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Cyclists in Queensland, Australia to face random breath tests to ascertain if they are riding while drunk?

Proposals would also apply to electric scooter riders – plus, we summarise the position in the UK

Cyclists in Queensland, Australia, as well as e-scooter riders, could face being randomly breath tested for excess levels of alcohol under plans put forward by the state government.

Current laws mean that police in the state, who are permitted to carry out random breath tests on drivers of motor vehicles, are unable do so on people travelling by bicycle or e-scooter, reports ABC Radio Brisbane.

The media outlet says that the state’s Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) will hold a consultation before any change to the law is implemented.

A TMR spokesperson said: “Before progressing any changes, consultation will be undertaken with key stakeholders and the community, including vulnerable road user groups.

“This work forms part of the Personal Mobility Safety Action Plan, which was released in mid-2022.”

While riders of bikes or e-scooters in Brisbane and elsewhere in Queensland cannot currently be asked to undertake a random breath test, they can be arrested, breathalysed and potentially fined should a police officer believe that they are under the influence of alcohol.

“Queensland police can and have enforced [penalties for] drink riding,” the spokesperson explained.

“Additionally, drinking alcohol while riding is an offence carrying an on-the-spot fine of $464.”

Mark Ryan, the state’s Police Minister, said that while random breath testing on drivers fell within the responsibility of the TMR, which would ultimately decide whether the law should be changed, he had asked the Queensland Police Service to discuss potentially extending it to other road users with the department.

As with many other subject areas, legislation surrounding e-scooters in Australia varies depending on the state or territory.

In Queensland, where new laws were introduced last year including setting speed limits, both private and hire e-scooters may be ridden.

In New South Wales, however, private e-scooters are banned from public roads, but trials of e-scooter hire schemes are being carried out in a number of areas – similar to the situation within the UK – and like here, riders of e-scooters, who are required to hold a driving licence, can face a ban and fine if found riding drunk.

In 2021, our sister site eBikeTips reported how the rider of an e-scooter was banned from driving for 12 months after he crashed in London’s Hyde Park, the impact also resulting in a broken leg for his dog, which he was carrying at the time.

> Drunk e-scooter rider (and salesman) handed 12-month driving ban after breaking his dog’s leg in fall

Ramin Jabbari, who at the time was an electric scooter salesman, was breathalysed by police due to his slurred speech and apparent confusion, and was found to have 50 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath with the legal limit being 35.

Appearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, he was also fined £285 and agreed to undertake a driver rehabilitation course.

So far as cycling while intoxicated is concerned, the law firm Slater & Gordon summarises the position as follows: “It is illegal to ride your bike under the influence of drink or drugs, and you would be guilty of this if you were unfit to ride to such an extent as you are incapable of having proper control of the bicycle.

“You would be committing an offence whether you were on a footpath or on the road.

“Although it is an offence to cycle under the influence of alcohol, a police officer cannot force you to provide a breath, blood or urine sample. They can ask, but if you refuse and are subsequently charged with cycling under the influence, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) wouldn’t be allowed to use your refusal as evidence against you.”

The maximum penalty is £1,000, but as a non-driving offence, conviction would have no effect on the status of the cyclist’s driving licence, should they have one.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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52 comments

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Scarey | 3 months ago
1 like

Many of the comments seem to miss the real point about driver/rider control legislation; many drivers and riders consider themselves absolutely entitled, rather than conditionally priveledged, if they could only honestly consider they need to be absolutely responsible. Laws only attempt to force us to be responsible in a world where irresponsibility is 'cool'; expletive deleted! Drink driving/riding, like other law breaking, only proves you an irresponsible idiot, accept that once and for all!

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Aussie Rider | 3 months ago
1 like

I live in one of the more southern states and not in Queensland. I would suggest that there target for this new law is riders of scooters and ebikes which can cause a bit of damage in a collision with a pedestrian, which is becoming an issue anyway even without a rider being drunk.

