on bikes.

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  • Jacob December 8, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Ride bike to bar, get drunk, push bike home. WIN
    Drive car to bar, get drunk, push car home? FAIL

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    • matt picio December 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm

      I think that illustrates the real issue with biking drunk - it's not being on the bike, it's speed and reaction time. A drunk pedestrian can be killed the same as a drunk cyclist.

      If we want to stop drunk travel, then bars need beds, or some other solution to keep people from leaving until they've sobered up. (or Tri-Met needs to be 24hr)

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      • Spiffy December 8, 2010 at 3:34 pm

        gone are the days of the inn keeper...

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      • Paul Johnson December 8, 2010 at 6:29 pm

        It's called a "public house." I wonder why bars are able to call themselves that without actually being a public house without getting nailed by false advertising laws.

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  • Joe December 8, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    I'm with BURR on this one, good point. but this law worries me, If I'm riding home and a cop thinks I'm drunk just might be a good target for him to pull me over, beer on breath.. tons of drivers use back roads here to get home after 2am. * I jumped on MAX after Alefest with my bike, but downtown PDX is tricky with cars at night and riding. almost got hit 3 times, just getting to MAX. awareness can saves lifes

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  • Clarence Darrow December 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    It's not an issue of being responsible for your actions. Get drunk in public and pay the price. But as a cyclist should that price include points against your drivers license? A license to drive a motor vehicle and not required to operate a bicycle on public streets.

    That's the question and one that gets to the constitutional right to equal treatment under the law.

    If I don't have a drivers license and get caught for BUI, what punishment do I get? Fines etc, but they can't take away a license I don't have. Why should you receive extra punishment because you have a license.

    That's why I use a state id card when bike riding and not a DL.

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    • BURR December 8, 2010 at 2:44 pm

      AFAIK, if you get a ticket for running a stop sign on your bike, it doesn't go on your driving record; so why should a BUI go on your driving record?

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  • Barron December 8, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    There's a big difference between riding under the influence and riding drunk. Also, BAC of 0.08 is a DUI but I don't think it should be that low for a BUI.

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  • Matthew December 8, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    And Jacob wins the comment thread. :D

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  • wsbob December 8, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    The 'drunks on bikes aren't as bad as drunks driving cars' argument is one of relative threats, not responsible use of the road. Little if any respect is due efforts made to get responsible road users to find as acceptable, drunk bike riders use of the road.

    If alcohol could be formulated so that when excessively consumed, people's skin and clothing would change to a bright, flashing, reflective day-glo orange or hi-vis green, that could help lessen the dangers of drunk biking, but it wouldn't probably be a very popular measure.

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    • matt picio December 8, 2010 at 3:29 pm

      Now you've gotten to the core arguments about the "nanny" state. What is the purpose of the law? Is it punishing the offenders? Or reducing the number of victims? If it's the former, then by all means, let's go after drunk cyclists, because I don't think anyone can seriously argue that biking drunk is not against the current law. But if we want the result to be fewer deaths and injuries, then why shouldn't we focus efforts on the modes causing the deaths and injuries, and shift priorities as the cause of deaths changes? (i.e. when we reduce car drunk deaths low enough, bikes will start to be the #1 factor, and we can switch enforcement then)

      We as a society seem to put an emphasis on "fairness", which seems to be defined as "if I'm getting screwed, you should be too - we should all be equally inconvenienced if I HAVE to be". If we want actual results, perhaps we should be looking at which laws should be enforced, or figure out ways to step up enforcement of all laws (I'm going to go on a limb here and guess that most of us commentors don't want MORE police and MORE laws, but I'm sure some of us would be ok with that)

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      • Spiffy December 8, 2010 at 3:58 pm

        YES! they need to stop going out of the way to enforce non-issues... every time I see a cop sitting on the side of the road with a radar gun I see many people failing to signal and following too close right in front of them but they never get in the car to go after those people, they just wait for the offense they want to come driving their way...

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      • wsbob December 8, 2010 at 11:33 pm

        "... What is the purpose of the law? ..." matt picio

        I'll have to admit, I never have had quite so much inspiration to think about what the purpose of BUI laws are before reading of them here at bikeportland. I think there's certainly more than one purpose of the law. Obviously, through the law, the public seeks to reduce death and injury to road users by way of people operating vehicles on the road while drunk (pedestrians are often also road users and as such are obligated to not walk along or across a road drunk.).

        But also, it seems to me that what the law works to do, is make the roads a less stressful, more efficient means to travel by. Even though alert, responsible road users may be able to avoid colliding with an under the influence vehicle operator, or even a pedestrian that enters the roadway, just the added stress and distraction of having to keep an eye out for them detracts from the useful function of the public's roads.

        Penalties for road violations and offenses should not be used to fuel antagonism amongst people whose vehicles are of different modes. The message of 'under the influence' laws is simple: 'Don't operate a vehicle while drunk...if you do...the public is going to do its level best to discourage you from doing so in future'.

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      • resopmok December 8, 2010 at 11:36 pm

        I thought the point of civilization and government and laws and all that was to provide a venue of mass social contact that prevents outright chaos due to the wide variety of opinions about how that society is run. Be it some form of dictatorship or democracy, order is maintained by employees of their government who are generally armed. We can easily argue about what is orderly behavior and what isn't, and what freedoms members of the society should have, but the general idea is to act in a civil manner. I believe it logically follows that in many cases, the penalty for commission of a crime should be based on how dangerous or potentially dangerous it is to the population in general. And this seems to be the case for the most part for the society we live in, so I am not entirely disappointed humanity.

        I believe like so many of the voices I have already read above, that the potential danger to others represented by a drunk bicyclist is far less than that of a drunk driver. Under the current law and court interpretations, it would seem we are equally as screwed as drivers, but that doesn't necessarily mean we _should_ be.

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      • Bill December 10, 2010 at 10:43 am

        I think the BUI law protects victims, both real and potential, as well as connects an individual's actions with the full impact those actions have on society. Starting with the victims, this certainly includes the biker's protection being taken into consideration much like the seatbelt law considers the driver's protection. However rarely does an accident involve just an individual. There are the traumatic experiences for witnesses, others physically involved, family and friends rushing to the hospital, etc that are very hard to quantify or qualify but must be taken into consideration as well as physical damages. Laws must take this all in when setting sentences and often remind individuals that our actions rarely have individual results and we must be aware of those connections. That is why I think answers should go to both or your questions.

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  • Bjorn December 8, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    There is an easy question that can tell us if drinking before you bike is the same as drinking before you drive. An intoxicated cyclist and motorist are coming right at you, you can only dodge one, do you want to be hit by the bike or the car?
    Setting aside the fact that a drunk cyclist is unlikely to be going more than 10-15 miles an hour even downhill the overall danger of an intoxicated cyclist is clearly orders of magnitude lower than that of the intoxicated driver. Maybe they should both be illegal, but the legal limit for cyclists should be higher because slower speeds mean more time to react, and the penalty should be far lower since the risk to others in miniscule. Washington recognizes this, why won't Oregon.

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    • wsbob December 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm

      "... An intoxicated cyclist and motorist are coming right at you, you can only dodge one, do you want to be hit by the bike or the car? ..." Bjorn December 8, 2010 at 2:48 pm

      My easy answer, is that I don't want to bit hit by, or hit either one. People enjoying use of the road by accepting the responsibilities that go along with that use have a certain right to expect that the roads will be reasonably safe. As far as I know, people incapacitated by alcohol and drugs have no right to use of the road, and their presence on the road at any given time is detracting from the reasonable level of safety every responsible road user contributes to.

      There's little if any strength in the idea that penalties for BUI should be reduced from that assigned to DUI, simply because the physical properties of a drunk on a bike can in some respects cause less damage than a drunk in a car. Neither drunks on bikes or drunks driving cars should on the road...period.

      One argument favoring reduced penalties for BUI that has a little strength, is that equal penalties for BUI and DUI might mean that a drunk might say to themselves 'Aw what the heck...if I'm caught, it's gonna cost me as much whether I'm driving or riding the bike. Might as well be comfortable and safe in the car.' . I don't see that argument being very strong though.

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      • Bjorn December 8, 2010 at 5:30 pm

        If the person chooses to walk he could bump into you, harm reduction is a legitimate strategy and saying that drunk biking and drunk driving present similar dangers is ridiculous. Until all bars are required to have sleeping quarters people have to get around somehow, and our bus system is so underfunded that it is nearly unusable after 11pm. I'll take people riding bikes over driving any day.

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        • wsbob December 9, 2010 at 12:27 am

          "... saying that drunk biking and drunk driving present similar dangers is ridiculous. ..." Bjorn

          You can check my remarks, but I don't think I did say or otherwise imply that drunk biking and drunk driving present similar dangers.

