Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Saturday, 11 April 2009 14:41 UK

Poland 'can jail drunk cyclists'

By Adam Easton
BBC News, Warsaw

Bicycle (file image)
Cyclists found to be drunk are serving an average of almost a year in jail

Poland's Constitutional Court upheld a ruling this week that drunken cyclists should be treated like drunken motorists and face prison if caught.

Two thousand Poles are currently in prison for riding a bicycle whilst under the influence of alcohol.

The ruling has sparked a lively debate about whether cyclists should face such strict punishment.

The Constitutional Court ruled that drunken cyclists should be tried as criminals just as drink drivers are.

'Absurd, draconian'

Under a law passed in 2000, anyone riding a bike under the influence of alcohol faces a fine or up to two years in prison, depending on the level of their intoxication.

Many courts here apply the stricter penalty and the average sentence is 11.5 months imprisonment.

Such a state of affairs has been criticised by both the prison service and some judges.

Jaroslaw Sielecki, a 37-year-old judge from western Poland, called it absurd and draconian, adding that it can drag whole families into poverty.

He argued that intoxicated cyclists should be treated like drunken pedestrians, who face a fine rather than jail, as both use their own muscles to achieve motion.

The Constitutional Court, however, ruled that cyclists use public roads and are considerably more dangerous because of the speed they can travel.

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