These days some people in Tucson are partying on wheels – despite Arizona’s very tough laws about drinking and driving.
This time it’s party bikes – long, pedicab-like vehicles that seat 14 passengers as well as a driver. All of the passengers have pedals as well. They sit seven-a-side along what is really a mobile bar.
How can people get away with bicycling and drinking? It is, after all, against Arizona’s laws, which state that bicyclists are “subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” This means stopping at stopping at intersections, signaling when turning, and of course, not operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
The loophole here is that the riders are not in control. They can’t steer, so they’re not considered drivers, at least not in those places where the party bike is legal. Passengers provide pedal power, so they are really more of an engine than an operator.
As for the open container laws, no loophole there – party bikes are a straightforward exception to the rule that one can’t have an open alcohol container in public.
How is that possible? As it turns out, the maker of the party bikes, Pedal Crawler, helped persuade Arizona to decide on the legality of the vehicles on a city-by-city basis. Any municipality that wants to host party bikes can do so, provided the owner petitions for and receives an exemption to the state’s open container laws. To comply with this law, the passengers have to bring their own alcohol – the bike is not licensed to serve drinks.
The bikes are popular for pub crawls, company events and private parties.
One has to ask whether this is the dreaded slippery slope. All in all, we doubt it – the party bikes are strictly regulated. For instance, you can’t take your drink off your bike, or you’ll be in violation of the law. If alcohol is present, all passengers must be 21 or over. Which is as it should be.
As long as Tucson’s party bike is regulated, and as long as the driver stays one hundred percent sober, it will remain a one-of-a-kind riding-and-drinking experience.