          What I did say, is that I didn't think there was a strong argument for reducing the penalty for BUI relative to that of DUI, due to the fact that "... the physical properties of a drunk on a bike can in some respects cause less damage than a drunk in a car. ...". People under the influence shouldn't be operating vehicles on the road...period.

          You're right about people trying to walk while drunk. They shouldn't be trying to do that if they're in a state of intoxication that would prevent them from being able to keep from running into someone or in front of a vehicle and causing a collision to occur. Drinking and being under the influence of...whatever...can be fine, but too many people are way to nonchalant about it.

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    • middle of the road guy December 8, 2010 at 6:43 pm

      I would say it depends how fast each one is going. I'd rather be hit by a 3mph car than a 20 mph bike.

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      • Uncle Muscles December 9, 2010 at 4:02 pm

        Then you don't understand the basic physics principle of momentum. Mass x Velocity: it's that simple. Drinking and riding should not be an issue and a BUI should carry nowhere near the same penalty as a DUI. It's really not that complicated.

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  • Amanda December 8, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Just to clear somthing up @Brad and Matthew:

    In some states is is illegal to be intoxicated in public. However, In oregon there are no such laws. The police can't arrest or cite you for mearly being drunk. They can put you on a civil hold and take you to the county drunk tank (the Hooper Center for Portland) where they will keep you safe until you are sobered up. It will never go on your record and it is not a crime.

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  • aaronf December 8, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Cyclists should be allowed to do whatever they want. They aren't hurting anyone. This is America, where I am free to do whatever I want if I'm not hurting anyone. They should make a rule that no matter what a cyclist does, they face 1/8th or 1/16th the penalty of an automobile, because that is how much less they weigh. What cyclists need now is less accountability. Then maybe we can get to 30% of folks riding bikes someday.

    I'm surprised Jonathan is taking such a strong stance on this. There's no question that it's no Big Deal, and Getting Real is just recognizing that.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 8, 2010 at 2:59 pm

      Aaronf,

      I wouldn't equate my story above with "taking such a strong stance" on this. My goal was to bring some attention to the issue and to get a pulse from the community about whether or not it was something that deserved more scrutiny. Thanks.

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  • matt picio December 8, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    Matthew
    @ everyone else - Are you forgetting that people on bikes can just as easily run over people walking as people in cars can run over people on bikes? Maybe the risk of instant death is less, but that doesn't make it any more acceptable or forgivable.

    No, they can't. Cars have a much larger impact area, and are far more likely to run a person over than a bicycle is. The risk of impact or injury with a car is far greater, due to higher average speed (2-3x as fast, which is 4-9x the potential for injury) and 10-15x greater mass. Combined, these factors make a car 20-135x more deadly if an impact occurs. The greater surface area makes said impact 4-5x more likely, barring any other complicating factors.

    The situations are barely analogous, much less equivalent.

    I'm not saying we should ignore the issue, but in the current economy, we need to enforce the laws that have the greatest impact towards reducing injuries & deaths. Bikes killed fewer than 6 in Oregon last year - cars killed nearly 500. Where do you think the focus should be? Is it fair to those who are dying to enforce the laws "equally" against cyclists? How do we explain that to the families of those who died?

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    • peejay December 8, 2010 at 5:21 pm

      Nice catch, Matt. You said what I was thinking.

      Math skills, People!

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    • middle of the road guy December 8, 2010 at 6:46 pm

      Maybe you should also factor in that bikes can operate on mixed us paths and cars cannot....so the sheer number of targets is greater for a bike.

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      • matt picio December 9, 2010 at 10:48 am

        Reverse that - it would be lesser, not greater. There are more pedestrians on the streets and sidewalks than on the MUPs during the "drunk hours" (for this discussion, let's say 10pm - 3am)

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        • middle of the road guy December 9, 2010 at 4:55 pm

          I'm factoring in that bikes can use both the road and the MUPs, cars cannot.

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          • matt picio December 10, 2010 at 10:20 am

            It would still be lesser, because there are fewer potential targets on a MUP at 2am than there are on the street/sidewalk. People avoid the MUPs at night due to perceived safety issues - see prior discussions on this site regarding the Springwater for a perfect example.

            When I lived in far outer SE, I could ride home after 9pm in late fall and not see a single pedestrian, and only 1 or 2 cyclists (sometimes none). But if I rode Milwaukie Ave and JCB, I'd see a number of both, especially in Westmoreland or near the Fred Meyer at 82nd.

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  • fool December 8, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    this is a hard topic to discuss in a public forum, but those are frequently the most important kind of issues to talk frankly about. so, thank you for bringing it up, jonathan.

    i think the law (re: DL suspension for 3xBUI) is stupid. but as a non-driver, i'm not particularly affected by it.

    as a driver, i drove drunk occasionally. realization of the potential harm to others figured heavily in my decision to go car-free: take away my potential of making choices dangerous to the safety of others. i believe i am a (far) better member of society as a result--i am way less dangerous, even though i frequently drink and bike.

    i realize that i am still a risk to others. as a gambling man, i like my current odds a lot better--better enough to sleep just fine at night.

    the follow on question i have to ask is:

    who gets to choose what is too dangerous? one of my most dangerous bike behaviors has nothing to do with helmets, stop signs, or even cellphone usage while riding. i'm talking about social rides. they are more distracting than heavy drinking to my riding style (which, though reactions are slowed and judgments are suboptimal, falls back to the kind of riding i'd do anyway: helmeted, traffic-law-obeying, and on appropriate lower-traffic bikeways whenever possible).

    to be talking with a friend, even in broad daylght and stone cold sober means i am less likely to be paying attention to the road. the same was true of my driving (i never got in a wreck drunk; i did rear end someone and hit a deer while chatting with a pal in the passenger seat, sober.)

    in the end, it's a danger to be born and to survive. the only sure way to get out of the path of trouble is to die--can't get killed twice (or so i hear). i choose my battles, and i haven't heard very many reports of drunk bikers causing injury to people other than themselves. if there were a statistically significant incidence of that, i would rethink my behavior.

    anyone know where to find that statistic? and how to scale it to match the drunk driving statistics?

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  • Lee December 8, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Come across the river here to Washington, where drinking and biking are legal!

    RCW 46.61.790.

    Last I checked, we still mostly get run over by cars and still mostly while sober. But we never get harassed for being drunk.

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    • sw resident December 9, 2010 at 10:14 am

      Kozmo represent!

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  • Joe December 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I know i'm changing the topic, but after riding today
    to a State park, I see more and more beer cans and bottles on the road. Don't think cyclists are doing this. worries me more these days when I ride alone.
    *all on the back roads* ride safe all.

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  • Psyfalcon December 8, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    I'd think the danger decreases from car, bike, pedestrian, and then of course, to not being drunk in public. The last seems safest to me.

    In the 3 strikes case, I do think its appropriate though. While BUI may be safer for the community, it does show a continued (3 strikes) failure to follow the law. For that reason, I really would prefer that person to lose their driving privileges.

    I do generally agree that bike offenses should hold lower penalties, but by the time we get to repeat offenders, they are creating a hazard.

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  • Neighbor December 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    matt picio

    Matthew
    @ everyone else - Are you forgetting that people on bikes can just as easily run over people walking as people in cars can run over people on bikes?

    No, they can't. ... The risk of impact or injury with a car is far greater ...

    Seriously- then add operating your bike under the influence of alcohol to that and your chances of hitting a skinny target with a skinny bike drops dramatically. It's tough! People try it all the time! Often with jousting polls on tall bikes!

    Operating your bicycle under the influence is a true test of skill with a proud following. And when you fail you can pull yourself off the pavement and limp yourself home.

    Operating a car under the influence, on the other hand, requires almost no skill and has significant destructive capabilities. However, if drunk drivers wished to go head to head in car-jousting competitions, I wouldn't stop them.

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  • Jakob December 8, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    just drink less & ride more ?
    I'm all for riding a bike with plenty of brew in me, but we just need to know our limits
    ( with alcohol & with cycling )

    I guess what I trying to say is , don't try to race a tri-met bus with a bunch of whiskey & weed in your system.. you may be flattened out.

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  • D.R. Miller December 8, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    This makes we wanna ride over to Slim's for happy hour. Hmm... looks like the rain is setting in again. Maybe I'll drive instead.

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  • Joe December 8, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    @Neighbor so true.. well said ! I see FOX12 will be running with this today ahh makes me sick..

