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One of the many advantages of using an electric bike for commuting purposes is that you do not require a license for that. But are there laws pertaining to e-cycling while under the influence? Can you ride an electric bike drunk? Can you get a DUI or a CUI (Cycling Under Influence) while riding an e-bike? We will answer all these questions in this article.
People who are not eligible for a driver’s license or have lost it to a DUI or any other charge leverage electric bikes as their safe haven. They can easily commute on these two-wheel rides without having to worry about being breaking the ‘driving without a license’ law. However, there are some other laws that apply to e-bike riding, and one of them is driving under the influence. It is obvious that the social implications look down upon drinking and driving any vehicle as you are risking the live and limbs of people around you as well as yourself. But does the law look at riding an electric bike while being drunk the same way as driving a truck that weighs three tons while intoxicated?
The laws pertaining to this vary by municipalities and states. Some areas of the country consider electric bikes as vehicles while they qualify as motor vehicles in others. Most of the states and municipalities, however, currently do not have statutes related to drinking and riding an e-bike. It is important that you check the exact laws pertaining to the matter in your locality before you drink and ride an e-bike. Most of the states do not dictate the actions required by law enforcement if they come across such cases. However, you are likely to get treated under the statute against a breach of the peace or public intoxication in almost all the states of the US.
As opposed to getting your life wrecked and getting arrested in the case of a DUI, you are likely to be shown leniency if you are caught in the act, and you will probably just end up getting a ticket. Getting caught is another factor that can work in your favor (or maybe not) as law enforcement officers do not usually keep a close watch on the e-bikers that pass them by due to the lack of laws related to them. However, we strongly recommend never to ride an e-bike or even a bicycle while you are under the influence of intoxication, as 25% of all the deaths that result from cycling accidents involve an individual who was riding while drunk.
So, regardless of where you live, bars are places that you are better off visiting on public transport or on foot. The legal implications, at least in the United States, are much more lenient for a drunk at the handlebars (not including those of regular bikes) than they are with a drunk at a car’s wheel.
The federal law looks at an e-bike as a bicycle and not as a motor vehicle. However, if your e-bike looks or runs fast, the police officers who have stopped you might decide against it and treat it as a motor vehicle. Still, you will have the chance to argue the point in front of a judge. But other factors come into play as well, such as sidewalk riding, the speed of your e-bike, or the level of your toxicity, etc., when you get arrested and end up in a courtroom. It is possible that you find the whole situation becoming more grey and slipping out of your hands.
If you live in Canada, though, the laws are much stricter. There, the simple and short answer to the question ‘Can you ride an electric bike drunk?’ is ‘No’ unless you want to earn yourself some letters, i.e., a D, a U, and an I. The reason for this is the E in the e-bike. An electric bike can go at high speeds that are enough to cause you and others around you harm in case of an accident. The maximum allowed speeds for e-bikes are not as low as the usual speeds of conventional bicycles, and thus, you can face the impaired driving charge if you drink and ride an electric bike.
The criminal code of Canada considers an electric bike as a motor vehicle and clearly and explicitly describes operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs and alcohol as an offense. Electric bikes are not excluded from this provision, and the alcohol level in your blood does not have to be below 0.08. What is more is that even though Canadian law does not require you to have a driver’s license to operate an e-bike, you cannot ride an electric bike if you have had your license suspended by getting a DUI. When you are banned from driving, you are banned from riding e-bikes as well.
The regular bicycle laws in the country are the same as in the US. While riding a regular bicycle, you can get charged with all traffic regulations, but your license does not receive any demerit hits (the province of Quebec is an exception, though). There is no concept of CUI on regular bicycles in Canada.
The law enforcement officers in Canada are trained to identify intoxication signs, and they do not have to resort to a breathalyzer. They will charge you straight away, and even carrying open liquor on your e-bike is sure to get you in trouble. The Canadian law considers the requirement of maintaining balance while riding an electric bike and thus imposes these strict laws upon drunk riders.
The laws in the UK are pretty much the same as in the US. If you are drunk enough not to be able to maintain proper control of your e-bike, you can be charged with various tickets, but you will not get a DUI. You can refuse to provide the law enforcement officers your urine or blood sample, and even a breath as an electric bike is not considered a motor vehicle in the country. Though, if it is proven that you were driving under the influence in front of a magistrate, you can get fined as much as 1,000 pounds.
In the United States, if you do decide to ride an electric bike while being drunk, make sure you:
- Maintain a modest speed
- Obey each and every traffic rule that your state or municipality requires you to
- Do not ride without a helmet on
- Ride with the light on if it is nighttime
- Do not ride on main roads
- Pedal your bike as much as you can and use little or no motor assistance
- Are polite if you get pulled over
- Take a bus or a cab if you do not feel too confident. Walk your e-bike home or lock it where you are and write down the location to make sure you do not forget it in the morning.