Bike OWI/DUI: What Bicyclists Should Know

By Andrew Mishlove on December 10, 2019


A man riding a bikeThe state of Wisconsin has some particular laws with regard to drunk driving and intoxication. This is true when it comes to bicyclists. In places like Madison, getting around on your bike is convenient and makes sense, but riding a bike while you’re intoxicated could pose a danger to yourself and others.

But is drunk biking illegal? Or can you legally get on your bicycle after having a few beers?

Attorneys Andrew Mishlove and Lauren Stuckert would liked to explore those issues below. If you have further questions about drunk driving, speak with a skilled operating while intoxicated (OWI)/driving under the influence (DUI) lawyer at our firm.

Can You Really Be Arrested for Riding Your Bike While Intoxicated?

Technically, you can be arrested for being drunk while riding your bike. If you’re being disruptive or causing harm to others, you can be arrested.

However, based on the letter of the law, you cannot be charged with an OWI while you are on your bike. If you were on a motorized scooter or a motorcycle, yes, you could be arrested for OWI, but bicycles and motor vehicles such as those are two separate kinds of conveyances.

Parsing the Letter of the Law

In the state of Wisconsin, the language of OWI laws only applies to motor vehicles and not bicycles. In fact, the state legislature specifically left bicyclist out of the OWI laws because bikes were technically not motorized and instead human powered. Lawmakers of the time determined that motor vehicles were inherently more dangerous than bicycles, and hence OWI laws did not apply.

Many other states have laws against intoxicated biking, yet our state is unique in that regard. The same goes for our state’s lack of sobriety checkpoints.

Buzzed Biking Is Still Dangerous Even If Technically Legal

We should note that while buzzed biking is technically legal, it is dangerous. A BAC of just .02 could make operating a bicycle extremely dangerous. You could lose control, experience poor balance and coordination, and pose a danger to yourself and others.

Other Citations for Biking While Drunk

If you are bicycling while drunk, you may not be charged with an OWI, but you could be charged with something else. It is not uncommon for drunk bikers to be charged with disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and causing bodily harm. Intoxicated bicyclists can also be charged with riding on sidewalks, weaving through traffic, riding against the flow of traffic, and disobeying traffic signals and signs.

Always Stay Safe While on Your Bike

Just because something is legal does not mean you should do it. If you have a few drinks, make sure you are sober and stable enough to ride a bicycle. When riding your bike, make sure you obey all traffic laws and be mindful of other vehicles and pedestrians.

Learn More About OWI Defense Options

If you live in Wisconsin and have been charged with intoxicated driving, be sure to contact our team of OWI attorneys. You can reach the law firm of Mishlove & Stuckert, LLC by phone in Milwaukee at (414) 206-6919, in Oshkosh at (920) 306-8500, in West Bend at (262) 239-4828, and in Waukesha at (262) 207-4527. Our drunk driving lawyers are here to help.

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