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  • Ron December 8, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Howdy--

    I recently moved from Utah, where they have the surprising common sense to exclude cyclists from DUI penalties. It seems obvious that the crime isn't the same on a bicycle.
    Still, I was once pulled over on my bike by a county deputy in Utah who threatened me with DUI. We chatted about state code for a bit, and decided we had different interpretations of the law. He suggested that I spend the night in lodging of his choosing, and we let a judge sort out the details. I told him I'd be more than happy to research it myself and get back to him.
    He had a sense of humor, and he let me go with a citation for blatantly running a red light. I had a column about cycling in the local paper, so I lived up to my end of the bargain.
    In my next column I explored the topic. I was surprised to find that conservative Utah is one of the only states that doesn't have a specific law addressing BUI, and the state's DUI law is one of the few places in the vehicle code where it specifies "motor" vehicle instead of just vehicle. The county DA I interviewed agree that it doesn't apply to bicycles.
    Now to the point, finally. When I interviewed our local police chief, he told me, "I think if you're planning on going out partying, and you might catch a little buzz, a bicycle sounds like a good idea."
    Happy Trails,
    Ron Georg
    Corvallis

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  • Joe December 8, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Ron GREAT post man!

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  • Mike Shea December 8, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Being drunk in public is a crime. Driving while "impaired" is based on blood alcohol content and not on any evidence of actual impairment. The DUI laws got passed because of worries that any impairment of a driver's ability is dangerous. This is not applicable to bicyclists unless you are hitting 50+mph on you way home and your bicycle weights 1000+ lbs......

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    • matt picio December 9, 2010 at 10:53 am

      In Oregon, being drunk in public is not a crime. Officers can put a civil hold on you and take you to detox, but there is no criminal offense.

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  • cold worker December 8, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    drunk biking: vas'up or ish don't think so.

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  • wsbob December 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    "... I recently moved from Utah, where they have the surprising common sense to exclude cyclists from DUI penalties. It seems obvious that the crime isn't the same on a bicycle. ..." Ron December 8, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Would you think that as you say Utah does, Oregon should exclude cyclists from DUI penalties?

    I ask myself, 'why would people consider that people choosing to ride a bike while drunk should be subject to any penalty at all?'.

    It's because drunks riding bikes pose a threat to people responsibly using the road. People riding bikes under the influence of alcohol and drugs create havoc on the roads. They injure and kill people. They get themselves killed and injured ....something that can thoroughly mess up their surviving family members lives.

    Through relatively less penalty and fine amounts assigned to BUI offenders, a kind of implication is conveyed that biking while drunk or high is somehow 'o.k.'. It's not o.k. .

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  • John Lascurettes December 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Punishable? Sure. To the same degree as intoxicated motor-vehicle operation? No.

    Should be a slap on the wrist (maybe even an expensive one) but it should neither be a felony, nor affect your DMV record.

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    • John Lascurettes December 8, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      Let me rephrase my first statement: Punishable? Debatable. To the same degree as intoxicated motor-vehicle operation? Most definitely not.

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      • wsbob December 9, 2010 at 12:58 am

        "... To the same degree as intoxicated motor-vehicle operation? Most definitely not." John Lascurettes

        Okay. Questions that follow are: 'How aggressively should people be discouraged from riding a bike while intoxicated? What should the penalties be?

        I'm all for people having a good time, enjoying a drink or three. Hanging out at street-side beer gardens taking in the sun, watching and talking with the people can be a great experience.

        If and when they become drunk, they better not be trying to operate a vehicle on the road until they sober up. If a BUI notation on their DMV record helps dissuade people from riding drunk, then the notation is probably a good idea.

        If a person develops a habit of riding a bike while intoxicated, upon having access to a motor vehicle, what is there to suggest that they will wait until sober before driving a motor vehicle? Operating any vehicle for use on the road while drunk is a very bad practice to be enabling through less than very strong disincentives.

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  • drew December 8, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    I have read about communities that have considered this and wisely decided to not enforce BUI. If my drinking uncle would get the same consequences whether on his rusty cruiser bike or in his Buick, he would rather drive. There is a potential for him taking out a minivan with a family in it on his way home, but on the bike the injury would most likely be only to himself. It is a huge mistake to have the same penalties for BUI.

    Bike riding makes me hungry and good Portland beer has lots of calories. Most people do not drink to excess, and having cops staked out near the Hopworks bike bar is a serious waste of resources. Good grief, if they need to write some tickets get on any freeway when it is not rush hour and pull over everybody. They will all be speeding, because whenever I am on the Banfield going the limit, cars pass me like I am standing still.

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  • jim December 8, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Just like Forrest said-
    Stupid is, is stupis does

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  • CaptainKarma December 8, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Stoned driver kills eight (8) cyclists in Italy:

    "News sources report that the motorist had been smoking marijuana prior to the crash...."
    This was on Sunday. From BikingBis.com

    http://www.bikingbis.com/blog/_archives/2010/12/5/4696644.html

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    • jim December 8, 2010 at 7:11 pm

      and they want to make it legal here.

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      • John Lascurettes December 8, 2010 at 9:02 pm

        Drinking is also legal, but driving while drinking is not. Nor is it legal to drive while inhibited by prescription or OTC drugs. That old argument about pot doesn't wash.

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      • cold worker December 8, 2010 at 9:27 pm

        if you don't smoke you probably are unaware of how many things are done on the job, daily, by people who get high or are high. you'd be amazed.

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        • jim December 9, 2010 at 12:40 am

          Thats just great, I'll remember that next time I am depending on someone to make sober actions on my behalf, my taxi driver, my surgean, my pilot, my tax guy.... Do you really want to live where everybody is stoned or drunk on the job?

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          • Paul Johnson December 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

            Gotta do something to ease the pressure of living in a country that has effectively killed off it's labor movement.

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          • cold worker December 9, 2010 at 10:10 am

            come on, jim. your surgeon is on pain killers he prescribed to himself, the pilot is a drunk, your tax preparer does tons of coke and the cab driver is on speed. we all know this. i'm just talking about smoking weed since you brought it up. and i'll say it again; you'd be amazed...

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  • Marcus Griffith December 8, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    DUI's don't apply to bikes in Washington State. But, negligent and reckless driving do apply.

    Regardless of the laws, bike safe; and that does mean cycling sober.

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  • Kevin Wagoner December 8, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Biking and drinking might be dangerous, but focusing on this is a distraction to Driving and drinking which is far more deadly to our society.

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    • jim December 8, 2010 at 8:52 pm

      How much more deadly is it than a drunk cyclist riding in front of a car?

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      • Opus the Poet December 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

        To the cyclist, or to everybody else? As has been pointed out ad nauseum a cyclist by virtue of the reduced mass and velocity is mostly dangerous to himself, and due to the reduced cross-section of a cyclist compared to a motor vehicle is less likely to hit a pedestrian than a motor vehicle. So you have 2 equally drunk operators, one driving a Suburban with a cooler in the front seat, and the other riding a Big Dummy with a cooler on the back. Which operator is the more dangerous to you, personally. Or to phrase it another way, which one would you want on your street around your kids.

        Don't forget that because of the physical exertion of riding a bike the bike rider will be much less drunk per mile of travel than the driver of the vehicle bigger than a 3rd world house.

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        • middle of the road guy December 9, 2010 at 4:58 pm

          Drunk drivers are arrested because of the potential harm they may cause others, not to themselves.

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  • sara December 8, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    Wondering if you can post a link to this news story. I was looking for it but couldn't find it.

    It seems there was probably more to the story then just a cyclist running over a child because they were drunk. Most people aren't drunk until night- so why was there a toddler in the street at night without a parent?

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    • Paul Johnson December 8, 2010 at 8:51 pm

      The child was holding the parent's hand, the guy on the bicycle was not only driving drunk, but riding on the sidewalk: Also illegal.

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      • matt picio December 9, 2010 at 10:59 am

        Actually, it's not - it's only illegal in certain areas of downtown. It's perfectly legal to ride on the sidewalk in Rose Quarter - though certainly not smart during certain times.

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    • jim December 8, 2010 at 9:16 pm

      This is what irks me. No matter what a cyclist does wrong there are always people who come out trying to justify the cyclists actions. Why all the camaraderie with some fool that hops on a bike?

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      • Paul Johnson December 8, 2010 at 9:40 pm

        Call your mom, it might not happen again: jim said something that makes sense!

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        • jim December 9, 2010 at 12:28 am

          Thanks Paul

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      • middle of the road guy December 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm

        Agreed.

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  • Chris December 8, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    Last summer while driving I saw an obviously drunk person in the bike lane on Powell (don’t worry; he looked too dirty to be coming from Hopworks). He swerved to the left extremely hard and caused the car in front of me to slam on its brakes. This idiot was a danger to himself, the car in front of me, the car behind me, and practically everyone one else in the vicinity.

    How about we end this whole stupid argument: if you are going to drink and ride/drive, know your limits. If you want to get intoxicated, have a DD, walk home, to take a cab (yes the van cabbies will let you throw a bike in the back). Problem solved!

