Yes, you can get a DWI on an electric bike

A bicyclist on an electric bike ran into a pickup truck recently.
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Riding an electric bike while drunk can get you a DWI.

Case in point: This crash (thankfully with no serious injuries) from west-central Minnesota late last month, when a man on an electric bike ran into a pickup with a plow blade.

It was just before 7 a.m. in New London (that's a bit north of Willmar), on Jan. 24.

The pickup had stopped at a stop sign, then made a left turn to head west. The bike, coming from the east, didn't stop and hit the pickup's snowplow blade, the State Patrol's incident report says.

The State Patrol just wrote about it Monday on Facebook.

The biker then zipped away. But he was arrested a short time later and arrested for DWI, the State Patrol said on Facebook Monday.

The 24-year-old biker was not wearing a helmet, the report says, and he was taken to the hospital for injuries that weren't life-threatening. The pickup driver wasn't hurt.

"File this in the 'ouch, that will leave a mark' files," the State Patrol wrote.

About those DWI laws

As mentioned above, the biker in this case was arrested for DWI. And Minnesota has some interesting DWI laws with bicycles.

State law says driving while impaired is a crime for someone in control of a "motor vehicle." And a "motor vehicle," according to this state law, is defined as one that is "self-propelled" or "propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires."

The definition "does not include a vehicle moved solely by human power," the law says.

So we apply it to this case.

A regular ol' bike – strictly human-powered, there's no other propulsion system, which means it doesn't qualify as a "motor vehicle" under DWI law.

An electric bike however? Well, that's self-propelled (though not more than 20 mph), meaning it doesn't appear to fall under the DWI law.

MnDOT has specified that all bike laws still apply to electric-assisted bicycles.

The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, though, points out you could still get dinged for other violations on a regular bike, like reckless endangerment.

Also, it's a bad idea to bike drunk, so don't do it.

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