Ask the Motor Cop | ‘Can I get a DUI on my bicycle?’

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Question: Jerry, my name is Paul and I am a bicycle rider. I seem to get confused about the rules on riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. Is there a law against it? Also, someone said that I can get arrested for drunk driving on a bicycle. If so, how is that? 

— Paul 

Answer: Hi Paul. There is no statewide law prohibiting cyclists from riding on a sidewalk. California Vehicle Code 21206 grants local governments the authority to set their own rules. Therefore, laws can vary widely from city to city, county to county. In short, it is the cyclist’s responsibility to understand and obey local laws. 

In places where sidewalk-riding is allowed, it is the sole responsibility of the cyclist to always be careful pedaling between pedestrians who are present. Parking, or laying a bicycle on a sidewalk, could be a safety issue also. According to California Vehicle Code 21210, “No person shall leave a bicycle lying on its side on any sidewalk, or shall park a bicycle on a sidewalk in any other position, so that there is not an adequate path for pedestrian traffic.” 

Let’s answer the second question you asked. First understand that any law enforcement officer will never use the term “drunk driving.” The term will always be “driving under the influence.” This is because, by law, you don’t have to be drunk to be in violation of DUI. All you need to be is under the influence. Some agencies will use the term “driving while impaired.” 

Yes, you absolutely can be arrested for riding a bicycle under the influence and that would include alcohol, drugs, or the combined substance of alcohol and drugs.  

Accordving to CVC 21200(a), “A person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle, including provisions concerning driving under the influence.” 

I hope that I was able to answer your questions, Paul. Drive carefully. 

Jerry Schlund, a Santa Clarita Valley resident, is a retired Los Angeles Police Department motor officer with over 24 years riding. He was a certified radar instructor — both laser and doppler — and was instrumental in California vehicle code amendments. He was a traffic school instructor for 25 years. Have a question for the motor cop? Send your questions to [email protected].  

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