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  • Red Five December 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    This is BikePortland, So drunk biking MUST be okay. Hurry up Jonathan and delete this too before someone sees not everyone is in lockstep with you.

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  • beth h December 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    BUI is simply another opportunity for someone to eventually connect the dots and legislate mandatory bicyclsts' licenses. Pay attention, people.

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    • Paul Johnson December 8, 2010 at 10:32 pm

      That's a bad thing why? You're operating a vehicle. Vehicles are weapons you can ride on.

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      • cold worker December 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm

        i thought it was settled that bike licensing don't work or make sense. if it's a vehicle in the sense that you need an operators license then what do we do about kids?

        a bike is less a weapon than the pocket knife i carry. i can absolutely harm or kill you with my knife. my bike, hmm, maybe. (i don't want to hurt you or anyone ever though)

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    • middle of the road guy December 9, 2010 at 5:00 pm

      almost funny if it were not so imaginative.

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  • Paul Johnson December 8, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    matthew vilhauer
    paul-you are incorrect. i spoke with a vancouver police officer personally on this matter last friday. he strongly suggested if someone has been drinking to not ride but the law does in fact allow people to do so in washington.

    You don't have to pass the bar (or even have a functional understanding of the law) to become a cop most places. You might ask someone on the judicial end of things (judge, attorney, etc) or someone who is involved in making the laws (member of legislative assembly, etc).

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    • matthew vilhauer December 8, 2010 at 11:51 pm

      police are versed in the laws that they have to enforce and get constant updates on statutes they have to enforce. prosecutors need convictions to help deter crimes and knowledge of the law by police officers is how arrests and convictions make this possible. i'm familiar with BUI in washington through personal experience. my BAC (although impressive)was not used as evidence in the prosecution of me during a jury trial for a alleged criminal matter this past summer. in the end i accepted the prosecuting attorney's offer of a civil infraction, riding a bike without a helmet.

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  • Roland December 8, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Of the two car/bike accidents I've been in, 50% were my fault. Of the ones that were my fault, I was under the influence in 100% of them. Broke my fibula, ruined my bike, made a guy real nervous, kept two EMTs, several ER staff, a bunch of insurance people and two doctors employed for about a half hour each. Maybe an hour. They paid taxes on that income. Biking drunk creates jobs!

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  • Bjorn December 9, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Info on the case that first overturned the possibility of a BUI arrest in Washington.

    http://www.usroads.com/journals/p/rilj/9801/ri980102.htm

    The legislature later clarified things:

    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.790

    In practice it is enough of a hassle that you'd have to be creating a pretty big problem to even be contacted by a cop in Washington, but regardless there is zero chance of you getting a DUI, which is as it should be.

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  • Joe December 9, 2010 at 8:05 am

    @Jakob haha well put, need to pace myself :)
    need to say tempo.. I have a weakness beer.. love beer some of the best here..

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  • Fred December 9, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Typical responses from the bike riders. They scream day in and day out "Share the road with us! We have rights to use the roads just like drivers!" But the moment you're TREATED like drivers (to be cited for BUI and have it count against you) now, you start crying for special privileges and start looking for loopholes. Reread the discussions above: talks of "It's okay to operate a bike drunk because I have a smaller impact zone, because I only hurt myself; it's okay to run a stop sign or run a red light because I'm so small, I'm practically not in the way of anybody. Grow up people. What's so hard about the concept of following the rules of the road? What is it about the biking mindset that produces such an elitist "Rules don't apply to me" attitude? Disgusting really.

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    • matt picio December 9, 2010 at 11:07 am

      Fred, I never said it was ok to bike drunk. I said that bikes are less likely to hit someone because of the smaller impact zone. (fact) They are also less lethal when a collision does occur. (fact) Neither fact makes it ok. My argument is that enforcement should be focused where it will SAVE LIVES.

      People are going to break the law - we have no control over that. What we do have control over is where enforcement is focused and where the money is spent. I personally would rather see enforcement focused where the deaths are currently occurring.

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      • middle of the road guy December 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm

        Matt, it's illegal for me to shoot rounds into the air, despite how minuscule the chance of it actually hitting someone. It's not an issue of "what are the odds". It's a matter of "what kind of damage gets done WHEN it happens".

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        • matt picio December 10, 2010 at 10:23 am

          That's exactly what I said. I don't disagree at all. The "odds" comment is in response to someone else taking that comment out of context and conflating it with other comments.

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    • April December 9, 2010 at 3:48 pm

      People riding bicycles have rights to the road, but they're *not* just like people driving cars. Cars and bicycles are not the same thing, and it makes sense to me to have some rules be different because of that. Except under specific circumstances, you're not allowed to drive in a bike lane. You're not allowed to stop in a bike box. You're not allowed on Multi-Use Paths like the Springwater. You're not allowed on the sidewalk. Do *those* seem unfair to you? I'm guessing not--because cars and bicycles are different vehicles.

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      • Paul Johnson December 9, 2010 at 5:34 pm

        Buses and cars are different vehicles, and you still need licenses to drive either. Different kinds of licenses, even! But in all three cases, you still need to know the rules of the road as they apply to your class of vehicle.

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    • middle of the road guy December 9, 2010 at 5:01 pm

      Portland...home of "Do as I say, not as I do".

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  • oliver December 9, 2010 at 8:44 am

    I haven't yet seen a post addressing 'harm reduction' maybe that's a term that has fallen out of favor.

    But regardless of the stated opinion of the law and order types, I believe that given a choice between sharing a the road with intoxicated drivers or sharing the road with intoxicated cyclists, the least dangerous option (inarguably) is a drunken bicycle rider.

    Sober cyclists can injure pedestrians too, sober pedestrians injure themselves. Are we going to outlaw walking while old?

    Penalties and enforcement priorities should be set by probability and severity of incidents experienced by each mode, sober or intoxicated.

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    • jim December 9, 2010 at 10:22 am

      Do you think we should just stay drunk all the time? that way you are more flexible and less likely to get hurt when you do have an accident?

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    • matthew vilhauer December 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

      thank you for pointing out what fred doesn't get. "What is it about the biking mindset that produces such an elitist "Rules don't apply to me" attitude? Disgusting really." sorry fred but i have to call you out on that huge leap of assumptions. in washington we have a legislature that recognizes drunk cyclists are much more dangerous to themselves than to others. ask a cyclist who rolls through a red light or past a stop sign, regardless of if they slow down or not and i'm sure the vast majority would say "yes i know the laws apply to me but i'm making the decision to do so". just the same with drivers. speed limits, yielding and safe passing distances are all things we (cyclists and motorists) have to deal with regularly. are drivers elitist as well? when i get passed by a car close enough to reach out and touch, passed quickly then have to brake hard to avoid getting right hooked or a driver pulls out in front of me when i have the right of way should i assume drivers are more entitled to the road than me?

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      • matthew vilhauer December 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm

        sorry- i meant this as a response to oliver's comment. thanks.

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      • wsbob December 9, 2010 at 1:52 pm

        Fred may have a point. Lost in this story, is exactly what exception, beyond the fact that motor vehicle operators aren't penalized any more than cyclists are, for operating their vehicle while intoxicated.

        The way the story and some readers comments favoring reduced penalties for BUI has been presented, it comes off sounding as though cyclists inclined to be 'drunk-on-a-bike' are looking to be cut some slack, drawing on various rationalizations about the bike being a smaller, lighter vehicle, etc., etc., etc. .

        I think I voiced the question in another comment, but I'll do so again here: Should intoxicated cyclists be levied a less severe penalty for intoxicated cycling than they currently do? Or is the issue that intoxicated motor vehicle operators are not being levied enough of a penalty relative to the amount levied against intoxicated cyclists?

        If this issue has much to do with the public feeling that intoxicated motor vehicle operators should be paying more, I'd guess that wouldn't be a problem for Oregon legislators. Oregon's budget could desperately use some extra cash. If it'll make people that bike feel better, let the drunk motorists divvy up an additional amount over current penalties, based on size, weight, and speed their vehicles are capable of.

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  • Skid December 9, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Hopefully, this doesn't bring undue attention from the Police on late-night group rides. Maybe the Police can violate our 4th Amendment Rights a little and set up a roadblock on SE Belmont just east of the Vern and stop everyone on a bike, whether they are sober or drunk.

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    • middle of the road guy December 9, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      Maybe there is a straw man left over from Halloween you can have that discussion with.

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      • Skid December 10, 2010 at 12:22 pm

        Yeah, there is no sort of precedent for bike focused police Actions in Portland, if you ignore the Ladd's Addition Stop sign stings, Barnum and Balzer chasing fixed gear bike messengers around for no handbrake, the shutting down of Critical Mass through Police harassment, or the attempts to chase Zoobomb before it became "legit"....

