Gone are the days when a person in Ohio could not get in much trouble riding a bike. Until more recent years, operating a bike while intoxicated did not land a person in legal trouble like driving a car drunk did.
Ohio is one state that changed the law regarding drunk operation of a motor vehicle to no longer require that the vehicle have a motor or run on electricity. Rather, other wheeled modes of transport can now fall within the confines of Operating a Vehicle Impaired.
Expanded definition of vehicle for OVI law
Under the newer law, other devices now fall under the definition of vehicle, including motorized bicycles and non-motorized bicycles. However, the law has expressly excluded some motorized modes of transport, such as wheelchairs, personal assistive mobility devices or any device, except a bike, that moves via human power. It is important to note, however, that the definition of bicycle may not be what one generally thinks of as a bike. A bicycle, after all, should mean two wheels, not three or more or only one wheel.
Under the law, a bicycle excludes a device made solely for use as a vehicle toy for a child. However, it does include human propelled devices that a person can ride if it has two or more wheels and at least one of those wheels has a diameter greater than 14 inches. Thus, it would seem that tricycles may count as bikes unless they have very tiny wheels, like that intended for a child. But perhaps non-motorized skateboards and roller skates would not, due to the small size of the wheels.
Drunk biking is not safer biking
As reported by Bicycling, an interesting study suggested that riding a bike while under the influence, even without a helmet, may be safer than riding it sober. Apparently, the Ohio legislature disagree and others may have debunked the study. The study published by the International Journal of Legal Medicine used arguably flawed criteria, including applying a reduced level of blood alcohol concentration in its choice of subject, a 0.01 percent level versus the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Regardless of the safety or danger of imbibing before going for a spin on a bike, cyclists can find themselves paying the high price of an OVI. Bike riders are now accountable to the same law as motor vehicle operators.