More than 30 cyclists caught drunk behind the handlebars

MORE than 30 people have been charged with drink-cycling in the past five years in the Lothians, new figures have revealed.

A breakdown of alcohol-related offences shows that the number of charges as a whole remains at much the same level since 2003, with drink-driving accounting for the majority.

But six people were also convicted last year in the city of "drunk when riding a bicycle" – an offence that does not require a breathalyser and has no set limit, but is judged on whether the cyclist is a danger to themselves or others.

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The Conservatives' spokesman on licensing, Cllr Alastair Paisley, who regularly cycles from his Pentlands ward home to the City Chambers, said: "A lot of people would say cyclists on the city's streets cycle as if they are drunk, and certainly act it.

"I find cycling in the city centre dangerous enough without being under the influence of alcohol. You need full concentration to be able to survive."

The figures were released following a parliamentary question from Lothians Conservative MSP Gavin Brown to Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

It showed that in 2007-8 there were 2115 alcohol-related offences in the Lothians, with around half of those in Edinburgh, and the rest spread between East, West and Midlothian. There were 1436 convictions of drink-driving in the Lothians, which, although slightly lower than in 2006-7, is a figure that has remained roughly the same over the five-year period.

Byelaws introducing a ban on drinking in some public places resulted in 203 convictions across the region, while 264 were found guilty of "drunkenness".

A further 113 convictions arose from charging people with licences on a range of offences, including selling alcohol to under-agers. "Other" offences accounted for 93 convictions.

Cllr Paisley, who sits on the city's licensing board, said the culture in the country was slowly shifting to more of an intolerance of drunken behaviour.

Last month the Evening News revealed that, despite a tightening of licensing laws not only by the city council but also the police, double the amount of people who appear in court for selling alcohol to under-18s are found not guilty or cleared, rather than rumbled.

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Leading councillors at that point criticised the courts for making a mockery of their rigorous policies.

And Cllr Paisley added: "I think public attitudes are now shifting. It does reach a certain point when people say enough is enough.

"The Scottish Government has this view of possibly raising the age, but then you can't have guys coming back from Iraq and unable to buy a pint.

"We are trying, but we need more from the courts. Every Friday you can go to any number of places and see youngsters with bottles of vodka and they obviously get it from somewhere.

"I'm disappointed these figures haven't dropped, given the toughening of the licensing board approach, but these things can take time."