ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

Too drunk to ride? Insights on cyclists’ behaviour and attitudes towards alcohol, drugs and cycling

Johnson, M, Newstead, Stuart, Biegler, P (Peer reviewed)

Drink/Drug Driving


The negative impacts of alcohol and recreational/illegal drugs on cyclist safety are well established. Like all road users, cyclists’ psychomotor and cognitive skills are impeded when intoxicated, however, little is known about attitudes and use of alcohol and drugs among cyclists in Australia. We conducted an in-depth study of cyclists who had crashed and presented to two hospitals in Melbourne, Victoria (n=158). In this analysis, we investigated the prevalence and level of intoxication among cyclists. We also examined attitudes towards cycling when intoxicated or after having consumed recreational/illegal drugs. Clinical tests for alcohol were conducted on 23 cyclists (22 serum levels, 1 breathalyser). None of the participants were tested for recreational/illicit drug use. Of those tested, the majority of cyclists recorded zero levels of alcohol (73.9%); while 3 riders recorded a level of 0.05 or higher (2 records were missing). Participants were asked whether alcohol use would negatively affect riding skills and what level of alcohol was acceptable to ride a bicycle. The majority of participants agreed that cycling riding skills would be negatively affected by both alcohol (97.4%) and recreational/illegal drug (89%) use. The majority of cyclists (95.4%) believed an acceptable alcohol level to ride a bike was either no alcohol (40.4%) or low alcohol (under 0.05: 52.2%). However, 9% reported that they would ride a bike home if impaired by alcohol. Results highlight the need for more data be collected on alcohol and drug use amongst cyclists and that road safety campaigns that address substance use may need to target all road users, including cyclists.