Simon Usborne: Why do so many of us take a softer approach to pedalling drunk?

Cyclotherapy
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The Independent Online

It’s a dilemma I face most Friday nights when, looking incongruous in my shorts and clippy-cloppy shoes at the poncy pub round the corner from work, someone asks, “Shall I get the next one?”. Inevitably the response from my Underground-bound workmates is “yes”. So I have a second beer. Quite often I’ll say yes again before I hit my drink cycling limit of three pints and ride home.

Either this scenario sounds familiar and you sympathise or you’re horrified I’d consider cycling on so much beer. After all, I wouldn’t dream of driving after three pints. So why do so many of us take a softer approach to pedalling under the influence, which more often evokes images of ruddy Frenchmen wobbling past vineyards than shattered bones and dead children?

I can ride a steady line on three pints. I take more care and have even reasoned that I’m better off riding faster; I’m more stable the quicker I go – like a gyroscope. Years ago, I had imbibed considerably more than my limit one night when I had my only drinkrelated bike accident. Balancing at a deserted junction, I toppled over and grazed my jaw. It was stupid, but I’d only damaged myself.

But these are the defences of the indefensible drunk driver, aren’t they? After three pints I am undoubtedly less steady on my wheels and surely slower to react to other road users. A couple of years ago, a friend of a colleague lost a drunken punch-up with a truck at a notorious London roundabout. He’s not laughing, he’s paralysed from the neck down.

Am I breaking the law? It’s an offence to be “under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle” but there’s no legal limit and you’re not obliged take a breath test. The police have to make the call. Unless you’ve committed some other crime, you’ll probably get a £30 fine and be told to walk it off.

Without the deterrent, the stigma or adequate figures on drink cycling accidents, it’s up to the individual to know his limits. Should I just say no to the third, second or even first pint? Have you had a run-in with a copper or come a cropper after a few too many? Let me know by e-mail or, better still, leave comments on the blog. s.usborne@independent.co.uk or see independent.co.uk/cyclotherapy

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