Drinking and cycling is dangerous, we all know that. Still, the majority of Dutch cyclists ride home under influence of alcohol after a night out. No less than 68% exceed the legal alcohol limit. This is the outcome of recent research by the University of Groningen and the National Institute for Scientific Road Safety Research in the Netherlands (SWOV).
Don't drink and drive! Photo © Holland-Cycling.com
Cycling under the influence of alcohol (= Blood Alcohol Content higher than 0,5 promille) is illegal in Holland. Fines for this offence start at 140 euros, but can be higher if you cause danger to other traffic users. All Dutch cyclists are expected to know the rules, but do they actually adhere to them?
It was already known that 20% of adolescent cyclists who end up in hospital after a night out, have been drinking. But now, for the first time, alcohol use amongst cyclists has actually been measured. For this research, 914 cyclists in the centre of The Hague and Groningen were asked to take part in an alcohol test - voluntarily. Around a quarter of them declined.
At the beginning of their night out, at 6 p.m., only 7.7% of the cyclists were found to have alcohol in their blood - all of them were still within the legal limits. However, after 1 a.m. the percentage of cyclists who had been drinking rocketed to 89%. And 68% of them had a blood alcohol content higher than 0,5 promille and shouldn't have been taking part in traffic at all.
How worried are the Dutch about these figures? The Dutch feel very strongly about drunken motorists putting other people's lives at risk. Somehow they seem to be less concerned about drinking and cycling: if things go wrong, a drunken cyclists is likely to do much less harm... There's even understanding for a drunken cyclist who needs to get home after a night out.
"What's the alternative?" asks Dick de Waard, researcher at the University of Groningen. "Of course you don't want them to get into their cars. You could suggest taking a taxi, or walking, although officially that's illegal as well. In any case, it shows that when motorists ride through town at night, they need to watch out when they see cyclists."
Many Dutch cyclists claim not to know that that the alcohol limit also applies to them. Maybe the most shocking thing about these figures is that nobody really seems to care...
Source: Fietsersbond (in Dutch)