The year of the beer bike in America was 2012. That's a few years after Americans traveling in Europe spotted the 15-passenger pedal-propelled pubs toting tourists and revelers on bar-hopping tours and decided to bring the concept back home, manufacturing custom builds and doling out lesson plans on how to start your own profitable beer bike business.
That same year, Los Angeles County had three beer bike companies available for hire, giving daily and weekly two-hour crawls for birthday parties and corporate groups around beach-side bar districts. Only one, Beach Barcycle, is still operating.
This week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that finally lays out a definition for these attention-grabbing contraptions, placing them under the umbrella of pedicabs (meaning they can now legally operate on highways and roads) and setting minimum safety and operating requirements. Previously, beer bikes existed in a legal gray area, under conditions defined only by local governments.
“The quadricycle business is relatively new and small: There are probably less than a dozen of these types of vehicles operating in California,” says the official bill analysis. The bill's author — Sen. Richard Pan, whose district includes the city of Sacramento, home of two beer bike companies — also noted that there are only four existing companies in California.
Maybe that number will increase now that the state has spelled out some guidelines for these things. Or maybe pub crawlers have already reverted back to the party bus, where you can actually drink inside and don't have to exert physical energy to move the vehicle to the next location. Because while the bill is a step in the right direction, it leaves the most important issue — whether or not you can drink on board — up to individual municipalities.