Debates of the Day: Vino and D.C. DUI

Vino Gets Booed: Yesterday Alexander Vinokourov won Liège-Bastogne-Liège, probably his biggest victory since coming back from a two-year suspension for doping. But rather than get cheered for beating a field of tough competitors, he got booed. Why? The conventional wisdom is that it’s because he’s a former doper, and once a doper, always a doper, right? Jonathan Vaughters seemed to say as much on his Twitter feed, where he relayed a question posed by Phil Liggett on Vino’s win: “So, Jonathan, how is it these guys can come back from suspension and still ride so well? JV: Ummmmm…. Uhhhh….”

You’ve got to give Vaughters credit for being so shamelessly hypocritical. The man co-runs a team with David Millar, himself a former doper who won’t likely ever be booed for winning a race. I’ll give Millar credit for having been as repentful as he was, but it’s the pot calling the kettle black if his own team manager can’t accept that cyclists who cheat can serve their sentence and come back to have succesful careers. Hell, Ivan Basso has quietly worked his way back into the pro peloton, while Alejandro Valverde still manages to race (and be cheered for it) even though he’s under current suspicion for doping and can’t race anywhere on Italian territory.

That Vino got booed is poor form by the fans lined up at the finish line, in my opinion.

Bike DUI is an Offense in D.C.: In more local news, last week the D.C. Court of Appeals found that a cyclist can be charged with DUI if they are found to be riding their bike while drunk. The stupidity of riding your bike while drunk aside, this may be the most asinine ruling ever.

In essense, the judge seems to have taken the idea that cyclists operate as motor vehicles for the purposes of sharing the road to an illogical extreme. First off, it’s ridiculous to equate a drunk cyclist with a drunk driver. Cars are thousands of pounds worth of steel, bicycles are not. Cars can top 120 mph, bicycles may at best hit 50 mph. (And really, how many drunks trying to get home are going to do sprint intervals downhill to actually hit that high a speed? That’s right — none.) There’s a huge magnitude of difference between the damage that a drunk cyclist and a drunk driver can do, and the application of the law should faithfully reflect that.

Second, I’m just floored that a judge would take a law that contemplates a suspension of a drivers license for six months for the first offense and apply it to a cyclist. Should a drunk cyclist stand to lose their drivers license if they weren’t actually driving? Does that even make sense?

Third, I think the police who arrested the cyclist could have charged him with any number of lesser offenses, whether public intoxication or disorderly conduct. A DUI just doesn’t fit the bill.

Does this speak to the need for a more specific offense to be writing into the books? Some states do list Bicycling Under the Influence (BUI) as a crime; should D.C.? I’m not sure. But this does speak to the larger issue of what space in the law cyclists occupy. Yes, we’re supposed to follow the rules of the road, but there’s also a widely held recognition that since we pose a much less significant threat to public safety than cars do, we can often roll through Stop signs without much of a second look from a police officer. While I do think we should be able to share the road with cars, I think distinctions have to be made so that we’re not treated the same as thousands of pounds of metal capable of incredibly high speeds.

I do hope this decision gets appealed, because it sets a horrible precedent. I don’t expect a rash of bike DUIs to be doled out over the course of the summer, but that it’s even possible is plain foolish.

Comments

  1. Millar only compted to his transgressions after he was completely cornered and sitting in a jail cell in France. Until that point, he’d thrown any and everyone that’d called him out a liar, proclaiming his innocence the world over. A sad song we’ve all heard many, many times.

    But he didn’t come clean like the martyr he’s often painted to be. He was caught. And having no way out, took the most politically viable option available. So in many respects he’s worse than Vino.

    I still want one of those Vino jerseys, though…

  2. “Cyclevaughters: it’s not like i never played with hotsauce, eh?”

  3. FatguyRacer says:

    You know, i’m not so sure I agree with you about the DUI thing. I would be willing to bet serious money that someone stupid enough to ride a bicycle while drunk is probably someone who wouldn’t give a second’s pause to driving a motor vehicle while drunk.

    Also, I’d boo Vino too, but not because he’s a reformed doper, but because hes such an arrogant asshole and always has been.

  4. I disagree with fatguyracer, I have been recently charged with a dui on a bicycle. I now know the extreme dangers and consequences of such. I chose to take the bicycle instead of the 3 vehicles I own that were parked in my driveway, and while bicycling while intoxicated is stupid, in a warped sense of reality I was trying to do the right thing. Now I am facing a 14 month suspension of my driver’s license. A driver’s license is to operate a motorized mode of transportation, and in most states I have found the laws are unclear. As citizens we are suppose to know that law, but how can we if it is not written clearly. So if I lose my license I will still be able to ride a bicyle, which is what caused the infraction to begin with. My 7 year old son does not need a license to ride his bicycle, but he would need one to drive a car, when he is of age ofcourse. Another interesting thing, the cop who arrested me was just gonna let me sleep it off, but after my drunken disruptive behavior she threw the book at me. So word of advice, try to keep your mouth shut, even if you feel 10 feet tall and bullet proof after a few shots of whiskey!!

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