Cycling Home Shitfaced Isn’t Clever. So Why Are We Doing It Anyway?

City biking is risky even before you've had those ciders


by Sam Wolfson |
Published on

Not that long ago, cycling was the preserve of the office sports fanatic, the Lycra-clad earthy type, who spent the day readjusting himself at his desk. Now we’re all at it. Cheaper, healthier and often faster than public transport – with a 0 per cent chance of someone rubbing up against you on a cramped train – cycling has become the norm. This is especially true in big nightlife spots, like East London, which now has the most cyclists in the country (outside of Oxford and Cambridge, where they haven’t invented the car yet).

Cycling to work is great,but the problem is that we like to go to the pub after a hard day. (Honestly, we like to go to the pub after an easy day) One thing leads to another and, before you know it, you’re heading home shitfaced from a house party at 4am, rampaging through the streets of the city centre on your Brompton.

It might feel okay/quite brilliant at the time, but the next morning, boozy-biking shame hits. City cycling is a dangerous sport at the best of times. Recent months have seen a series of heartbreaking headlines about cyclists killed on their commute to work. In November, six cyclists were killed in a two-week period, including 24-year-old Venera Minakhmetova, who was struck at 8.40am by an HGV on her way to work, an inquest heard last week. So how can we read headlines like this, be fully aware of the risks – and then cycle home after six craft beers?

While drunken cycling is legally dubious, it’s not yet stigmatised – or punished – in the same way as drink driving. It’s not technically illegal to cycle after consuming alcohol, but if you show any signs of being ‘unfit’ to ride, like wobbling or swerving, as a result of drinking, you can be stopped and fined up to £2,500. (In Poland more than 200,000 people have been given prison sentences for drunk cycling in the last 12 years) Today, thankfully, it's completely socially unacceptable to drive home from a party sozzled, but people will happily wave you off you on your bike after two bottles of Rioja.

'I was at a house party, one of those ones where everyone is refusing to let the night die. At about three in the morning, we ran out of booze. We’d already tried calling Liverpool booze-on-demand service Ready-Bevvy-Go, but they didn’t pick up, so I hopped on my bike,' says Dora Mortimer, a 24-year-old student. 'I cycled through the doors of the local kebab shop and demanded alcohol. When the man refused, I tried to mount my bike again and collapsed with the bike falling on top of me. The kebab man actually had to come over and ask if I was okay.'

Making an arse of yourself cycling around in the middle of the night is a big part of the appeal. Often, speeding through the streets with your friends screaming the lyrics to City High’s What Would You Do? is a lot more fun than the night itself. But it doesn’t always end with a slapstick scrape in the kebab shop. Often it leaves a mark.

'I was cycling between pubs one night, and went over my handlebars and then my mate’s handlebars, trying to take a turning I didn’t even need to take,' says 26-year-old fashion editor Milly McMahon. 'I still have a scar on my chin. It scared the living shite out of me cause I had to have stitches and my jaw was busted.'

'I was cycling between pubs one night, and went over my handlebars and then my mate’s handlebars, trying to take a turning I didn’t even need to take'

Most us would agree (when we're sober) that drunk cycling is a bad idea, but as Milly points out, 'Once you’re drunk, you think you’re indestructible and hella cool, and you have no money left for the bus anyway.' The innate risk seems to be, in many girls’ minds, offset by the feeling of the wind in your hair. 'I tend to get a bit more poser-y when I’ve had a few drinks. I wolf whistle at girls, sing along to A_ll Falls Down_, ride with no hands and generally act like a prick,' says Dora.

Dawn Foster, who runs a blog about women cycling in London, believes there’s another reason why girls might want to cycle home. 'Travelling on public transport at night, especially alone, makes you feel vulnerable in a city. Standing alone at a bus stop and walking down dark, nearly-deserted streets to your front door isn’t a particularly attractive prospect. If you’re weighing up the risks, cycling home seems preferable. There’s a certain invincibility that comes with cycling at night. You can speed away from any strangers that might approach you and choose your own route on roads that are nearly deserted. Cycling seems to be an option that drastically increases your chances of getting home safely, and means you don’t return to the pub the next day to find your bike’s been nicked.'

Perhaps cycling is letting girls reclaim the streets at night, giving them the confidence to snake across the city without worrying who they’re going home with. But we’re not sure Lauren Arabella, 24, would agree. Living just outside London, she often leaves her bike at the train station. 'I end up cycling home in the middle of the night in five-inch heels,' she explains. 'Last time I did it, I swerved to avoid a reversing car, but my shoe got stuck in the pedal so I crashed. It took a chunk of skin out my knee.'

So drunk cycling is dangerous, could land you with a massive fine, a broken leg or worse. But it seems like more girls are willing to take those risks for a night of legless free-wheeling. Cyclists of the world, we need to talk about this. And in the meantime, wear a helmet, yeah?

Follow Sam Wolfson on Twitter @samwolfson

Picture: Ada Hamza

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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