Can I lose my license if I drink alcohol and ride a bike?

Updated: Apr 28

There is something nice about rolling to your local pub on your favourite 'pub bike' opting to save some money from taking paid transport or risking driving the car out for a few drinks. A good 'pub bike' is functional and safe yet it doesn't catch the eye of thieves when you leave it chained to a pole outside.


Riding home from a few drinks may be free but there are risks and potential consequences if you have 1 too many. This may be getting stopped by the police or worse, involved in an accident injuring yourself or someone else.


This is one of our most asked questions on tour. At Newy Rides, we don't encourage riding bikes whilst intoxicated. 


Each state and territory tackle this topic differently, here we unpack what we know.




BOOZE & BIKES - IS IT THE SMARTEST CHOICE?

The risks of drinking then driving a car is well documented - sadly it's one of the biggest killers in this country. There is a very real correlation with driving drunk and riding a bike with alcohol in your system:


  • Lowering inhibition, likelihood to take more risks

  • Lower ability to concentrate including reduced reaction time

  • Judgement of distance and speed is impaired


These things might not seem like a big deal but keep in mind you are sharing the road with other road users including motorists, other cyclists and pedestrians. 


WHAT ABOUT THE LAW?

Having a few drinks and jumping on your bike exposes you to physical risk however drunk cycling isn't viewed in the same light as operating a car (mainly because the risk to others is relatively low).


Let's be clear - cycling whilst drunk is illegal


New South Wales

Laws in New South Wales consider the bicycle a vehicle meaning that drink driving restrictions apply. We interpret Road Transport Act 2013 meaning that low to high range drink driving offences don’t apply, however riders can be charged with using (or attempting) a bicycle under the influence of alcohol.


Penalties for a first offence is up to $2,200 and/or 9 months imprisonment.The kicker here is if you're convicted you can also lose your driving license for up to 12 months. If you have a prior history of drink driving you will be dealt a harsher penalty.


Strangely, a police officer doesn't have the authority to do a breath test (only applicable to motor vehicles). A blood sample can be taken if you're injured and end up in the ER.


South Australia

South Australia laws considers riding a bike while intoxicated an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1961. This is the same offence as driving a vehicle while drunk, however the penalty is less than $500.00 so doesn't carry the same weight. 


Queensland

If caught, Queenlanders are dealt a harsher penalty with a maximum of $4,400 fine and/or 9 months in prison saying that those under the influence of liquor attempting to put any vehicle in motion is guilty of an offence.


Victoria

In Victoria the laws are pretty old school, from ye old days, classed under ‘Drunk in charge of a carriage’. If charged, you would owe approximately $1,400 (or 2 months in gaol).


Likewise with NSW, the Police can't breath test you and your driving license won't be touched.


Western Australia

If you list in WA, they have a more specific bicycle law, the Road Traffic Code 2000 states that: “A person shall not on any road or path… ride a bicycle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the bicycle.”


The fine is approximately $200.00


Tasmania

Our Taswegian mates view riding under the influence the same way if you were drink-driving, the penalty being the same as a motor vehicle.


Northern Territory

There is no mention of cyclists and drink driving laws in the NT. I'm sure if you're a menace on the road in the Top End, the Police will treat you with their own discretion.


ACT

Cyclists in Canberra are not subject to the penalties that apply to motor vehicles.


Instead the law states: 


“A person must not drive or ride a vehicle or animal on a road, or be in charge of a vehicle or animal on a road, while under the influence of alcohol.”


Simply put, don't load up on tinnies and try and ride an elephant at the zoo. 





BUT WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

A trip to hospital will likely mean you will have a blood sample taken (especially if other people are harmed). In most states above, the Police cannot take a breath test from you, and the laws that apply to motor vehicles don't apply to the humble bicycle.


Important: You can lose your driving license if caught riding drunk in Tasmania or New South Wales


The Police may choose to charge you for other traffic offences if others as harmed and property is damaged - regardless of the alcohol laws in that state or territory


Remember, bikes don't come with airbags and the decision to have a few and jump on the bike may seem like a bit of harmless fun but things don't always go to plan. 


Make smart decisions when getting home from the pub and if you do decide to ride your bike, limit your alcohol intake, make sure you have bright front and rear lights, wear a helmet and take the quiet streets home.


ALCOHOL AND NEWY RIDES

Newy Rides provides all-inclusive experiences and from time-to-time we visit breweries and distilleries to show off Newcastle's best producers.


Being in NSW, we take riding bikes and alcohol very seriously by limiting the amount available (less than 1 standard drink per hour). We believe if we apply the same thought-pattern as we would a motor vehicle, we can keep our guests and the public safe. We ensure our guests are not intoxicated prior to the tour and make sure our bikes are operated in a safe and controlled fashion at all times.


Keen to join us for a ride - our popular 'The Essentials x The 'Burbs' tour has your name on it


Disclaimer: Do not take this article as a source of truth, whilst we have done some research, information changes and it is up to you to do your own due diligence.

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