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  • chiggins December 9, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Maybe the risk of instant death is less, but that doesn't make it any more acceptable or forgivable.

    Um, yes. Yes it does!

    The whole point of drunk driving being unacceptable/unforgivable is not simply that you're impaired and operating a car. If you do that in an empty field, I don't care even a tiny bit, and you wouldn't even have to ask me to accept it or forgive you. The problems begin when you operate a vehicle of several thousand pounds with a couple hundred horsepower in shared spaces where all of our lives are imperiled.

    Take away the statistically significant chances of you injuring or killing someone else by riding your bike with a good buzz on, then it's not a problem. Or at least it's a matter of you just being annoying instead of a high risk for manslaughter, but nevertheless shite-hammering you with the same penalties then just becomes authoritarian and pointless.

    To me, one of the great benfits of creating bicycle-friendly public spaces is so that we can, as a society, go hit pubs together and still get home safely.

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  • Dave Cary December 9, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Obviously, from previous comments, biking intoxicated is unsafe and the person most likely to be hurt is the cyclist herself. If the person hurt biking doesn't have enough medical insurance to cover their injuries (injuries to the head are usually very expensive), it is OK to ask the rest of us to pay their medical bills? Isn't that exactly what happens when anybody is unable to pay for the services they need to survive?

    Why is it OK to ask the rest of us to fork over for their care when their choices caused their injuries? We need some sort of incentive for everyone to make the choices that not only protect themselves but also protect the interests of the ones who will have to pay for their injuries because they're stupid enough to bike drunk. If anybody can come up with a better idea than charging people money when caught biking drunk, let's hear it. But for now, that type of behavior should not be free.

    Yes, it affects all of us!

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  • Skid December 9, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Dave you are just underlining the need for nationalized health care.

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  • chiggins December 9, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Dave Cary

    Why is it OK to ask the rest of us to fork over for their care when their choices caused their injuries? We need some sort of incentive for everyone to make the choices that not only protect themselves but also protect the interests of the ones who will have to pay for their injuries because they're stupid enough to bike drunk. If anybody can come up with a better idea than charging people money when caught biking drunk, let's hear it. But for now, that type of behavior should not be free.
    Yes, it affects all of us!

    When we've wiped out subsidies in the Farm Bill for corn syrup, and figured out a way to pay for all the diabetes Americans everywhere are giving ourselves by eating it (with fines and penalties perhaps?), I'll take this kind of argument seriously.

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    • Did I miss it? Again? December 9, 2010 at 10:59 am

      My health insurance costs just doubled for next year even though I am no less healthy. I am tired of paying for other people's selfish interests, whether it is to sit on the couch drinking soda and eating ice cream till they weigh 600 pounds and are diabetic, or they "need" to ride their bike drunk because it is safer than driving.

      Make the cyclists financially liable for their decisions, hold them responsible and I will be happy. I am not saying that the penalties need to be identical to driving drunk, but there needs to be something to help the victims when an accident does occur.

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    • matt picio December 9, 2010 at 11:12 am

      If we wipe out the subsidies for corn syrup, half the diabetes problem will disappear on its own. (it'll take some time, but it'll happen)

      Regarding Dave's original point - agreed, and the remaining smokers out there are costing more than drunk cyclists cost the system. Granted, smokers are now being billed more than non-smokers - perhaps that should extend to drinking.

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  • beelnite December 9, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Seems to me some people are still having trouble accepting Darwinism.

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    • Did I miss it? Again? December 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm

      I accept Darwinism, encourage it even, but I do not accept losing a loved one because of someone else was able to justify riding a bike while drunk because at least they're not in a car.

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  • mac December 9, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Until rapidly aging baby boomers and the poor have access to affordable health coverage those of us who can afford it are going to subsidize those who can't.
    The costs of drunk bicyclists are an inconsequential fraction of the whole.

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  • Irk December 9, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Is it so hard to just not get that drunk? Know your limits and if you know you can't judge them then don't test them. Pay the penalty if you're not responsible enough to regulate your own drinking.

    That the trips are short and within your home radius means less to me since so many accidents happen within a few miles of your home. People are much less alert when they're in their element and they feel 'safe'.

    There's plenty of bars where you can get them to bottle it in a growler and then bike your drink home too, you don't even need to finish it in the bar! On that note, it's more than possible to just buy alcohol in a store and take it home and consume it there. If you really want to bike drunk after all that, hop onto an elliptical.

    Also, I think cars win out on this one in a big area - you can assign a designated driver for a bar trip, but a designated cyclist is a lot tougher to manage with the average bike. In fact I think the term for that is "call a cab".

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    • matt picio December 10, 2010 at 10:25 am

      "Is it so hard to just not get that drunk?" - depends on the person. Some people want to get that drunk, and arguably, perhaps they have a problem.

      The economy sucks - this is an issue because in tough economic times substance abuse and intoxication rates climb, as do their consequences.

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  • Yaright December 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    It seems somewhat odd to me that as a group, we cyclists want the same rights as onther vehicles on the public streets but we are unwilling to accept the same responsibilities ?
    Am I the only one seeing this in the majority of these comments ?
    I tend to agree with wsbob if you are intoxicated you probably shouldn't be operating a vehicle on public roads.... but if you choose to do so, which is your right as an American citizen, then you should also recognize that you choose to accept the reponsibility of accepting the consequences and if you cause harm or damage to someone or something you should pay the price.

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    • Paul Johnson December 10, 2010 at 10:59 am

      You're not the only one. I don't get where people think they can have the rights without the obligations.

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  • not a priority December 9, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    This is ridiculous. As the article has cited, only 3 intoxicated cyclists have been at fault for the accidents leading to their deaths since 2005. About 1/2 a fatality per year!
    I'd be willing to bet that there have been more deaths of intoxicated pedestrians at fault in that time frame. Lets get our priorities straight. Using up valuable resources persecuting people for being responsible and biking home after a couple of drinks is a waste of my taxpayer dollars.

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    • Paul Johnson December 10, 2010 at 10:53 am

      Except that isn't being responsible: You're still drinking and driving. Calling a cab would be responsible.

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  • Deborah December 9, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    The idea that biking under the influence would have the same criteria and ramifications as driving a car under the influence is clearly flawed. There's no way that it should carry the same financial penalty. That's just plain greedy on the part of the justice system.

    However I understand that there should be SOME penalty and criteria with which prosecutution of very inebriated bicyclists can occur. But wouldn't those be far closer to those that drunk pedestrian would face?

    Drunk bikers can't, by any stretch of the imagination, be as much of a threat to society. To themselves, sure. But to others? The percentages of deaths by BUI vs DUI have to be resoundingly different.

    Seems like this is just another opportunity for the car driving community to feel like bikers should pay the same cost as they do because we use the same roads.

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  • Bob December 9, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    PUI is way less of a deal than a DUI for all the reasons stated above.

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  • mark December 9, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    "Because the danger of serious physical injury is much greater for a cyclist than for a driver behind the wheel." - um, yea, but the danger of seriously injuring other people is much much less on a bike than in a car

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  • adam December 9, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    this is a young person's problem. i enjoy beers and drinks with friends on bikes all the time but would never get so drunk that i could not ride home. well, it has happened, but i call a cab.

    this is a non issue - though it is rediculous that the dui punishments are the same.

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  • Terry December 9, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Alcohol has had a complicated and often misunderstood roll in modern American. Many people mistakenly attribute this to our puritanical roots. While protestantism has certainly played an interesting roll in our country, it is far fetched indeed to think that the church ever had enough power to enact any serious legislative insanity.

    I argue that our liquor laws are much more a product of American business than of religion. In fact, the Middle East, Saudi Arabia in particular, is a much better example of how religion can enact laws restricting the production or use of alcohol. There, only the wealthy citizen can afford to have liquor shipped to them, and perhaps more importantly, can afford to get away with drinking it. Expatriates there would find themselves in more than just hot water if they happened to be caught drinking even a lightly alcoholic apple cider.

    This is indeed a shame on many levels. From a historian / enological point of view, Saudi Arabia may be the birthplace of wine. Given, Iran is often credited with this mantle, however, we do know that grapes grow quite happily on the west coast of Saudi Arabia. How ironic that civilization would develop to a point were the life-prolonging substance it created became band.

    Turning an eye to Europe, Italy and France to be more specific, we find much more lenient laws. Certainly Catholicism itself holds alcohol with a bit more esteem, but more than that, the local business man does. Unlike America, Italy and France have long relied on the fermentation of their grains and grapes for support, long before capitalism made them profitable from our modern understanding. Armagnac has made it's producers rich since the 14th century, and it's not going to stop anytime soon.

