Thursday, July 19, 2012

Two beers -- no problem!

The latest proposal would allow moderate drinking and cycling as long as you don't present an "accident hazard."
Photo from here.
It looks like Hungary may soon show a more lenient view toward drinking while cycling. As part of a rethink of the more onerous elements of the traffic code, the zero-tolerance policy on drinking while cycling has come under scrutiny.

This came to light in a press conference hosted by the governing party's point man on the issue, Fidesz MP Márk Bíró, and a guy who seems to be the only private-sphere stakeholder who's been consulted: Kázmér Kovács, legal advisor to the Hungarian Auto Club.

It would appear that cycling groups are being left out of the process. But the call for lenience on drinking and cycling was mooted and, surprisingly, it came from Kovács. The car club attorney suggested that penalty levels be set on a gradual scale when blood-alcohol levels are in the range of 0.5 to 0.8 percent. He suggested further that for alcohol levels this low, citations shouldn't be issued at all unless the cyclist is causing an accident hazard or is riding on a main road.

Kovács has in mind farm workers who have a few at the end of the day. "Currently, you can get a fine of tens of thousands of forints if you're riding from one farm to another on a dirt road after two glasses of beer," he noted.

Given the rural concern behind the proposal, it's not clear that this will help Budapest tipplers. We don't have many dirt roads here. 

But hopefully, the discussion will cover urban considerations because it's a big issue here, as evident from the full-to-bursting bike racks outside beer gardens on any given summer night. Many car owners bar hop by bike because they don't want to risk heavy penalties for drinking and driving.

During boot camp for the national police's new Budapest bike patrol, recruits received some sensitivity training on this very issue from the organisers of Critical Mass. One point that was stressed: many cities take a lenient attitude toward drinking and cycling for the practical reason that it's more desirable than drinking and driving.

The proposed modifications to the traffic code (KRESZ) will be taken up at the next meeting of the government's Cabinet, according to Once approved, they could come into force on September 1.

Cyclists with comments or suggestions are urged to send them to:

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