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March 03, 2006

Effort to Decriminalize Drunken Bicycling in S. Dakota

Oh, and that goes for drunken horse riding, too! Hic!

This is a story from late January:

South Dakotans on both sides of the issue take it very seriously.

HB1190, according to Rep. Tom Hennies, is designed to make sure people who don't get behind the wheel after drinking aren't punished for finding a safer transportation option.

Someone must certainly be drunk in the Legislature if they think riding a Bike while drunk is safe.

He explained that the legislation - a holdover from a failed bill to overhaul the state's criminal code two years ago - was not about giving people the right to ride drunk, but rather about stopping drunken driving.

"We have had people that were prosecuted for fourth time DUI on a bicycle - you can go to state penitentiary for five years on a fourth-time DUI," Hennies said. "We've got to have better sense than that."

I'm all for having bettern sense.

Better sense than to ride a Bicycle while intoxicated.

Friends don't let friends pedal while drunk, or something like that. ;-D

At least 1 person in the state understands the problem:

Chad Pickard, who owns the Spoke N Sport bicycle shop, says he understands the good intentions behind the legislation but thinks taking away the legal status of bicycles on state roads spells trouble for cyclists.

"It's not so much an objection to the bill. The issue is that there's someone who wants to get people who are drunk off of vehicles into a safer setting ... we appreciate that," Pickard said.

But, he asked, "What's going to happen if you take your bike out south of town, and someone runs into you? If you don't have any rights, what happens?"

Pickard said he was concerned that if cyclists have no legal right to be on the highway, insurance companies will refuse to pay claims in an accident. Cyclists struggle for rights on South Dakota's highways every day, he said.

Good points!

Hennies said he's heard from cycling advocates on the issue.

"I have answered them all, and they're wrong," he said. "They just won't accept the answer. It's not a motor vehicle. They'll still be subject to the laws inside any city."

He said he might revise the bill to make it clear that it does not affect riders on state highways or change the rights they currently have to be on the road.

"We're looking at trying to clarify this for them," he said. "This will not make them less safe."

Any law that gives cyclists the notion that they can ride while drunk, even if only in certain locations, would, it seems to me put those cyclists at potential risk.

Pickard disagrees ( with Hennies ), saying the law could have unintended consequences years from now.

"I know for a fact that this law is not designed to do anything to cyclists, but (legislators) don't have much control over what lawyers say tomorrow," he said. "This law is a step in the wrong direction.

"They are taking away the rights of cyclists by taking away the bicycle's vehicle status," he said. "In the cities we're OK, but ... there's a ride almost every weekend that happens out on our highways."

ARGUS LEADER ( 1/31 ): Cyclists fear aftereffect of drunken bicycling bill by Nestor Ramos.

***UPDATES - 3/4/06***

2/1/06 -- KELOLAND TV:

SD Senate Approves Horse/Bicycle DUI Measure:

South Dakota lawmakers think it's better to have drunks on horses and bikes instead of behind the wheel.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill today that will remove horses and bikes from drunken driving laws, meaning intoxicated people who either pedal or spur their way home cannot be arrested for drunken driving.

Bicyclists worried that the measure would prevent them from riding on roads because it would remove bikes from the legal definition of vehicles.

Legislators changed that today after being flooded with messages from bike riders.

The bill now goes to the state Senate floor.

2/07/06 -- KELOLAND TV:

Horse AND Bike DUI Bill Advances:

A bill that would prevent bicycle and horse riders from being prosecuted under drunken driving laws cleared the South Dakota Senate.

It was passed earlier by the House, but must be returned because of Senate changes.

Senator Lee Schoenbeck says it doesn't make sense to charge people with drunken driving when they're on horses or bikes.

He says penalties for drunken driving should be saved for those who operate cars and trucks because they are real threats to other motorists.

Senator John Koskan of Wood disagrees. He says horses can cause serious accidents.

[ Well, at least ONE Senator was thinking straight!

A bicycle, at even 5 miles an hour impacts even a PARKED car  pretty hard.

Trust me, I know. I got 2 damaged front teeth, and temporary hand, arm, and shoulder, nerve damage from an accident in the late 80's caused when I tied to avoid a Van whose driver could not decide whether to make a Left Turn, or a U-turn. ]

2/16/06 -- KELOLAND TV:

Rounds Signs Horse, Bicycle DUI Bill Into Law:

Starting July first, South Dakota bar owners may want to install hitching posts and bike racks out front. That's when a new law takes effect that insulates bike and horse riders from being arrested for drunken driving.

Governor Rounds signed the legislation. The measure removes bikes, trikes, and horses from drunken driving statutes.

Legislators offered the bill as part of an effort to update the state criminal code.

3/5/06 -- From Darren Weisz by e-mail:

You can read all about the Bill at Spoke-n-Sport, including Daily Updates.

-Darren

***END UPDATES***

March 3, 2006 in Life on the Street: Local, and state Laws, and other topics | Permalink

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Comments

I can't tell you how silly, and hillbilly, this makes my State of SD sound.

As the story goes, it all stemmed from a guy riding his horse home, and he received a DWI.

A horse, or bike, is not cool behind a drunk.

It is crazy that we feel sorry for a drunk on horse, or bike.

If they have enough money to spend at the bar they can line up a ride home, or walk home.

Anyways, somehow the cyclist got included in the bill.

We fought to change the wording that a cyclist is no longer considered a vehicle, and we had the bill's wording changed.

Posted by: Darren Weisz | Mar 4, 2006 6:31:06 PM

Thanks for stopping by, Darren, and good for you on the wording change!

Posted by: Kiril Kundurazieff | Mar 4, 2006 9:33:04 PM

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