It is fairly common that when a driver looses there licence, for speeding and/or drinking they get an ebike or scooter to get around.

Also there a lot of tourists in Queensland that my hire scooters and ebikes rather than a car to get around and of course when on holidays you may have a drink or 3.

BTW having random breath tests, as well as drug tests (via a saliva swab) have been a fact of life in Australia for many years. I now live in the countryside and don't do a lot of driving in a private vehicle but would go through a random breath test at least 3 - 4 times a year. Also the police at a 'booze bus' will also check licence plates for unregistered vehicles and possibly unlicensed drivers.

 

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Hirsute | 3 months ago
2 likes

Watch out because (chief) inspector Kevin Smith of this parish is out tonight

"Will be out there tonight on the front lines making sure people have a safe Friday before Christmas. Obviously some drivers will end up being breathalysed so I hope they are intending for to remain on the good list. After all, there only 3 more sleeps ‘til Christmas."

 
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mitsky | 3 months ago
2 likes

"Current laws mean that police in the state, who are permitted to carry out random breath tests on drivers of motor vehicles..."

Wait. What?

They can?

And when was the last time they (or any police force, anwhere) did this?

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Rendel Harris replied to mitsky | 3 months ago
2 likes

mitsky wrote:

"Current laws mean that police in the state, who are permitted to carry out random breath tests on drivers of motor vehicles..."

Wait. What?

They can?

And when was the last time they (or any police force, anwhere) did this?

All European countries except Germany and Malta carry out random breathalyser tests, I've certainly seen it happen quite a lot in France and Spain. In those two countries, approximately 10% of motorists are subjected to random breathalyser tests at least once a year, in Estonia it's a massive 57%.

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mitsky replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
1 like

This is news to me.
Never seen or heard of it before.  4

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mark1a replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
2 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

All European countries except Germany and Malta carry out random breathalyser tests, I've certainly seen it happen quite a lot in France and Spain. In those two countries, approximately 10% of motorists are subjected to random breathalyser tests at least once a year, in Estonia it's a massive 57%.

There is random breath testing in Germany - and none in Ireland and Luxembourg (plus Malta as you say). 

However, its academic really. In the UK, you can be asked to give a breath sample if you've been in an accident, committed a traffic offence, or - "if an officer thinks you've been drinking" (in other words, whenever they feel like asking for a test), and it was like this even before random breath testing was introduced. The issue is, there are no road policing unit traffic patrols to speak of, so there is little or no deterrent for the type of people who think it's OK to drink and drive. Apart from the laughable July & December month-long high profile blitz that some forces do, the only way people are caught is if they've been in an accident. 

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mitsky replied to mark1a | 3 months ago
1 like

Definitely no deterrent for these two...
https://youtu.be/hw071PAofHQ

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mattw replied to mark1a | 3 months ago
3 likes

Correct.

And in the UK traffic police have been cut by 75% in numbers since 2000.

Our drink drive limits are so high that drunk drivers 50% over the limit anywhere else in Europe (except Malta) are legal to drive in England and Wales.

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rxpell replied to mitsky | 3 months ago
4 likes

They do it  Australia. I've been RBT'd a couple of times when driving a car there.  They just set up a road block, stop every car and every driver has to do a breathalyzer. Good system IMHO.

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stonojnr replied to mitsky | 3 months ago
2 likes

In Queensland probably quite often, though its a big place, 7 times larger than the UK, but the hire car places warn tourists not to drive at night, to avoid hitting the wildlife, but also the drink drivers.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 3 months ago
3 likes

Man the Australian authorities do not like cyclists hey? Why not just go the whole hog, licence, MOT, insurance, get it fecking done my aussie friends. It's only fair... why shouldn't child raping, tax dodging, lycra nazi dogs be subjected to the same rules / constraints as decent motor vehicle driving citizens? 

