Pedal Pubs and DUI/OVI on Non-Motorized Vehicles in Ohio

Pedal-Pub-300x200Can you get a DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio) on a vehicle which is not motorized?  Like many legal questions, the answer is, ‘maybe’.  A person involved in a recent ‘pedal pub’ incident found out the hard way the answer is ‘yes’ when operating a mobile bar in Georgia.  But what about Ohio?

Pedal Pub Problem
You have probably seen a pedal pub.  Known by other names, such as a bicycle bar, party bike, and pedal tavern, a pedal pub is a mobile bar.  The bar is on a platform with wheels and is powered by the patrons sitting around the bar on seats with bicycle pedals.  The bar tender doubles as the operator of the brakes and steering.  Pedal pubs have become common in American cities, especially touristy cities.

This particular pedal pub was in Atlanta.  According to a story by WAFF 88, the mobile bar was apparently going too fast while trying to make a turn.  The traveling tavern tipped, and 15 people were injured.  The ‘driver’ of the biking bar was arrested and charged with DUI and a business permit violation.  Perhaps it is a violation of the business permit for the driver to drink with the pedaling patrons.

‘O’ Stands for Operate
In Ohio, a person can be convicted of OVI if the person ‘operates’ a ‘vehicle’ while ‘under the influence’ or ‘over the limit’.  But is a pedal pub ‘operated’ by the driver/bar-tender, the pedaling patrons, or both?  According to Ohio Revised Code section 4511.01(HHH), “Operate’ means to cause or have caused movement of a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley”.  Based on that definition, both the driver/bar-tender and the pedaling patrons ‘operate’ the pedal pub.

‘V’ Stands for Vehicle
But is a pedal pub a ‘vehicle’?  According to Ohio Revised Code section 4511.01(A):

“Vehicle’ means every device, including a motorized bicycle and an electric bicycle, in, upon, or by which any person or property may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except that “vehicle” does not include any motorized wheelchair, any electric personal assistive mobility device, any low-speed micromobility device, any personal delivery device as defined in section 4511.513 of the Revised Code, any device that is moved by power collected from overhead electric trolley wires or that is used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks, or any device, other than a bicycle, that is moved by human power.”

A pedal pub is a device that is moved by human power, so it is not a ‘vehicle’, unless it meets the definition of ‘bicycle’.  According to Ohio Revised Code section 4511.01(G), “Bicycle’ means every device, other than a device that is designed solely for use as a play vehicle by a child, that is propelled solely by human power upon which a person may ride, and that has two or more wheels, any of which is more than fourteen inches in diameter”.

Definitions Make the Law Interesting
So, can a person be convicted of OVI in Ohio for pedaling a biking bar under the influence?  The correct legal answer is… ‘maybe’.  The patrons and driver definitely ‘operate’ the pedal pub.  The pedal tavern is not a ‘vehicle’, unless it’s a ‘bicycle’.  It’s a ‘bicycle’ if it’s operated solely by human power and has wheels (or, at least one wheel) with a diameter larger than 14”.  Therefore, if the pedal pub is operated partially by an engine or has wheels which are 14” or smaller, a drunk patron or driver cannot be convicted of OVI in Ohio.  However, if the pedal pub’s power is only human and the wheels are 14” or larger, an OVI conviction can befall a drunk patron or driver.

A pedal pub sounds like a great way to see the city, get some exercise, and have some drinks.  If you decide to partake in a pedal pub in Ohio, you have options for avoiding an OVI conviction:  (1) make sure the wheels are small; (2); only patronize pedal pubs with engines; or (3) don’t contribute to operating the ‘vehicle’ and let the other patrons do the pedaling.  And you could also drink in moderation.

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