    So why is it that your child can run to the store and buy you a bottle of wine in those countries, but would be killed in others, or perhaps just fined here in America? I doubt that this has anything to do with horse drawn carriage accidents, broken bicycles, or even the occasional fender bender. It is much more likely that as long as the wealthy find their pockets are filled by the production and sale of alcohol, laws will stretch to accommodate them.

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  • BURR December 9, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    alcohol consumption per capita in the US is actually down considerably in the last three decades, not to mention since the mid-late 19th century.

    And it turns out that the more educated and intelligent you are the more alcohol you are likely to drink...

    http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/1116895242.html

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  • Oliver December 9, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    wsbob
    Should intoxicated cyclists be levied a less severe penalty for intoxicated cycling than they currently do?

    In a word, yes.

    For all of the excellent reasons above as well as this: Current penalties for drunk driving in this country are due in majority to the efforts of a PAC called Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (Driving) Their entire argument, fundraising, and the legislation that followed is based on the horrors caused by operating motor vehicles while under the influence.

    The (sum total of) mayhem caused by intoxicated cyclists would have gotten no ones attention nor raised any money because it's a non-issue. How many lives in the heartland have been affected by an intoxicated cyclist?

    Also does any one remember the billboards from last year that said you don't have to blow .08 to be found impaired?

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    • wsbob December 9, 2010 at 11:08 pm

      Oliver ...what do you feel the penalty for BUI should be?

      Intoxicated cyclists are a non-issue? In Portland, people traveling the roads see increasing numbers of cyclists using them also. Incidences of intoxicated cyclists have not gone un-noticed, and there is increasing concern on multiple levels, that BUI is a growing problem.

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      • matt picio December 10, 2010 at 10:30 am

        I would argue it's not BUI that is on the rise, or which is the problem - it's intoxication that is on the rise, and the core issue. The economy had been on the decline for the last 2 years. Divorce is up, stress is up, foreclosures and bankruptcies are up - and more people are coping with these events by drinking heavily, getting stoned, or through other means.

        BUI laws are addressing a symptom, not the problem.

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        • Paul Johnson December 10, 2010 at 11:03 am

          2 years? More like 9. We never recovered from the markets saying, "Bush might actually become president?" during the Florida fiasco.

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        • wsbob December 10, 2010 at 12:36 pm

          "... it's intoxication that is on the rise ..." matt p

          Possibly true. Biking for transportation and recreation is also on the rise, so it logically figures that BUI is also on the rise, especially considering that certain types of people's perception seems to be that BUI is not a particularly serious matter.

          Operating a vehicle on public roads while intoxicated is the issue. Society can't throw up its hands and stop attempting to discourage intoxicated people from operating vehicles on public roads until the people have all their domestic, employment, and economic problems sorted out. The roads have to be safe for everyone to use.

          By the way, considering the nature of this discussion, it's worth remembering Eric Davidson. Last year, bikeportland did a number of stories concerning him and his tragic end. Eric was drunk on a bike, and was hit by a drunk in a car. BUI and DUI are very serious issues.

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          • matt picio December 11, 2010 at 9:07 am

            There are two issues - one is that intoxicated people are forced to travel when the bar closes, regardless of their BAC. The second is operating a vehicle in that state - or more to the point, a vehicle that isn't human-powered. A skateboard, bicycle, etc is dangerous when the operator is at high speed (arguably less likely when impaired unless traveling downhill). A motor vehicle is deadly at high speed, dangerous at low speed, and unlike skates, a board, or bike, can get to high speed with nearly no effort on the part of the operator.

            People are going to drive drunk because we've given them no options, and we're not willing to pay for enforcement to keep them off the roads. The only way we can deal with the issue is to provide options, or make them unable to operate machinery while drunk. Both methods have repercussions, as does the status quo.

            Personally, if it's a choice between the status quo and drunk cycling, I'd rather see them drunk and on bikes. Better yet, I'd like to see them walking rather than riding. But let's go a bit further - what I'd really like to see are bars that voluntarily set up a bed or three for folks who can't get home, and Trimet to move to 24Hr service with a bus every 30 minutes during the middle of the night. (That adds about 4-8 buses per day for most of the frequent service routes, which already run 30+ buses per day)

            Enforcement was the low-hanging fruit, and it's gone as far as it can unless we want to dramatically increase the number of police officers on the street - and since PPB has trouble meeting their EXISTING quota, that's not likely without lowering the entrance requirements or/and raising salaries.

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          • matt picio December 11, 2010 at 9:08 am

            BTW wsbob, I wasn't arguing that we should wait - I was only pointing out one reason why intoxication is on the rise.

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          • wsbob December 11, 2010 at 12:49 pm

            "... People are going to drive drunk because we've given them no options, ..." matt p

            Matt... by 'we', of course you're probably referring to the public or society at large. It's your thinking that the public should pay to extend bus service into the wee hours in order to ferry drunks home? The public doesn't even seem to believe it can afford to keep the buses running early mornings for working people, let alone drunks.

            The public, in order to keep the roads safe, shouldn't be forced by irresponsible drinkers to provide options for their transit home. Drunks have transportation options. They can walk. Check out Mike Seager's comment at December 10, 2010 at 11:56 pm:

            "The best thing about biking to the bar or parties, is that if you get super drunk you can WALK your bike home. You can't walk your car home. I'm not a huge fan of drunk biking, but I really enjoy drunk walking my bike after a great night."

            I'd go further than Mike there, and say people shouldn't be trying to ride a bike on the road unless they were sober according to the law. Still...he probably gets it. People that want to ride to where they're going to be drinking, can walk the bike back home if they're too intoxicated to legally ride.

            People are under no obligation whatsoever to drink themselves to the point of incapacitated intoxication all the way up to closing time. If people want to drive or bike home after an evening over some drinks, all they need do is think ahead and cut back a few hours before they've got to get in or on a vehicle. Either that, or walk, be taxied, have a friend take them home, and so on.

            People have to get into the habit of taking some responsibility for the consequences of their behavior upon other people. Responsible drinking is one of the first best places to start doing that. If irresponsible drinkers don't want to shape up to where they're able to stay in a condition that allows them to drive or bike themselves home after a night out, and they refuse to wait until sober to operate a vehicle...well then...let the public cite them and take their money.

            Oh...the 'bars possibly providing beds for over-intoxicated patrons' idea is just too funny! Wouldn't the bar staff just love that?

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  • Skid December 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    I've got a crazy idea, how about having public transit run until 2:30 am, after the bars close? That would get lots of drunk driver and bike riders off the road. Not sure what Police will do for the big chunks of revenue they would be missing out on.

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    • matt picio December 11, 2010 at 9:10 am

      Let's do 24 hrs. Many Tri-Met lines start running again at 4am anyway, and private parties don't always end at 2am.

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    • Paul Johnson December 11, 2010 at 11:24 am

      Why close transit at night? It's not like people stop needing transportation just because the transit system doesn't feel like doing it.

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  • Jim O'Horo December 10, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Hi Jonathan: Because of some personal experiences with drinking cyclists this is an issue which has long been on my mind as well.

    Food for thought or maybe some thoughts to chug: Portland, the self-appointed cycling capital of the nation, could also lay claim to being the microbrewery Mecca of the US. Like any other corporations in this capitalistic society, microbreweries exist to make a profit. That profit is made by brewing & selling beer. The active ingredient in beer is a toxin (poison) named ethanol. Legal, like nicotine in cigarettes, but nonetheless a toxin with well known negative health effects. Cyclists in the Portland area are an easily identifiable and easily reached market segment. Is it any wonder that we now find ourselves asking if this is too much of a good thing? Could there be a connection? NAH! Surely they’re wooing us because of our sparkling personalities, not for love of our money.

    Jonathan said: “According to the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division, there have been 14 fatal bike crashes in Portland since 2005. Of those, the person on the bike was found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol six times (and the bike operator was deemed at fault in three of those).” Just to be clear, is all of 2005 included in the count? Does it include 2010 to date? I’ve heard of at least 2 fatal Portland bike crashes which didn’t involve motor vehicles. Are crashes other than those with motor vehicles included?

    More grist for the mill: A person who has had ONE drink (one 12 oz. glass of beer, one glass of wine, or one shot of whiskey?) is 4x as likely to have a fatal collision with a motor vehicle. One drink is insufficient to render most people legally drunk. A person who is legally drunk is 20x as likely to have a fatal collision with a motor vehicle!! Besides affecting judgment, reaction time and motor skills, alcohol compromises our emotional state as well, sometimes leading to rage, aggression and other negative effects. It also has addictive properties (like nicotine though not as strong). Should a cyclist addicted to alcohol be invited to a meeting held at a bar? It’s perfectly legal to do so, and we have a right to that behavior, but --- Just because we have a right to do something, doesn’t make it right to do.

