Drunk cycling

The offence of drunk cycling is an interesting feature of the Polish penal landscape as riding a bicycle after drinking alcohol has become a common practice which for many years was severely penalized. The offence was criminalized in Poland in 2000, and sentences ranged from a fine to two years of imprisonment. Łączek (2012) explored this phenomenon and based his analysis on police data from 2011. He concluded that the situation of the drunk cyclists was reminiscent of a witch-hunt. He compared the number of accidents involving drunk drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians and observed that the number of stops, in contravention of Article 178 of the Polish Penal Code, between 2001 and 2010 involving drunk drivers and cyclist were very similar (670 000 and 600 000 respectively). However, it is drunk drivers who pose a significantly higher risk to third parties. While drunk cyclists cause injuries to other parties only in 7.5% of all accidents, for drunk drivers this number equals 42%. Drunk cyclists and pedestrians pose a risk mainly to themselves (in approximately 98% of cases they are both victim and offender). In 2011 there were 2118 accidents caused by drunk drivers compared to 213 caused by drunk cyclists in Poland. Given the fact that drunk drivers pose a significantly higher threat on the road, Łączek (2012) analysed the sentencing patterns and observed that the sentencing guidelines for drunk cycling were highly disproportionate compared to the risk posed by drunk driving. According to the Polish Prison Service (Centralny Zarząd Służby Więziennej), approximately 50 000 prisoners each year were sentenced to imprisonment for drunk cycling. After thirteen years in operation the relevant legal provision was overruled, and drunk cycling became partially decriminalized (from offence to misdemeanour) which resulted in a prison amnesty for many ‘cyclists’ who were behind bars at the time.


Juliusz Ćwieluch, Nietrzeźwy układ artykułów [The intoxicated deal of sections], Polityka – no 46 (2933), date of publication 2013-11-13; p. 16-18.

Łączek, A. (2012) Pijani sprawcy wypadków – kto szkodzi głównie sobie, a kto innym? [Drunk road traffic offenders – who does pose more risk to oneself and who does to others?] Available at: http://ibikekrakow.com/2012/03/31/pijani-sprawcy-wypadkow-kto-szkodzi-glownie-sobie-a-kto-innym-pijani-rowerzysci-jak-pijani-piesi/


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