Personally speaking however, I think the existing rules have this nicely covered. As already mentioned, if you are too drunk to effectively control a bike, you are going to be swiftly found out. There is a distinct difference between the level of functionality required to balance a bike, pedal etc. than to sit in a car and press the go pedal. Not to mention the significant difference in the amount of damage done. 

 

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Rendel Harris replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 3 months ago
2 likes

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Personally speaking however, I think the existing rules have this nicely covered. As already mentioned, if you are too drunk to effectively control a bike, you are going to be swiftly found out.

Most people who drink even semi-regularly would be perfectly capable of effectively controlling a bike whilst over the alcohol limit for driving but would have their reaction times and risk perception capabilities severely impaired. Do we really want to set the bar for being safe/acceptable to ride when drinking on the road "anything up to not being able actually to ride your bike"?

I really don't see why this issue always becomes whataboutery about how shit motorists are and also compared to forcing cyclists to have licences, wear helmets et cetera. Wearing a helmet, for example, is (and should remain) a matter of personal choice and that choice definitely won't affect anyone but the rider; riding drunk on the roads is bloody stupid, risks endangering others and is frankly, in my opinion, inexcusable. Saying that is not an attack on cyclists, it's an attack on anyone who chooses to use any vehicle on the public roads when impaired by alcohol (and for the record I would be fully in favour of a much higher level of random breathalysing of motorists and if I had my way every motorcar would have an alcohol interlock device preventing anyone from starting the engine if they were over the limit).

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
1 like

Rendel Harris wrote:

Most people who drink even semi-regularly would be perfectly capable of effectively controlling a bike whilst over the alcohol limit for driving but would have their reaction times and risk perception capabilities severely impaired. Do we really want to set the bar for being safe/acceptable to ride when drinking on the road "anything up to not being able actually to ride your bike"?

The "bar" for cycling on the road should be that you're in control of the bike and not endangering others. Putting the bar higher could easily mean banning children from riding on the roads and I think that's a terrible indictment of our infrastructure if traffic is deemed to dangerous for kids to ride in.

There's also the idea of damage limitation - maybe we should encourage people to cycle back from the pub as otherwise they might be tempted to drive.

Ultimately, I can't see that breathalysing cyclists is going to solve any problem that can't be handled by a copper stopping a drunk cyclist and telling them to get off and push.

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Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
0 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

The "bar" for cycling on the road should be that you're in control of the bike and not endangering others. Putting the bar higher could easily mean banning children from riding on the roads

 

I absolutely agree, and in my opinion if your hazard perception, reaction times and risk awareness are impaired by the fact that you are over the legal alcohol limit for driving then you are a danger to others. I don't quite see what this has got to do with children riding on roads at all, I'm talking about the bar for alcohol consumption when riding, not anything else.

hawkinspeter wrote:

Ultimately, I can't see that breathalysing cyclists is going to solve any problem that can't be handled by a copper stopping a drunk cyclist and telling them to get off and push.

Because without some meaningful sanction we all know that the drunk cyclist will wait until the copper is out of sight and get back on the bike. It's not about punishing people for riding when drunk, it's about deterring them from doing so in the first place, and I don't think being told to get off your bike and push it round the corner until you're out of sight of the police is much of a deterrent.

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wycombewheeler replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
8 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

I'm talking about the bar for alcohol consumption

that's where all the problems start. Consuming alcohol in the bar

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
2 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

I absolutely agree, and in my opinion if your hazard perception, reaction times and risk awareness are impaired by the fact that you are over the legal alcohol limit for driving then you are a danger to others. I don't quite see what this has got to do with children riding on roads at all, I'm talking about the bar for alcohol consumption when riding, not anything else.

I consider that a kid wobbling along on the road to be roughly equivalent to a very drunk adult cycling - that's why I compare the two.

I think it would be excellent if we saw a fleet of drunk cyclists heading along the roads at closing time. Maybe have people place bets on which ones are about to fall off or crash into each other.