    As matt picio pointed out above, operating a bicycle successfully takes better coordination and reactions than operating an automobile. In the spirit of making the punishment fit the crime, perhaps while lowering the $ penalty for biking drunk, the threshold should be lowered also, say to .03 or even lower. The current level of .08 was likely selected because it can be shown that that level is sufficient to cause an unacceptable reduction of capacity to operate a car. We could easily determine a comparable BAC for cycling impairment, but approximately 1/3 the level shown for operating autos seems about right to me.

    As many above have commented, we should be targeting the segment of the population creating the real problem, not discriminating against cyclists in general. Nationally, above the age of 5 about 7/8 of cycling fatalities are males. It would be interesting to see how closely Portland’s 14 cycling fatalities compare to the national stats., but in any event this is clearly a male problem. If we’re going to discriminate, then it seems to me it should be based on a logical, not emotional, criteria. The ladies should get a pass on this one. The law should apply only to males. Now I’ve gone and offended all the feminists who will immediately jump up and scream for equal treatment under the law. Sorry ladies – I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.

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    • El Biciclero December 15, 2010 at 4:01 pm

      A person who has had ONE drink (one 12 oz. glass of beer, one glass of wine, or one shot of whiskey?) is 4x as likely to have a fatal collision with a motor vehicle. One drink is insufficient to render most people legally drunk. A person who is legally drunk is 20x as likely to have a fatal collision with a motor vehicle!!

      Where did you get these numbers? I hope it wasn't from here, although it sounds like it was. If it was, note the use of the words "or higher" in all of their conclusions. This means that the risk is X times greater for cyclists with a BAC of .08 or higher, not exactly .08. "Or higher" means that subjects might have a BAC of .08, but they could have a BAC anywhere up to the maximum that any study subject exhibited (somewhere around .2, I believe). The study authors were assigning the same level of risk to a cyclist with a .08 BAC as they were to a cyclist with a (roughly) .2 BAC. That doesn't make statistical or biological sense.

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  • Mike Seager December 10, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    The best thing about biking to the bar or parties, is that if you get super drunk you can WALK your bike home. You can't walk your car home. I'm not a huge fan of drunk biking, but I really enjoy drunk walking my bike after a great night.

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  • JeffTB December 11, 2010 at 8:50 am

    ‎"Team Beer": Extended from "Beer League": "Adult recreational sport. Played for the passion of the game by men and women over 21 years old. The post game ritual of sitting around a cooler full of beer bs'ing about skill level or lack thereof is as important as the game itself. Sportsmanship, camaraderie and competion are the key elements. Drinking alcohol is not required of members."

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  • Case December 11, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Jonathan, I normally take your pieces with a grain of salt and an open mind, but I cannot accept this article from you. Putting Team Beer in an article about riding a bike drunk and including a photo of our jersey is an attack on the members of my team. I am furious about the insinuation Team Beer advocates riding a bike intoxicated. Do you also think the Budweser sponsorship of a stock car in NASCAR advocates drinking and driving? This summer, when there was a number of issues with drinking at the STXC threatening to damage the opportunity to have the series continue, Team Beer openly asked for the end to drinking at future events. Team Beer respects the dry venues during the Cross Crusade in order to help preserve the series for years to come at those venues. Team Beer actively supports and volunteers for events within the Portland cycling community, and what do we get out of our efforts? Being a part of an article about drinking and riding on bikeportland.org. I am writing this as a personal response to this article and my comments don't necessarily reflect the feelings of members of Team Beer. That being said, shame on you Jonathan.

    Matthew Case

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    • Paul Johnson December 11, 2010 at 11:28 am

      I'm not convinced NASCAR doesn't encourage drunk driving, but it has nothing to do with the sponsorships.

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    • Alex Accetta December 11, 2010 at 12:29 pm

      As a fellow teammate of Matt's I'll gladly sign on to Matt's comments. If you know anything about our team you would clearly know that binging and riding is not our mode - the insinuation you made Jonathon is insulting. You of all people know the great volunteer work we do, the bike advocacy, and the good spirit we bring to town; instead you threw us under the bus by digressing to a simple argument to fan your discussion thread.

      Alex Accetta
      Team Beer

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 11, 2010 at 7:54 pm

        I just want to quickly respond to concerns from Team Beer members. I have read your comments and emails and I understand why you feel like you do. I don't haves time to respond fully right now, but I will do so later tonight. Bottom line is that I only used Team Beer as a way to illustrate the presence of beer in oh community... I in no way meant to associate Team Beer with being drunk or irresponsibile conduct of any time. Come on guys... Seriously. I love Team Beer and I mean no harm or disrespect.

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    • wsbob December 11, 2010 at 1:10 pm

      Hey Matthew...nice jersey! Saw your comment, so I re-read Maus's story for references to your team. I didn't notice anything in those references implying your team advocates drunk biking.

      I'd like to think that's true, and given what you said about how your team responded to drinking at STXC, it probably is true. Still, 'guilt by association' is something that can be unfair.

      Maus's story mostly seemed to mention your team as an example of how beer to some extent goes along with biking. I'll go for that. Beer is good. I'm just not enthusiastic about society somehow inadvertently giving the o.k. to a growing movement of wobbly, incapacitated drunks on bikes.

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    • jim December 11, 2010 at 7:50 pm

      Shamed Jonathan and didn't get censured- oh my

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 13, 2010 at 10:02 am

      Matt,

      sorry you are so upset about the inclusion of Team Beer in this article. Please see my response to Alex Accetta above.

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  • Skid December 12, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Ride a tallbike, it is it's own "field sobriety test". If you can't ride it, you're too drunk.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 13, 2010 at 9:52 am

    jim

    Shamed Jonathan and didn't get censured- oh my

    That's right Jim. Contrary to what you (or a few other commenters) might think, I never censor comments simply because someone disagrees or criticizes me. I guarantee you cannot cite one example of that ever happening in the history of this cite so I'd really appreciate it if you did not joke about it anymore. Thanks.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 13, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Alex Accetta

    As a fellow teammate of Matt's I'll gladly sign on to Matt's comments. If you know anything about our team you would clearly know that binging and riding is not our mode - the insinuation you made Jonathon is insulting. You of all people know the great volunteer work we do, the bike advocacy, and the good spirit we bring to town; instead you threw us under the bus by digressing to a simple argument to fan your discussion thread.

    Alex Accetta
    Team Beer

    Alex,

    First, please see the note I just left at the end of this story and the edits. I have removed the Team Beer photo and the reference to Team Beer. However....I want to respond to your comment...

    I know a lot about Team Beer. I don't agree that I made that insinuation in this article. I absolutely disagree with your characterization that I "threw you under the bus" to "fan my discussion thread". I made no connection whatsoever between Team Beer and "binging and riding." I simply included Team Beer because I believe it shows how prevalent the idea and the culture of beer is intertwined in our community.

    If you knew anything about me or BikePortland you would know that is not that's not at all what I'm about.

    What I am about is listening to feedback and being open to making edits to my story when I feel it is needed/warranted.

    Thanks for the feedback.

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    • pixie December 13, 2010 at 11:06 am

      Wow. This Team Beer episode is a good illustration of the poor state of critical reading and thinking skills used by some members of society. Jonathan's reference to Team Beer was innocuous, and simply noting one among several examples of intersections between beer and biking in Portland. Where is the insinuation that any of his listed examples "advocates riding a bike intoxicated?" Is he throwing his own site under the bus by including a photo of beer at a BikePortland event?

      This type of reaction to the mere mention of Team Beer feels similar to the reactions exhibited by some people who object to some of the comments. As Jonathan said in the comments thread: "I also think that many people involved with the bike movement (esp. here in Portland) have a strong aversion to any criticism or negativity... so when they see it arise on the comments here, they simply look away (and they stop commenting unfortunately)."

      The reference to the existence of Team Beer as one of several examples of how "beer consumption is a pillar of the local bike culture" is neither a criticism of, nor a negative insinuation about, Team Beer.

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  • Jackattak December 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I can't believe what I'm reading from some of you. I can't believe anyone would argue drunken biking as being "a safe(r) alternative to drunken driving."

    That's one of the most ridiculous things I've ever read/heard, right up there with the announcement that the US was invading Iraq.

    I don't wish pain or agony upon anyone here, but some of you are in dire need of wake-up call. I've had mine.

    Back in mid-October before it got completely shitty out, I was out cycling all day with a friend and we made stops at two bars during our cycling trip (no helmet either, naturally). I went home and had to go back out to see another friend. I live Downtown on PSU campus and the friend I was visiting lives on NW 21st in the Alphabet District.

