Can Bicyclists Be Charged With DUI?

Labor Day Weekend is the last holiday before students return to school. Labor Day is the last holiday of the summer. Labor Day is generally celebrated with family and friends at a BBQ.  The attorneys with Althauser Rayan Abbarno want to remind our community to drive safely, stay alert, and drink responsibly . . . regardless of your mode of transportation!

Bicycling is a popular form of commute in Washington. In SW Washington , the Tenino – Yelm Trail, Willapa Trail, and Seattle To Portland Bicycle Ride have put our region on the map for great rides.  It is no surprise that Washington has been honored with the title as the country’s number one “Bicycle Friendly State” by the League of American Bicyclists.

Can a person be charged with DUI by riding a bike under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

No. Although the Legislature included bicycles in its definition of “vehicle,” and the DUI statute uses the term “vehicle,” the court reversed the conviction of a person charged with driving a bicycle under the influence, finding that “neither legislative intent, the statutory scheme, nor public policy support the conclusion that RCW 46.61.502 was intended to apply to bicyclists

Bicycles may technically be vehicles, but they are not vehicles in the meaning of the law when it comes to operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Washington’s Supreme Court made sure of the same in its decision in City of Montesano v. Wells.

Daniel Wells was convicted of a DUI emanating from an incident while riding his bicycle. After his conviction, he appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which found that the law applied only to “motor” vehicles and that there was no intention of it applying to a bicycle, a non-motor vehicle.

This does not mean a bicyclist won’t be cited for “public intoxication in RCW 70.96A” or “disorderly conduct in RCW 9A.84”.  If a bicyclist is intoxicated pursuant to RCW 46.61, a law enforcement officer may also detain the rider and hold the bicyclist in protective custody.

Safety on a Bike

Just because operating a bicycle after having a drink may not get you arrested, you should still practice safety.

That said, there are laws related to Bicycles, locally and state-wide:

  • Wear a helmet;Althauser Rayan Abbarno Injury Attorneys in Olympia and Centralia.
  • Bicyclists have all rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers while they bike on roads. If you ride on the road, you are subject to the same rights and responsibilities that automobile drivers are subject to. If you don’t abide by those rules, you could be ticketed;
  • You can cycle on the shoulder or in a bike lane. Wherever you feel more comfortable or safe, you can cycle on a path, bike lane, shoulder, or travel lane; and
  • If traveling at night, you must use a white front light and a red rear reflector. The white front light must be visible for 500 feet. A red rear light may be used, too, but it can only be used in conjunction with the required red rear reflector.

Free Consultation in Olympia or Centralia

The attorneys and staff wish you and your family a safe and happy Labor Day Weekend. We hope you don’t need us; however, our attorneys will be available to speak with by calling (360) 736-1301 or visiting

Althauser Rayan Abbarno has offices in Olympia and Centralia and offer FREE Consultations for DUI, Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, Car Accidents, and Workplace Injuries (L&I).