Sorry - I don't think drunk cycling is really a problem, whereas drunks walking/staggering arguably present more danger to other people by getting into fights etc. A drunk on a bike is nicely preoccupied and unlikely to start harrassing others.

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Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
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hawkinspeter wrote:

I consider that a kid wobbling along on the road to be roughly equivalent to a very drunk adult cycling - that's why I compare the two.

Well if the kid was wobbling all along the road I wouldn't risk taking them out in traffic until they had more control, would you? Being able to ride in a straight line is something of a pre-requisite, I'd say.

hawkinspeter wrote:

Sorry - I don't think drunk cycling is really a problem, whereas drunks walking/staggering arguably present more danger to other people by getting into fights etc. A drunk on a bike is nicely preoccupied and unlikely to start harrassing others.

Well, our experiences differ, my experience of coming home late on a Friday or Saturday night in London, either on a bike (sober) or on the bus (not so sober) is that a sizable minority of cyclists around that time are quite obviously riding impaired through alcohol and presenting considerable dangers to themselves, pedestrians and other cyclists and increasing the likelihood of motor vehicle incidents as drivers try to avoid them.

As for fighting, drunk cyclists are definitely more likely to engage in fights in my experience, a number of times I've seen incidents where drivers or pedestrians have shouted at a clearly impaired cyclist for dangerous behaviour and the cyclist has got off and fronted up to them. Aggressive drunken arseholes are aggressive drunken arseholes, whether walking, cycling or in a car.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
3 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

Well if the kid was wobbling all along the road I wouldn't risk taking them out in traffic until they had more control, would you? Being able to ride in a straight line is something of a pre-requisite, I'd say.

Straight-ish line maybe. Other traffic should be required to cope with cyclists having to avoid potholes and other road hazards, so some wobbling should be perfectly safe, especially if they're accompanied by other cyclists.

Rendel HArris wrote:

As for fighting, drunk cyclists are definitely more likely to engage in fights in my experience, a number of times I've seen incidents where drivers or pedestrians have shouted at a clearly impaired cyclist for dangerous behaviour and the cyclist has got off and fronted up to them. Aggressive drunken arseholes are aggressive drunken arseholes, whether walking, cycling or in a car.

Complete disagree - when a drunk cyclist gets off their bike, then they become a drunk pedestrian. I'm not having you skew the drunk cyclist fighting stats.

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Rendel Harris replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
3 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

Complete disagree - when a drunk cyclist gets off their bike, then they become a drunk pedestrian. I'm not having you skew the drunk cyclist fighting stats.

laugh yes

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
2 likes

And vice versa- they can always get back on the bike!

Also thinking back as an underage drinker I was coming to grief much more often when pie-eyed than when so later in life (as were my peers). And (shamefully though) only once in a bike *.

So we should be showing the Australians what sensible, proportionate public policy looks like. And breath-testing everyone driving**, cycling or walking who looks older than 12, say.

* Friends don't let friends walk drunk. The statistics speak for themselves.

** Drunk drivers sometimes swap with a passenger to dodge the law you say? Test everyone in the vehicle!

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Oldfatgit replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
1 like

[Snip] Straight-ish line maybe. Other traffic should be required to cope with cyclists having to avoid potholes and other road hazards [/snip]

NMOTD is exhibit A ... not to mention your own experiences and the experiences of other cyclists around you.

There is a portion of society that feels that "should" and "must" are for others to follow.
Unfortunately, quite a few of these drive vehicles.

There ain't no fecking way I'd put the lives of my kids in the hands of some moronic stranger who only just has the mental capacity to grunt.

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Brauchsel replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
1 like

"The "bar" for cycling on the road should be that you're in control of the bike and not endangering others."

