Here’s something you might not realize: Drunk driving laws apply to cyclists, too. Under California Vehicle Code 21200.5, when you’re too intoxicated to ride your bike safely, you’re breaking the law.

Alcohol and drugs can turn cyclists into dangerous drivers, just like anyone else on the road. And intoxicated cyclists pose a particular risk to pedestrians since they often share sidewalks and crosswalks.

Let’s look at what happens when a drunk or drugged cyclist comes into contact with a pedestrian. These situations bring numerous legal and safety issues.

There are Legal Penalties for Intoxicated Cyclists

Cycling under the influence (CUI) is handled differently from driving under the influence (DUI). California punishes cyclists who have been drinking or taking drugs, but the charges and penalties are decided on a case-by-case basis.  

There is no specific blood-alcohol level that is set for intoxication on a bicycle in the way there is for motor vehicles. This means the courts have leeway in deciding what will happen next.

Generally speaking, a cyclist who commits a CUI goes in front of a judge and makes their case with the help of a criminal defense attorney. The judge may assign the cyclist fines, suspend their driver’s license, and/or impose other penalties.

If a drunk cyclist hits a pedestrian, the case will almost certainly be taken much more seriously. The police and prosecutor may put together criminal charges depending on the severity of the accident and the pedestrian’s injuries.

Criminal Investigation vs. Personal Injury Investigation

After an accident where a drunk cyclist hits a pedestrian, two different types of investigations will likely occur. The first is conducted by the police and prosecutor’s office. They’ll look into what happened at the scene of the accident and how this relates to criminal charges.

The pedestrian and their personal injury attorney will start a second, separate investigation into the circumstances of the accident that contributed to the pedestrian’s injuries. The lawyer may seek the input of medical professionals and expert witnesses like accident reconstructionist. 

As the criminal and civil investigations conclude, the cyclist could be found guilty of a crime and/or they could be held financially liable for the pedestrian’s injuries in a lawsuit or insurance case. They may end up owing thousands of dollars for the pedestrian’s injuries, on top of any fines they owe the state of California. 

Who Had the Right of Way? It’s Hard to Say.

The cyclist may have been drunk, but this doesn’t automatically mean the pedestrian has no blame at all. It’s often up to the courts to decide how to divide the liability according to the specific circumstances of the accident.

Under California law, pedestrians should cross within crosswalks where available and pedestrians in crosswalks have the right of way. But pedestrians don’t have the right of way in all situations.

Outside of crosswalks, pedestrians can’t just step right into the path of a bike or vehicle. However, cyclists – just like motor vehicle drivers – are still responsible for exercising due care to avoid hitting pedestrians.

Cyclists in California should almost always stay off the sidewalks and should use bike lanes. CVC 21208 of California’s bike law states that a cyclist may leave a bike lane under certain conditions, like when making a turn, passing another cyclist, riding through a construction zone, or avoiding a hazard in the lane.

But always keep in mind that it’s never legal to ride a bike when you’re too intoxicated to operate it safely. Drunk driving puts everyone at risk, including yourself.

After an Accident Like This, What Can I Do?

After cycling while drunk and hitting someone, you can try to fight your charges with the help of a criminal defense attorney. You can also hire an attorney to help battle the pedestrian accident personal injury case you’re facing.

But get ready for a difficult battle. It can be hard to prove that you weren’t at fault if you were drunk and hit someone who was just walking along the sidewalk. A judge or jury will likely have sympathy for an innocent pedestrian who was hit by a drunk cyclist.

If you’re the injured pedestrian in this situation, you may have a case for compensation. It’s smart to hire a lawyer who handles pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents right here in California. The team at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers has extensive experience with both types of accidents and we genuinely care about helping injured people.

We Handle Your Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life

After a pedestrian and bicycle accident that involves drunk driving, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of personal injury law, including pedestrian-cyclist accidents. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details. We truly care about the people of California.

Call 877-380-8852 today for a free case evaluation.

Pedestrian Accident Client

“Last March, my partner was struck by a vehicle while crossing the street. During this difficult time of healing, we knew that bills were going to pile up and his was going to be a long process. After looking at multiple law firms, we knew that Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers was going to be the best place to work with. Lauren and her team were patient, supportive and caring during his difficult time. His schedule was always busy with work and doctor appointments that his main source of communication was through email. Lauren and her team made it to where he didn’t have to worry about anything but just sending over the paper work he got from the hospital, and other bill collectors involving his incident and they worried about the rest.

Because of all their help my partner Aaron, was able to heal with less worries on his shoulders. By end of December, everything was settled and we were pleased with the results. I’d like to give a huge thank you to Lauren & the Sally Morin team. If you’re looking for a law firm for your incident, I’d definitely look at this law firm.”

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We Handle Your Personal Injury Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life

After an injury, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of the law, including pedestrian and car accidents that involve speeding. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details.

We truly care about the people of San Jose and all of California. Contact us today for a
free online case evaluation.


It is essential to know your rights after a traffic accident so you can protect yourself and the value of your claim.
This guide will help you:

  • 1Know what to do when dealing with insurance claims, police reports and lawyers.
  • 2Avoid making mistakes that undermine the value of your claim
  • 3Put yourself in a position to get the best settlement possible