    I went to his place and had yet another shot and a beer. By this time I was certainly drunk. At least I had picked up my helmet.

    On the way home it began storming like crazy and I got caught in it. I decided rather than to pull over and wait it out, to go the eight blocks to my house and "tough it out". Now just what do you think drew me to make that kind of ridiculous decision? Inhibited judgment from drinking? Gee, ya think?

    Long story short (too late), my brakes didn't slow me down well enough while coming down Columbia and I missed my turn and my front wheel went into the Streetcar tracks. Bye-bye, Jackie! I went headfirst over my handlebars at a dead stop and spilled out into the street. My helmet hit the ground so hard it cracked in two (doing its job, of course). I cracked my elbow and had a green and brown and black bruise halfway up my arm for weeks after, not to mention some serious road rash on my legs and arm where I landed.

    I am a pretty experienced rider. That was my first time hitting the Streetcar tracks. I am lucky to be alive, and I know that.

    I don't drink anymore. AT ALL.

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    • jim December 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm

      At least you are intelligent enough to learn from your mistake. You won't do that again

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    • Bjorn December 14, 2010 at 3:40 pm

      and if you had been driving a car it would have been more dangerous for everyone around you and you very well might have killed someone. Riding a bike was in fact safer, especially for everyone in your vicinity.

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      • Paul Johnson December 14, 2010 at 8:24 pm

        In roughly the same sense that huffing paint is safer than drinking isopropanol, sure.

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      • Jackattak December 15, 2010 at 8:46 am

        I believe you've missed the point. My point wasn't car vs. bike safety; rather it was to highlight the fact that even "experienced" riders need to take caution while riding drunk.

        @ Jim: Yessir, I will never do that again.

        @ wsbob - My decision to quit didn't have much to do with that incident, although it was a factor. I have a problem with drinking that most don't and I realize that. Luckily enough for me and those around me.

        I don't own a car but when I did I never drove drunk or loaded.

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    • wsbob December 14, 2010 at 7:48 pm

      In an 'either or' situation, meaning...drink and not operate a vehicle, or not drink and be free to go wherever whenever, I suppose kicking alcohol entirely was the right thing for you. Most people though, should be able to manage their alcohol intake so it's low enough by the time they need to operate a vehicle.

      That some can't, highlights the power of the drinking culture. Over on oregonlive.com, people have been commenting to a story about a 26 year old, now a quad, attempting to sue her boss and a restaurant, claiming they compelled and allowed her to get so drunk she was incapable of safely operating her car home, causing it to be involved in a collision, etc. . This person had a blood alcohol reading of .24.

      If she'd had a sober person drive her home, she'd probably be fully functional today. If she'd been riding a bike, she'd probably be dead. Find and read the story. Ironically, but fortunately, the person she hit had minor injuries.

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    • toby December 16, 2010 at 9:53 am

      I too don't understand the apparent pervasiveness that riding drunk is OK. I've heard too many times "Do you need a lift home?" "No it's OK, I'm on my bike". Or something to that effect. I've ridden up behind people that couldn't even stay in the bike lane. Saying that you can walk your bike home but you can't walk your car home only counts if you actually do walk it. The problem is that many people that are drunk don't realize how drunk they are. That was my problem. I used to think I was fine and would do things that I never used to do like ride my motorcycle and bicycle when I was annihilated. Some specific events that I won't go into helped me succeed in my long battle to quit drinking. At the end of the month I'll be three years sober and it's only in the last two years or so that I've been able to see how damaging alcohol is to society at large. I don't advocate against alcohol, I would love to be able to have a cold one with dinner or go out for a drink, but I do wish that people would exercise good judgment and personal responsibility when it comes to drinking out because they often don't.

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      • Jackattak December 17, 2010 at 9:42 am

        Best post in the thread (to me, at least). Very inspirational and I appreciate it. I've been sober for three weeks (count 'em!!!) and can't wait until I can say it's been three years.

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        • Jim O'Horo December 17, 2010 at 1:49 pm

          "The man takes a drink.
          The drink takes a drink.
          The drink takes the man."
          Old Japanese proverb

          A thought worth remembering from an old f**rt who has seen far more than his share of death & carnage. It takes a lot of courage to face a drinking problem. Congratulations and hang in there!

          From the comments on this thread, it seems as if there are lots of cyclists out there who haven't even recognized they have a problem, much less faced up to it. They can't have "just one" but don't know it yet. Hope they figure it out before it's too late.

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        • toby December 17, 2010 at 10:33 pm

          Thanks brother! nice of you to say. I wish I could say it got easier at some point but it's still a daily thing, you just learn to deal. The biggest thing that helped me was when I realized that I CAN'T drink anymore. Ever. I used up my chances and have to remain sober. No choices. Only you know your situation but I do know that with the acceptance and realization of the need for a new life and the passing of time, you can take it all the way and there'll be a pile of calender pages on the floor before you know it! Three weeks is awesome man! Remember them, OWN them. Never turn you back on the past you're creating because yesterday turns into tomorrow and all that. Three weeks turns into three months which turns into three years etc.

          Apologies if this sounded preachy, I'm not like that and I so didn't mean it that way, but whatever, sometimes it doesn't hurt to have someone on the sidelines to cheer you on!

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  • Case December 13, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Jonathan. I appreciate your steps in taking the references to Team Beer out of the body of the article. I know you are a friend of Team Beer and have been a supporter of us and events we are a part of in the past and hopefully also in the future. I was obviously upset by the team's reference in the article and it boils down to the article headline being "Drunk Biking" and Team Beer being representitive of beer being "intertwined in our community". The only connection between Team Beer and beer the beveage is the word "beer" and in my mind that's not enough of a connection to highlight. Also, we do have members of our team who are sober and it wasn't fair for them to be rolled into the representation. All in all I appreciate you and the steps you took in the face of a pubically angry Matt Case and when we see each other again the first beer (and subsiquent cab) is on me.

    Pixie, Jonathan can throw BP under the bus if he likes, it's his site. You can read the above for my take on what's innocuous. It's not bitching, it's protecting myself, my team and our sponsors from those without critical reading skills who would take the Drink Biking headline and associate it with Team Beer. I was a bit upset about it and that's kind of how I am, for better or worse. I was sober at the time though. :)

    Matt Case

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    • jim December 14, 2010 at 12:09 am

      I think we all learned a little about team beer

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    • resopmok December 14, 2010 at 12:23 am

      "The only connection between Team Beer and beer the beveage is the word "beer""

      Come again? Did the word "beer" grow a different meaning since the last time I consumed one? I feel a little crazy saying it, but if you don't want your team associated with beer, don't call it "Team Beer." That said, I'm going to go join "Team Marijuana," which I can guarantee is not associated in any way with the cannabis plant except for sharing the same name. Actually, I'll just call my old buddy Bill C. to check in on the definition for "is" so I can mount some soap box and take a nonexistent moral high ground. Really I don't care who gets thrown under the bus, let's just see some carnage!

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    • wsbob December 14, 2010 at 12:32 am

      "... The only connection between Team Beer and beer the beveage is the word "beer" and in my mind that's not enough of a connection to highlight. ..." Case

      Seriously? With all due respect, that sounds way extreme. If there's no connection between your teams name and 'beer' the beverage, what's the point of even having such a name? How can use of the word for a team name possibly escape inferring something to do with beer? Please don't tell me the team name came about simply to honor some grandfather Steven Beer that once rode a bike.

      No matter really. Never seen Team Beer ride, or met any of its members, but I kind of look at a team naming itself in such a way as an opportunity taken to redefine or clarify a particular use of the aforementioned beverage. That your team has so named itself seems like a great opportunity to draw people's attention to the beverage as enjoyed by people that ride bikes, and so provide examples of how it's possible to responsibly enjoy good beer without being men of mayhem on the roads or stupid falling down drunks.

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  • Skid December 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I think what Matt Case meant was that they don't ride drunk. Just because it says beer across their shirts doesn't make them a bunch of drunkards. I've seem Team Beer members tear it up at local CX and track events, the kind of riding you could never do if you were intoxicated, the result of training that could not be accomplished if you were an alcoholic. They often set up a booth at events and sell fine local microbrews. I think it is quite common for beer to be sold at sporting events, wheels or not, and let's remember how most people arrive at such event- by car.

    The amazing thing about alcohol is that given some time it passes out of your system. It seems to me if you exercise a little moderation, and stop drinking an hour or so before you hit the road, you will be riding sober. There are OLCC guidelines pertaining to it, maybe consumers of alcohol should learn about how alcohol effects the body, and not just servers.

    I think Team Weed would be awesome, although they would probably finish DFL.

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  • VIE December 16, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Team Weed FTW.

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