Alcohol ban for boaters may ease

Proposals to allow some drinking on boats and bikes are being considered

Czech legislators are considering two proposals to weaken the full ban on alcohol consumption on boats or on bicycles.

There is a proposal in the Chamber of Deputies from the Pirate party to allow pilots in small boats without an engine to drink moderately. In the Senate, there is an amendment that would end the zero tolerance for cyclists.

Most parliamentary deputies favor allowing some drinking for boat pilots but not for cyclists, according to a poll by daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD).

According to MfD, 88 of the 177 deputies whose preference could be determined to support easing restrictions on water, and only 34 explicitly do not support the bill.

For cyclists, only 37 deputies want to ease the ban, with a few more supporting allowing drinking only on trails.

Under the current law drinking on the water is subject to a fine of up to Kč 100,000,. It was written to cover large commercial boats but also applies to small ones.

The law is enforced by police as well as the State Navigation Administration. Some 22 violations were found last year, most often in Moravia.

Some lawmakers favor easing the ban on sections of rivers and brooks where large commercial ships can't go but keeping it on larger bodies of water where small boats would risk contact with larger ones.

Deputies from Moravia are the biggest supporters for easing the ban for cyclists. There are cycle trails through the wine region that connect wine cellars.

The trails were partly built with EU funds to promote ecotourism. At the time they were planned, drinking on bicycles was not seen as an issue.

Under the current law, though, cyclists who ride from one wine cellar to another cannot sample wine along the way, which makes the trails much less attractive.

Police do not have specific statistics on drunken biking, but 600 violations for “other drivers,” which includes people riding animals and other non-motorized modes of transport were given out last year.

Both amendments still have a long way to go before becoming law. Supporters had hoped they would take effect this year, but that will not happen.

The amendment to the Inland Navigation Act has had its first reading and will go before the Economic Committee in September. It then has to have at least one more reading and also be approved by the Senate.

The Senate will address the biking amendment July 19, but it still has to be approved by the lower house. Both need the approval of the president if both houses pass them.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) has said he does not support the current bills but wants the government to come up with a better proposal to allow boaters, cyclists and skiers to have a reasonable amount of alcohol. 

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