From exercising to commuting to spending time with your children, bicycling is great for so many things. Here in Arizona, it is possible to bicycle almost year-round, and riding a bike is a daily activity for many adults and children alike.
But do you know Arizona bicycle laws?
Whether you are an avid cyclist, a casual bicycle rider, or a driver who occasionally encounters bicycle riders on the road, it is important to know the laws that apply. These laws are largely intended to help promote bicycle safety, and while violations can lead to tickets in some cases, the greater risk is that violating the law will result in serious—or perhaps even fatal—accident-related injuries.
This article provides an overview of Arizona bicycle laws. Whether you are interested in learning all about the law or you have a specific question about what is legal or what is required, you should be able to find what you’re looking for here. With that said, no article is a substitute for legal advice, and if you have questions or concerns about your legal rights, we encourage you to call for a free consultation with one of our experienced Phoenix bicycle accident lawyers.
Most of the state’s laws on bicycles appear in Title 28 of the Arizona Revised Code. But, certain other statutory provisions apply as well; and, in bicycle accident cases, the state’s “common law” (or the law established by court cases) also applies. With this in mind, we have broken down our discussion of Arizona bicycle laws in this article into three sections:
We cover Arizona’s laws governing bicycle accident cases in a separate article.
We’ll start at the beginning. While most people can instantly conjure an image of a bicycle in their mind, when we’re talking about the law, we have to focus on the definition of a bicycle for legal purposes.
So, what constitutes a “bicycle” under Arizona law? Section 28-101(10) of the Arizona Revised Statutes defines a “bicycle” as follows:
“’ Bicycle’ means a device, including a racing wheelchair, that is propelled by human power and on which a person may ride, and that has either: (a) Two tandem wheels, either of which is more than sixteen inches in diameter[; or,] (b) Three wheels in contact with the ground, any of which is more than sixteen inches in diameter.”
Based on this definition, many individuals’ mental images of a bicycle won’t be entirely correct. For example, Arizona’s legal definition of a bicycle means that:
Generally, however, if you think it’s a bicycle, it’s probably a bicycle for legal purposes in Arizona. Kids’ bikes (with at least 16-inch wheels), road bikes, mountain bikes, dirt bikes, gravel bikes, and beach cruisers all qualify as “bicycles” under Arizona law.
The main section of the Arizona Revised Statutes that applies to bicycles is Article 11 of Title 28 (titled “Operation of Bicycles”). Here is a look at the key provisions in Article 11:
Section 28-811 holds parents accountable for making sure their children follow the law. It imposes similar accountability on guardians with respect to their wards. Under subpart A., a parent or guardian may not “authorize or knowingly permit [a] child or ward to violate” the law.
Subpart B. clarifies when Arizona bicycle laws apply. Specifically, they apply any time a person is riding a bicycle on a “highway” or a designated bicycle path. The Arizona Revised Statutes use “street” and “highway” interchangeably (they have the same definition under Section 28-101(77)), and these terms include all public roads used for vehicle travel.
As the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) explains, “In Arizona, it is legal for bicycles to ride in the traffic lanes, as long as they adhere to the same street laws as motorists.” This comes from Section 28-812 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, which states that “[a] person riding a bicycle on a roadway or on a shoulder adjoining a roadway is granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”
While there are some exceptions (we cover some of these exceptions below), bicyclists generally have both the right and the obligation to act like drivers on Arizona’s public roads. But, subpart B. of Section 28-812 makes clear that cyclists who violate Arizona bicycle laws cannot lose their driver’s license due to their cycling-related violations, and auto insurance companies cannot consider cycling-related violations when calculating policyholders’ rates.
Section 28-813 of the Arizona Statutes establishes two main rules for riding bicycles. In Arizona, it is against the law to either:
In other words, unless you have a tandem bike or a bicycle with a child’s bike seat or trailer, only one person can be on your bike at a time. Additionally, when you are riding, you can be on your seat or standing on your pedals out of the saddle, but you cannot ride in any other position.
Don’t forget that Arizona bicycle laws only apply to riders who are using the state’s public roadways. If you are riding in your driveway or at a skatepark or BMX park, the obligation to stay on your seat does not apply.
Can you hang onto a vehicle while riding your bicycle? In Arizona, the answer is a clear “No,” on the public roadways. Section 28-814 of the Arizona Revised Statutes states that, “[a] person riding on a bicycle . . . shall not attach the bicycle [or himself or herself] . . . to a vehicle on a roadway.”
While bicycle riders generally have the same rights and obligations as drivers on Arizona’s public roads, there are some exceptions—as we noted above. For example, while drivers have the right to occupy their entire lane at all times, Section 28-815 of the Arizona Revised Statutes says that cyclists must ride “as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway” in most circumstances.
When don’t cyclists have to ride on the right-hand side of their lane? This requirement doesn’t apply when:
Section 28-815 also says that cyclists can ride no more than two abreast on Arizona’s public roads. This restriction does not apply on bike paths or designated bike lanes.
Can you carry objects with you on your bicycle in Arizona? In general, the answer is, “Yes.” If you have a basket, bag, or panniers properly and safely attached to your bike, you can use these to bring things with you.
Under Section 28-816 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, you can also carry objects in your hands—or, more specifically, in one hand. This section of the law states that carrying a “package, bundle or article” is legal as long as doing so does not “prevent the driver from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars.”
While you might remember how fun it is to skid your bike tires from when you were a kid, did you know that being able to skid is the law? In Arizona, it is a legal requirement that all bicycles be equipped with a brake “that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.”
Other bicycle equipment requirements under Arizona law include:
Finally, Section 28-819 of the Arizona Revised Statutes addresses electric bicycles. It makes clear that pedal-operated, electronically assisted bikes constitute “bicycles” under Arizona bicycle laws (as we discussed above)—which means that electric bicycle riders are subject to the same rules and requirements as all other cyclists.
Section 28-819 also provides that “class 1” and “class 2” electric bicycles are permitted on bike paths (unless prohibited by local authorities). These are electric bicycles that provide assistance up to 20 miles per hour. “Class 3” electric bicycles—those that provide assistance up to 28 miles per hour—are not permitted on bike paths unless either (i) the path is within or adjacent to a road or (ii) use of class 3 electric bicycles is permitted by local authorities.
Along with telling bicycle riders what they can and can’t do, the Arizona Revised Statutes also establish rules for drivers. Drivers must respect cyclists’ right to share the road, and they can face fines and civil liability when they fail to do so.
Specifically, Section 28-735 of the Arizona Revised Statutes provides:
“When overtaking and passing a bicycle proceeding in the same direction, a person driving a motor vehicle shall exercise due care by leaving a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet until the motor vehicle is safely past the overtaken bicycle.”
Drivers can face fines of $500 if a violation of Section 28-735 results in physical injury and fines of up to $1,000 if a violation results in death. Notably, however, these fines do not apply if a cyclist is riding in a vehicle traffic lane with a bike lane or bike path is “present and passable.”
If you have questions about Arizona bicycle laws or need help protecting your legal rights after a bicycle accident in Arizona, we encourage you to contact us for more information. Our lawyers have decades of experience fighting for justice for bicycle riders and their families. To speak with a bicycle accident lawyer at Phoenix Accident and Injury Law Firm, call 480-634-7480 or request a free consultation online today.