Monday, August 17, 2015

The "Answer" to Drunk Cycling

Equality is a funny thing, isn't it? For example, in the eyes of the law, a bicyclist and the driver of a car have the same right to the road, and have the same responsibilities. They are supposed to be equal. Yet in terms of protection, as in an accident for instance, we cyclists have a distinct disadvantage to cars with their thousands of pounds of sheetmetal and airbags, etc. On the other hand, when it comes to their ability to inflict damage on other people and property, obviously a car is capable of much more carnage. To many non-cyclists the answer to that little de-facto inequality is simple - make all cyclists wear a 6-oz. foam hat, and then they don't have to do anything to curtail the rights of drivers to text and watch YouTube videos while driving, or even expect them to pay attention while operating a 2-ton weapon of mass destruction. And then there is the overwhelming attitude of many drivers that bicyclists are 2nd class road users who don't really have the right to be on the road at all, despite what the law may say. So in many ways, we're all equal, except when we're not.

People who don't ride get some stupid notions about cycling and cyclists. And then they come up with stupid products to try to capitalize on that stupidity. And then stupid reviewers try to convince us of their merits.

Take the Alcoho-Lock, for example -- it is a lock that includes a breathalyzer to keep drunk cyclists off the road. That's right. You lock up your bike with the Alcoho-Lock, and then if you've been drinking, you have to get on your knees, put your mouth up to the lock, and blow. If it detects too much alcohol, the lock refuses to open. Not only that, but it sends a message via the user's smartphone to a family member so that they can either come pick the person up, or chastise them (I'm not sure which).

Of course, the non-cycling reviewers at Gizmodo think it's swell.

"You might chuckle at the idea of a drunk cyclist, but since they often share the road with motorists, they can be just as dangerous as an inebriated driver," their reviewer writes.

Yep -- totally equal. Drunk Cyclist = Drunk Driver.

Mind you, I'm not suggesting anybody should drink and ride any more than they should drink and drive. But just as dangerous as an inebriated driver? Yeah - that's why we see headlines like this all the time: "Drunk Cyclist Leaves Dozens Dead." Also remember that, while it's certainly possible to ride a bike when drunk, basic balance issues probably make it physically harder to do. It's much easier to get behind the wheel of a car under the circumstances.

And you know how you should never read the comments section after an article involving bicycles? Yeah - I made that mistake again:

It happens all the time, doesn't it?

The makers of Alcoho-Lock have a website with a helpful graphic that shows how to end the plague of drunk riding:

And a video to show the merits of the product. It opens with shots of a bunch of hip-looking urban riders in Japan, all out riding at night (all on their way to get rip-roaring drunk, apparently):

"Under normal circumstances, bicycles are really fun to ride."
Note the minimalist lighting, dark clothing, and nary a helmet in sight. Which of these things will get them killed first?
"Unfortunately, more people are becoming less conscious 'drunk-riding'."I'll side-step the less-than-masterful translation from Japanese to English. But "more people are becoming less conscious" of drunk riding? Were people more conscious of it at some previous time?
Get on your knees and pucker up. After a night of heavy drinking, that could be a bad idea.
The Alcoho-Lock communicates with the user's smartphone app (keep that phone charged, or you might not get your lock open!) to give an blood-alcohol-content reading. If the BAC is too high, the lock won't open.
Then your "partner" gets a call. Maybe something like "your waste of a husband just got wasted again"?
That's right - put the kid on the phone to talk to her drunk father.
"Convince cyclist not to drunk-riding." Again, side-stepping the awkward Japanese-to-English translation. Maybe a reader would like to write some dialogue for this uncomfortable conversation?
"I strongly hope you ride safely and not cause any accidents," says a bike mechanic at the end of the video. Because as we all know, bicycles are the real threat to public safety. 

I just hope that legislators here in the U.S. don't hear about the Alcohol-Lock. They'll be sure to add it to their mandatory helmet laws.


  1. If you gave me that lock, I can guarantee you my friends and I would have a blast trying to break it. And I'm not talking about it's anti left properties.

