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Drink Cycling and the Law

Leaving the car at home and cycling down to the local pub might seem like a way to avoid a drink driving charge. However under NSW laws, this could...

Charlotte Wheatley

Leaving the car at home and cycling down to the local pub might seem like a way to avoid a drink driving charge. However under NSW laws, this could get you in trouble too.

In NSW a bicycle is considered a vehicle and as such, drink driving restrictions apply.

What is a vehicle?

A vehicle is defined in the Road Transport Act 2013 as meaning any description of vehicle on wheels. Bicycles fall within this definition and cyclists are required to obey the law, in the same way they apply to vehicles.

Could I be charged with low, mid or high range drink driving?

Low range, mid range, and high range drink driving offences specifically apply to motor vehicles and do not apply to standard bicycles.

However there is an offence of using a vehicle under the influence of alcohol (section 112 of the Road Transport Act). A vehicle included a bicycle, meaning cyclist can be charged with using or attempting to use their bicycle under the influence of alcohol or any other drug.

The maximum penalty for a first offence is $2,200 and/or 9 months imprisonment. If convicted for cycling while drunk, the court could also impose a disqualification period from holding a driver licence. The automatic period of disqualification is 12 months, and the minimum period is 6 months.

If a cyclist has had a previous drink driving offence in the past five years, the maximum penalty is $3,300 and or 12 months imprisonment. The automatic disqualification period is 3 years, and the minimum disqualification is 12 months.

Breath testing

The power to conduct random breath tests by police is provided for in Schedule 3 of the Road Transport Act 2013. However these powers only relate to motor vehicles, and do not apply to cyclists.

It is arguable that police have no specific power to random breath test a cyclist, there are provisions to collect and use blood samples if a cyclist is admitted to hospital following an accident.

An accident is defined as taking place on a road and involving a motor vehicle, or other vehicle, or a horse. Where a cyclist is admitted to hospital following a collision, a medical practitioner is under a duty to take a blood sample. The blood sample may then be used for the purpose of conducting an analysis. If the sample reflects the presence of alcohol or drugs, a charge of using a vehicle under the influence could subsequently follow.

Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice and should not be relied on as legal advice. The information provided is the opinion of the author. You should seek individual legal advice about your particular matter and this information is not to be relied on.