People texting while driving (or indeed drink-drivers) are, for the large majority of the time they're doing it, in control of their cars and not endangering others. The problem comes when something unexpected happens, and their perception and reaction times are not good enough to prevent it turning into a collision. Which is why we legislate against people doing it: we should stop far more motorists of course, but that doesn't mean that pissed/drugged cyclists are not a danger to themselves and others. 

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hawkinspeter replied to Brauchsel | 3 months ago
2 likes

Brauchsel wrote:

"The "bar" for cycling on the road should be that you're in control of the bike and not endangering others."

People texting while driving (or indeed drink-drivers) are, for the large majority of the time they're doing it, in control of their cars and not endangering others. The problem comes when something unexpected happens, and their perception and reaction times are not good enough to prevent it turning into a collision. Which is why we legislate against people doing it: we should stop far more motorists of course, but that doesn't mean that pissed/drugged cyclists are not a danger to themselves and others. 

Yes, phone use whilst driving is more about the lack of attention they are paying to their surroundings rather than their control of the vehicle, but that's exacerbated by the nature of cars - they insulate drivers from their surroundings anyway, which is why they need to use mirrors etc. Cyclists are unlikely to become that divorced from their surroundings as there's a minimum level of attention required just to keep balanced.

I wonder what the actual stats are for drunken/drugged cyclists causing harm to others?

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
0 likes

You'll need to look carefully...

https://robertweetman.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/just-one-year/

Same again but bears repeating. Now - were most of those few dots intoxicated / wrong'uns? IIRC there has been some follow up work done on one of these datasets more recently but can't recall if that recorded this sort of thing.

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Oldfatgit replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
1 like

[Snip] Putting the bar higher could easily mean banning children from riding on the roads [snip]

Children shouldn't be drinking alcohol... 😉

Seriously though .. cargo bikes carrying kids is having prevalence.
It should not be acceptable for a rider to have kids on board their bike, and be over the drink/drug drive limit.

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Car Delenda Est | 3 months ago
4 likes

I wonder if this will be disproportionally enforced on certain social and ethnic groups?

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VIPcyclist replied to Car Delenda Est | 3 months ago
0 likes

A very good point. Given the concentration of cyclists in London and what I see on TV about the Met Police it'd be another weapon in their arsenal.

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Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
3 likes

I'm aware it won't be a popular opinion, but although as fond of a jar as the next chap I really wouldn't mind cyclists being subjected to random breathalysers. Yes, I know all the arguments, cyclists only likely to harm themselves etc, but...firstly, not a bad idea to deter cyclists from harming themselves (in 15% of cyclist fatalities the rider is over the drink drive limit) and also a drunk cyclist may not be involved in accidents but can quite likely cause them: at closing time in London it's really quite scary, especially since the rise of Lime and other hire schemes, to see how many people are mixing with traffic who are quite clearly pretty severely impaired by booze and/or drugs. Riding drunk on the road is a bloody stupid thing to do and I can't see the harm in it being deterred/stopped.

N.B. To forestall (possibly) some criticism, no I don't believe in compulsory helmets, hi-vis or insurance, cycle licences or reg plates...

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HoarseMann replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
4 likes

I think you've got to be careful there. Would you also start breathalysing pedestrians? There are countless cases of drunk pedestrians being run over in the road. The same argument holds there, that they're only a danger to themselves but could cause an 'accident'.

Drunk cycling is self-limiting, there becomes a point if you're that drunk, you wouldn't be able to ride a bike. Yet, people in that state can often still drive a motor vehicle; there are many examples of drunk drivers being pulled over by the police, who are barely able to walk in a straight line.

Then what about penalties? If it's a similar penalty to driving, then why not just do that? There was a case of an e-scooter rider being caught drunk on the Isle of Wight. They got the same penalty (well actually more, 2 year driving ban, 12 month community order) as a driver of a car would typically have got and whilst their riding was stupid and reckless, it was not as dangerous as driving a car and far more comparable to crossing the road without looking as a drunk pedestrian.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-55709565

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