  2. No amount of alcohol can be as fun as cycling is. Why would you drink and ride, anyway?

    1. Because for some, like me, its the only way to come back from the pub...that and walking.

  3. where is it exactly that the law doesn't do anything to curtail the rights of drivers to text and watch YouTube videos while driving? certainly not where I live.

    1. Many states still do not have "distracted driving" legislation to stop people from texting and driving. Among those that do have such laws, they are often written in such a way that it's almost impossible to enforce. For example, where I live (Ohio), the anti-texting law makes it only a secondary offense, which means police can't pull someone over for it unless the person is also breaking some other law at the same time.

      As far as watching YouTube videos - I was using a bit of hyperbole to make the point, but fact is, if there is no distracted driving law, what really is the difference between texting and watching videos?

  4. This is just another stupid "bike" idea by somebody that doesn't ride a bike. I can't see it gaining any traction. I don't condone being drunk and getting on the roads in/on any type of vehicle, but I agree with your notion that it's a lot easier to start a car and put it in "drive" than it is to maintain your balance on a bike if you're intoxicated. A lot of comments I've seen on this hunk of junk talks about adults being on bikes only because they lost their licenses due to DUIs. Nonsense.

    I'd be willing to bet good money that you can't drive past 3 cars and not find a person looking at their phone. It's an epidemic of distracted drivers, and it's not only dangerous to cyclists, but other drivers, too.
    I've seen drivers reading books/newspapers (yes, really), eating food, cigarette in one hand and phone in the other (uh, how are they steering?), doing makeup/hair, etc in addition to pecking at phones while driving. While I can't claim 100% innocence, I do try to be mindful. If I get a call while I'm driving, I will either not answer (if i'm in busy traffic), answer and tell the person that I'll call them back, or pull over if it's convenient. Yes, I really do. I'm a bit of a stickler about it if I'm riding with somebody else, too. After a nearly fatal accident, I'm kind of a dick about it, to be honest (and blunt).

    Slight branching of topic: I'm not a fan of "Pub Rides" out on the streets because I do worry about those that are trying to get wasted. I do, however, join in a group ride on a separated bike path on nice summer Friday nights that has a drink stop mid-route of 20-30 miles. It's mostly a group of runners/riders/ triathletes that don't want to sit in a bar or restaurant, and it's kind of social event for an otherwise very-active group of people. The point isn't getting drunk, but more of a forced "enjoyable ride" rather than a flogging training ride that most of them do the rest of the week. We do have an annual "Pub Run" where we run a 5-ish mile route between 3-4 bars and we have a beer at each stop, and dinner somewhere along the way. It's a fun group, we arrange for volunteers to (soberly) handle any driving if needed, and in many years of these activities I can't even recall a skinned knee. So anti-alcohol watch-doggery isn't always needed. There are some people in the world that can enjoy responsibly.


  5. These past two posts have been wonderful for getting my cantankerous on. Thanks, Retrogrouch! :-)

  6. Yes, a really stupid idea. It takes skill and co-ordination to ride a bike, which precludes a dangerously drunk person from doing so. Cars are a different story, because today they're designed to be idiot proof, or more precisely, idiot friendly. Some years ago a friend tried to ride home from a bar drunk. He had no luck, so he decided to walk his bike home. Even then he had a hard time because it turns out he was trying to walk with one foot in the sidewalk and the other in the gutter. He's lucky he didn't get caught and nailed for being drunk in a public place. The police here in Ontario like to catch drunks walking home and throw them in jail and beat them up.

  7. How many "pub crawls" are done on bicycles? Hmm....Maybe I have to spend more time in Williamsburg and Bushwick.

    Seriously, though, you make a great point about distracted driving: In many places, there are no laws against it, while in the places that have them, the laws aren't enforced.

    I can't help but to think about poor Tom Palermo, run down by a drunk driver who was texting.

    1. Yeah - Tom's story was awful. Drunk AND Texting. And I could be mistaken, but I believe he was even wearing a helmet at the time.