Dope driving

If I bike for any distance around here, I can almost count on smelling the herbal essence of marijuana as it wafts from a passing car.

This seems a little more common in Santa Cruz, though I’ve smelled the magic dragon puffing away in the South Bay as well.

Gary “Mr Roadshow” Richards brought this topic up in his transportation column in the San Jose Mercury News. One motorist wrote in claiming he lights up every time he drives so he can be “mellow.” This scares me — I don’t want him mellow; I want him awake and alert and watching out for me. The writer also bikes high, which doesn’t bother me. i see that all the time too at San Jose Bike Party.

This reminds me of my old college pal “Bill”. He usually drove drunk, and he claimed driving drunk made him a better driver. I’ve been in the car with Bill, and riding with Bill is terrifying.

I think Bill and the driver who always lights up before driving might be examples of the impaired person who is unaware of his incompetence.

I’m not too concerned about the legality of use and possession, and I realize marijuana’s impairment is not as strong as alcohol. Still, marijuana does impair judgement, reaction time, coordination and perception.

What do you think?


  1. I think biking high is just as bad, there should be no double standard. Especially when you advocate for bikers rights on roadways.

    Given all that I'm liable to light up using any mode of transportation, and what I've noticed is that I'm worse if I'm playing with my iPhone/iPod or arguing with someone on the phone. At least while I puff my eyes are on the road, and I'm super vigilant as I watch out for cops.

  2. I was standing on the Embarcadero directing traffic for the SF Grand Prix a few years back. We were setting up, so we had the road down to one lane. Slow traffic, about every seventh car smelled pretty resinous. Happens here in Philly, too.

  3. Two thoughts:

    1. I wonder if your college friend Bill knows my college roommate Gregg. Gregg used to like to go surfing after partaking of a little Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Worried me to no end, so I decided to learn to surf in order to ensure Gregg's safety. I enjoyed surfing. Gregg enjoyed the purple waves.

    2. Talk to Marc at because he probably has an interesting view on this subject. If you smell a lot of marijuana on your rides in the Bay Area, imagine what my rides through Amsterdam were like. I wonder if this is an issue there. Marc will know.

    Still, as I always say, we need to be good cycling citizens. How can we be credible if we advocate for motorists not driving impaired and do anything other than advocate for cyclists doing the same? Answer: we can't. What's right for the drivers is right for the cyclists. Period.

  4. Never tried driving high or drunk. Biking on the other hand I did try…
    Think it shouldn't really be an exception considering how uncontrollable I felt on the bike(twisty but wide singletrack proved more difficult than 3″ width line sober). Definitely wouldn't want myself on the road like that.
    However, under the right circumstances, I, personally, have nothing against it. These circumstances being that the person acts reasonably safe. Slow, on the sidewalk, when no one is around.

  5. In the bad old days, I partied with friends then rode my bike home. Subjectively, it seemed like the alcohol burned off and I sobered up faster when riding. But I don't know what effect it had on my judgment.

    Now, around that same time, one of the motorcycle magazines did a non-scientific study of the effect of alcohol on several staffers. If I remember right, two were regular drinkers. From their subjective point of view, a couple of drinks loosened them up and they rode through the slalom course faster. But the stopwatch contradicted that idea. Almost immediately, they were slower, probably indicating that judgment and reaction times were equally impaired. I wish I could find that article, but it was probably done back in the 70s.

  6. I get where you're coming from, David, and I kind of agree. But if somebody is high or drunk, would you rather he be in a car, or on a bike? And given that, where should the public safety emphasis be?

    You should do a phone in audio poll to record as an episode of The Spokesmen 🙂

  7. One big difference for me:
    -if you're driving under the influence of whatever, you might kill people.
    -if you're biking buzzed, you might kill yourself.

    So I do think they are different things. Not advocating biking drunk or high, but as long as you understand the consequences, I believe it's a much more personal choice.

  8. Driving under the influence of weed ONLY is actually safer statistically than driving straight. That's indicated by the stereotype of the stoner driving too slow because of their “paranoia”. It's extremely rare for drivers to be cited for being under the influence of weed ONLY when in accidents. The additional element of alcohol in the blood is what makes people belligerent and stupid behind the wheel. .

    Alcohol is a completely different matter. Anyone who can't see the black & white differences has their head in the sand or a political agenda.

    Exactly the same when on a bicycle. Alcohol in the blood immediately affects balance. Weed doesn't. That's an undisputed fact. When on a bike, I'd MUCH rather mix it up with smoking drivers than drivers distracted by their unnecessary technology (on the dash or in the hand), frivolous conversations on the phone or with passengers, too short to see over the dash, rage, hurry, deep thought, or eating. The stoners will most likely give me too much room, again because of their stereotypical paranoia, than all the others.

  9. funny you should post this, i had a run in with a “dope rider” just today on my commute to the farmers market, but first a story…

    when i owned a car and drove i would occasionally spark up whilst operating the vehicle. but like eating, i believe that you get the most out of your “high” if you focus your intent and are fully conscious of what you are doing; so i generally preferred to find a “joint point” and blaze. these days i don't do much blazing “on-the-go”. it tends to be too windy to toke and ride at the same time, and i don't like super dry weed and it's far too frustrating to try and re-light your doobie three, four, five times while you're cruising the park MUPs or downtown; this kinda detracts from both the enjoyment of the ride and the joint.

    i very rarely have the pleasure of smelling MJ while riding my bike but today while crossing the bridge from the N. Shore to the city centre i rode up behind a greasy looking fellow, long hair, bad sunglasses, wifebeater, board shorts and a box store mountain bike. he was going a little slow, as there was an old woman in front of us putting along on her scooter thing (the bike path is also used by pedestrians) so i took the opportunity to say 'good day' to the fellow with the greasy hair and doobie between his lips. turns out he works at the local 'Rock & Smoke Shop'; a haven for metal heads and stoners. he shared a hoot with me and i rode on, as the market was going to be closing soon. i'd be willing to call it a good day simply because i've now had a drop-in session with a fellow cyclist. i'm sure this type of thing is common in your neck of the woods, but in Kamloops, BC our cycling community is next to nil and this was an empowering moment for me, as a stoner and cyclist. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.