I am a personal injury attorney in Arizona and an avid bicyclist. I have handled many bicycle accident cases and witnessed both drivers and bicyclists who unfortunately do not understand the law when is comes to riding a bicycle.
There is a common misunderstanding when it comes to bicyclist’s rights and responsibilities whether they are traveling on a sidewalk, in a crosswalk, or on the roadway and which law applies to each situation. Often people assume that bicyclists must ride on the roadway and with the flow of traffic. While this may be a good idea, it is not always the law in Arizona.
Under Arizona law cyclists are considered pedestrians when they are riding on the sidewalk or in a crosswalk (traveling in either direction) and are considered vehicles when on the roadway and must travel with the flow of traffic. This area of law is often misunderstood by motorists, police officers, and insurance companies who confuse the law regarding bicyclists and do not apply the correct law to the facts of their case.
Keep in mind, this is state law and you need to be aware that there are some cities (such as Tucson) that prohibit riding bicycles on sidewalks by local ordinance. Others (such as Tempe) allow riding on sidewalks unless otherwise posted.
I have seen many drivers become angered when they see a bicyclist riding the sidewalk or even rightfully on the roadway in front of them. This is usually because drivers can be impatient and do not want to wait for a bicyclist to get out of their way, which I have personally seen lead to accidents and near misses.
If a cyclist chooses to ride on the roadway or shoulder, they must follow traffic laws pursuant to A.R.S. §28-812. Also, pursuant to A.R.S. § 28-815(A) when riding on the roadway, bicyclists must ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway unless they are overtaking another vehicle, preparing to turn left, avoiding hazards, or if the bicycle lane it’s too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
However, under A.R.S. § 28-601 sidewalks are not part of the roadway. The Arizona Supreme Court has even addressed this issue. In Maxwell v. Gossett, 126 Ariz. 98, 612 P.2d 1061 (1980), the court held that a bicyclist crossing a roadway in a crosswalk is a pedestrian and is not prohibited from riding the bicycle in the crosswalk. The defendant driver argued that it was improper for a boy to ride his bicycle in a crosswalk and also against the flow of traffic.
Arizona drivers should yield to bicyclists on sidewalks and crosswalks and also look both ways because a bicyclist can legally ride in either direction when on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk.