Don’t Test Your Luck On St. Patrick’s Day: About Drunk Driving Bicycle Accidents

Group of friends toasting with green beer in pub, closeup. St. Patrick's Day celebration

Can You Get Charged with a Drunk Driving Bicycle Offense in Newport Beach?

Thinking about biking between bars on March 17th? It’s a common misconception that DUIs only apply to drivers. On the contrary, biking under the influence of alcohol is also illegal and a punishable offense. 

Therefore, yes, you can be charged with a DUI, even for riding a bike. Even if you’re planning a sober St. Patrick’s Day bike ride, consider the following safety tips.

***For questions regarding an accident, a Newport Beach bicycle accident lawyer from our law firm can assist. Please note that we only represent victims of accidents and not individuals who have been charged with a DUI.


About DUI Laws Under California Vehicle Code Section 21200.5

DUI laws state that it is illegal to drive a car with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.

However, when it comes to riding a bicycle, the DUI laws become more complex.

Some states only associate DUI charges with motor vehicle drivers or include specific clauses defining what is considered driving under the influence.

California is unique from other states in that biking under the influence is strictly prohibited. Bicyclists who appear to be under the influence of alcoholic or drug content can be convicted of a DUI or CUI, which is considered a criminal offense.

Because impaired bicycling is illegal in California (California Vehicle Code 21200.5 VC), police officers have the responsibility to detain bicyclists exhibiting severe signs of alcohol intoxication.


Consequences of Cycling Under the Influence (CUI)

Close-up Shot of Police Car Siren Lights. Offices of the Law Ready for Action

While a bicycle may not present the same potential for causing damage as a car, biking under the influence does pose significant risks.

The framing and body of a bike are clearly different from an automobile, but many states categorize them as motor vehicles.

In fact, California law treats bicyclists similarly to motor vehicle drivers when it comes to DUIs, classifying cycling under the influence as a misdemeanor criminal offense.

As a result, a conviction for biking under the influence will be flagged as a criminal record on background checks for job applications, interfering with serious life decisions.

Furthermore, depending on the severity of intoxication and behavior, the arresting officer can add more charges to the arrest, like public intoxication.

What About E-Bikes?

California DUI laws lack a specific clause addressing electric bicycles. The existing cycling under the influence statute applies only to bikes powered solely by human force. 

This ambiguity means that an e-bike rider suspected of biking under the influence could face regular motor vehicle DUI charges, instead of CUI charges which typically carry lighter criminal penalties.

Therefore, the legal consequences of riding electric bikes or a gas-powered scooter while intoxicated may vary depending on the arresting officer or the e-bike’s power.


How Biking Under the Influence Differs from Driving Under the Influence

The DUI section a traffic collision report.

When it comes to drinking and driving, officers can test suspected drunk drivers for being under the influence with a field sobriety test.

Drivers who exceed the blood alcohol concentration legal limit of 0.08% or higher can be arrested and face reckless driving charges. Unlike driving a car, there’s no defined BAC limit for cycling under the influence.

Instead, a police officer relies on observable signs of intoxication like weaving between lanes, nearly colliding with objects, falling, or failing to abide by traffic rules.

Unlike a DUI, a CUI typically does not carry any jail time and will not result in a driver’s license suspension. However, cycling under the influence is still considered a misdemeanor and will result in a criminal record.


Public Intoxication Versus Impaired Bicycling

The Newport Beach Police Department is responsible for detaining any cyclist exhibiting signs of alcohol intoxication to prevent a bicycle accident. These accidents not only pose a threat to the riders, but they endanger others, as well.

Based on the circumstances and intoxication levels, bicyclists could be charged with public intoxication or cycling under the influence charge.

Public intoxication, also known as “drunk and disorderly conduct,” is a misdemeanor offense and can result in jail time and fines depending on how unruly the intoxicated person is. This offense applies to bicyclists and even pedestrians.


Safety Tips for Riding on Saint Patrick’s Day

Newport Beach - USA

In 2020 between the hours of 6:00 PM on March 16th to 5:59 AM on March 18th, there were 287 fatalities as a result of a drunk driving-related accident

To remain safe during the St. Patrick’s Day period, it is encouraged to follow these biking safety precautions even if you do not plan on drinking.

Follow California Traffic Laws

Ride in designated bike paths when available. When sharing the roads with motor vehicles, ensure ample spacing between drivers, curbs, or other obstacles.

These defense strategies create buffers in reaction time to handle unexpected hazards like car doors, potholes, or wildlife encounters.

Utilize hand signals to inform others of intended maneuvers. This significantly reduces the risk of bike accidents.

While navigating through traffic can be tempting, prioritizing predictable behavior keeps bicyclists visible. Do not cut vehicles off, ride with the flow of traffic, and abide by traffic signs. 

Prepare to Lock Your Bike Up

Bicycle wheel tied to glavanized pipe rain water leader in city setting with strong shadow on stucco exterior wall

If plans change and alcohol is consumed on the holiday, do not risk biking home. Instead, bring some bike locks as a backup.

When it’s time to head home, intertwine the lock around the bicycle’s frame and wheels, then secure it to a designated bike rack. 

Select a busy location with lots of people around and ideally near a surveillance camera or closed-circuit television (CCTV) to ward off thieves. Then, order a rideshare or taxi home. 

Increase Visibility

Enhance safety while simultaneously being festive. Decorate a bike with green lights, wear a green helmet, or add green decorations to the handlebars. These added adornments enhance visibility to drivers and others on the road.

This also encourages vehicles to maintain a safe driving distance from bike riders, especially along busy Newport Beach roads at the Balboa Peninsula or along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

Avoid Riding from Bar to Bar

Clover head decoration on head of girl close-up. Saint Patricks day, parade in the city, selective focus, copy space

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations often involve bar crawls, but safety must always be the top priority.  Riding a bike after consuming an alcoholic beverage is dangerous and can lead to serious consequences, including criminal penalties, collisions with motor vehicles, and serious injuries. 

If planning to participate in one of Orange County’s festive bar crawls, ensure there is an alternative means of getting home that does not include biking under the influence.

Choose a designated driver or utilize ride-sharing services before heading out. It’s crucial to prioritize alternative transportation and to never bike drunk. 

Remain Aware of Surroundings

Whether commuting, running errands, or enjoying exercise on St. Patrick’s Day, take extra precautions around areas with increased bar traffic.

Popular bars like Baja Sharkeez, Malarky’s Irish Pub, Stag Bar & Kitchen, and other bars along Mc Fadden Pl. and Newport Blvd. are expected to be partially congested. 

While drunk drivers can be encountered anywhere, exercising awareness and avoiding areas where alcohol is likely to be heavily consumed will significantly reduce the risk of bicycle accidents.

Make eye contact with drivers, pedestrians, and fellow cyclists when crossing the street or switching between lanes. This helps establish mutual understanding and confirm visibility in shared spaces.

Have Fun, but Gear Up

St Patrick Day in Sand and Beach Wave

Always prioritize safety when cycling, regardless of the day. Wear proper safety gear, such as a well-fitted helmet, and ensure the bicycle is properly equipped before taking it out.

Inspect the bike by checking the tire pressure and making sure the brakes and gears are functioning properly.


Beach Accident Attorneys

Contact Us | Beach Accident Attorneys

If you were injured in a bicycle accident as a result of a drunk driver or another negligent party, our Newport Beach personal injury law firm can help you recover damages. 

Schedule a free consultation with our bicycle accident attorneys to discuss your legal options.




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