Back to School: What Students Should Know About Biking Under The Influence

Colorado State University resumes classes later this month, and Fort Collins is beginning to buzz with the return of students. You can always tell when Back to School is underway: Target is crammed; moving trucks dot city streets; and bicycle traffic increases dramatically. I get to watch this frenzy year after year from my criminal defense firm, Nicol Gersch Law Offices, LLC, located in Campus West. And every year at this time, I think about how some of those students are going to walk into my office, needing my help.

There are any number of legal issues that college students get caught up in. The more obvious are DUI/DWAI charges often incurred on the way home from the bars and assault-related charges stemming from the occasional (but for some, inevitable) fight at the bars. But less well-known and certainly less anticipated by students themselves are Biking Under the Influence charges. To prepare CSU students for another year of campus and college life, here are some cautionary tips, before it’s too late.

Tip #1 – It’s a Thing (and a Criminal one at that)

I didn’t know this was a thing?!” I’ve heard that from countless students who come into my office. It is, indeed, a thing.

Biking Under the Influence charges actually arise from Colorado’s Driving Under the Influence laws. I’ll spare you the complicated language from statutes and just say that a bicycle qualifies as a vehicle under DUI laws. And it’s not just those electrical bicycles that are growing in popularity around town – the law applies to those old-fashioned, do-it-yourself bicycles, too.

The other thing about Biking Under the Influence laws that is increasingly catching CSU students off guard – particularly those coming in from out of state – is that it’s not just alcohol intoxication that can land you a BUI offense. While marijuana consumption is legal in Colorado, riding a bike after that intense edible kicks in can get you in trouble.

Tip #2 – It’s Usually Something Else that Gets You in Trouble

Barring signs of flagrant, dangerous behavior, police officers are generally not in the habit of pulling over cyclists and administering random field sobriety tests. BUI charges most commonly come about in conjunction with other offenses. For example, if you’re engaged in a late-night bar fight and are caught trying to flee the scene on your bike, your assault charge may be accompanied by a BUI charge. Intoxicated cyclists whose behavior causes a traffic accident can also be facing a host of offenses, including a BUI charge. The lesson here: be smart and be careful.

Tip #3 – If You’re Going to Do It, Be Smart

It’s not uncommon for college students – and everyone else, for that matter – to consider it more responsible to ride a bike to and from the bars than drive a car. And there’s probably some merit behind this perspective: getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated is certainly a dangerous and terrible idea. I’d suggest not even considering it. But relying on biking home after the bars close isn’t a guaranteed bet.

The safest approach, of course, is to call a Lyft or Uber, get a ride with a sober friend, or the ever-reliable hike-a-bike home. But if you’re going to ride your bike, here are some safety suggestions that can help keep you safe and increase your chances of not getting stopped for biking under the influence:

  • Ride only in designated bike lanes or on the right-hand side of the road if there are no lanes. Don’t ride in the middle of the road next to your friends, no matter how badly you want to talk to them on the ride home. Trust me, it can wait.
  • Also remember to use hand signals. It’s easy to forget when you’re riding during daylight, especially in low-traffic areas, but if you’re at all intoxicated, it’s really important that you play by the rules of the road.
  • Finally, always have lights on your bike if you are riding home after dark. This is a no-brainer from a safety standpoint but riding in the dark is going to get the attention of law enforcement (assuming they can see you). In this context, being seen might be the best way to fly under the radar!

Final Tip: Let Justie Get Justice for You

Dealing with a criminal matter in the middle of the school year can be incredibly disruptive. If you’ve been charged with a BUI, DUI, or related drug and alcohol offense, your priority should be putting it behind you as soon as possible. An attorney can help.

I have years of experience both prosecuting criminal cases as a Colorado Deputy District Attorney and defending criminal cases as Founder of Nicol Gersch Law Offices, LLC. And with one of my Front Range offices located in Campus West, I routinely serve CSU students. I offer free, initial consultations for students and flexible payment options. Contact me online here to schedule a consultation or call me directly at (970) 670-0738.