11 April 2009

Sober as a judge? Not in Poland

Poland's Constitutional Court, according to the BBC, has just confirmed that it thinks they should punish drunken cyclists with the same severity as drunken drivers.

I wish! If only I was as dangerous after half a Black Sheep!

Then I could mow down with my bike that idiot driver of the TfL-registered hire car, registration number HJ54KNW in case you're interested, who unquestionably tried to knock me off my bike last night because he took exception to the way someone else was cycling...

I could crush the moron taxi driver we saw two minutes later at the junction at the south end of Blackfriars Bridge who dangerously undertook a woman on a bike who was cycling exactly where she should have been and was signalling so clearly it must have been visible from Mars...

I could vaporise the lunatic woman bus driver murderously busting the lights at Churchyard Row just south of the Elephant and Castle tonight... (How refreshing to know that lethal, stupid aggression is no longer the exclusive domain of men!)

Except, of course, I couldn't. At all.

Because, as all of us who enjoy a drink in moderation from time to time and cycle know, the bike has a built-in breathalyser.

If you're pissed, you can easily get in a car and drive it. (I honestly don't know from personal behind-the-wheel-experience, but I certainly do from passenger experience. The closest I ever got to saying prayers was alongside a driver who I later discovered had been under-reporting her drinks intake by an order of magnitude. Avoncliff, it was, near Bath, in 1988. Samantha, you know who you are.)

And drunken drivers kill. I don't need to hammer that point home.

But you try getting on a bike when you've had a drink too many. No, actually, don't. Because I have. It's not possible. Getting on a bike and pedalling it off in a straightish line requires a complex series of motor skills that's simply not going to happen if you're pissed.

And if you are, the only person you harm is yourself. Barked shins, bumped knees, grazed elbows. Possibly the odd scuffed lamppost. It is, fortunately for that idiot minicab man, moron taxi, and lunatic bus driver, a completely unlethal activity.

So hear this, Poland's Constutional Court: you are clearly bonkers and don't know what on earth you're ruling on. How on earth could you have come to such a ridiculous decision? What sort of over-indulgent activity might have led to such fuzzy thinking?

Ah, I think we can guess.


  1. It's not possible. Getting on a bike and pedalling it off in a straightish line requires a complex series of motor skills that's simply not going to happen if you're pissed. I think this must differ from one cyclist to another, because my experience is that as long as I’m not too drunk to walk, I’m not too drunk to cycle. In particular, I can easily cycle in a straight line when I’m too drunk to do so with proper care and attention. So I think it’s reasonable for UK law to say that if I cycle on a public street when drunk, then I’m guilty of an offence (under section 30(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988).

    Your point about the likely relative harm is a reasonable one, and that’s why the penalties in the UK are so much lower for drunken cyclists (a fine of up to £2,500) than for drunken drivers (a fine of up to £5,000 and a prison sentence of up to 6 months).

    And if you are, the only person you harm is yourself.That's the most likely outcome, sure, but it's possible for cyclists to cause more serious accidents, for example by colliding with pedestrians or other cyclists, or by swerving in front of a motor vehicle that then swerves to avoid you and hits someone.

  2. @Gareth... Thanks for that. I was (as I'm sure you recognised) being a bit tongue in cheek, of course.

    (There's some rum business about walking a bike when drunk being potentially punished worse than riding a bike when drunk which I've never quite understood.)

    Obviously operating any machinery when you're drunk is a pretty bad idea, with a rough ascendancy of consequence from nail scissors to bike to chainsaw to car to western economy.

    I don't know of case law, but I guess that 2500 quid fine for drunken cycling has rarely been levied. In fact, for any fine to be levied, I'm sure it would have to obviously deserve it - causing a bad accident rather than simply cycling in a 1950s-sitcom-style wobbly line.

    Cheers! (Finished cycling for the day)