APD officers caution against inebriated biking

Wes Scarborough

Students bike around campus in all sorts of conditions — exhausted, focused, when running late for an exam. One condition they might want to avoid is intoxicated — according to the Austin Police Department, biking while drunk could lead to a driving while intoxicated citation.

According to APD officer Nathan Blake, operating a bicycle at or above a blood alcohol content of .08 is a punishable crime.

“[Motor vehicle] is one of the elements of a DWI,” Blake said. “From a police officer’s perspective, a bicycle is a motor vehicle.”

Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code defines the elements of a DWI offense and section 32.34 defines a motor vehicle as a device that can transport a person on a highway, excluding devices on stationary rails or tracks. The penalty for a DWI on a bike is the same as a DWI in a car. A first DWI offense carries a penalty of up to six months in prison and a maximum $2,000 fine. 

Blake said operating a bicycle while intoxicated in a public place is especially problematic.

“If you’re on a bicycle, and you’re intoxicated to the point to where you can’t ride, you are a danger to yourself and others,” Blake said. “Someone on the road might have to swerve and dodge you. If you run a red light, you become a huge liability.”

Despite this feature of the penal code, establishments such as PubCrawler and Easy Tiger still regularly host beer-related bicycle events. 

“We usually start with shandies at Windmill bike shop and then bike over to Easy Tiger for dollar beers,” said Chad Gluckson, brand ambassador for Easy Tiger.

Easy Tiger hosts an event called Easy Sunday, a bike tour starting at Windmill Bicycles in Northeast Austin and ending at Easy Tiger, located on Sixth Street and I-35. According to Gluckson, there have been four Easy Sundays since the events started last year. He said bikers are served beer and usually end up safely at the finish.

“Beer and bikes are the common denominator here,” Gluckson said. “It’s safe as can be. You know, accidents do happen, but so far, we have had good vibes.”

University Operations communications director Rhonda Weldon said she did not have any information about how UTPD would deal with a bike DWI on campus. 

Elsi Chamberlane, assistant manager at Easy Tiger, said the riders are usually equipped with the right safety equipment, including a helmet.

“I usually see them by the end of the ride, and they’re all pretty happy,” Chamberlane said.