How do the rules of the road apply to bicyclists?
28-812 Applicability of traffic laws to bicycle riders
Here is the general rule that applies to all “persons riding a bicycle”. The first order of business is the ascertain for sure whether or not the thing you’re riding is actually a bicycle by legal definition, so check out the definition of bicycle at §28-101(6), for example bicycles can have 3 wheels (go figure), and also one of the wheels must be at least 16 inches in diameter.
§28-812: Applicability of traffic laws to bicycle riders
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 by this chapter and chapters 4 and 5 of this title, except special rules in this article and except provisions of this chapter and chapters 4 and 5 of this title that by their nature can have no application.
The phrase “this chapter” refers to Chapter 3 – Traffic and Vehicle Regulation, which covers what we would commonly call the rules-of-the-road. Chapter 4 is Driving Under the Influence. And Chapter 5 is Penalties and Procedures for Vehicle Violations.
Note that the term roadway has a statutory definition, and that it specifically excludes the shoulder region. [here are all the relevant definitions together in one fell swoop: street-highway-sidewalk-roadway-shoulder]
Also note that in 2018 the statute was augmented to state that infractions incurred on a bicycle cannot be used against the operator’s drivers license or MV insurance rates.
28-811(A) Parent and guardian responsibility
Additionally, there is a statute that applies only to (the parents of) minor bicycle riders. Again, note the in the definition of bicycle in §28-101(6) requires that wheels be “at least” 16 inches in diameter.
§28-811 Parent and guardian responsibility
A. The parent of a child and the guardian of a ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit the child or ward to violate this chapter.
Is this ever enforced? no idea. Would the parent get a citation for 28-811A? I would guess this more come into play in civil liability cases where some other party (say e.g. a motorist or pedestrian who collided with a bicyclist) is suing the parents of a child bicycle rider for damages.
Also, similar to the comment below about the word “chapter”; it seems out of place and perhaps really means “article”.
28-811(B) Applicability of article
More interestingly, there’s a second, independent subsection of 28-811, which curiously applies to “a bicycle”; as opposed to the more normal “a person riding a bicycle” a la 28-812 :
§28-811 Applicability of article
B. Except as otherwise provided in this article, this chapter applies to a bicycle when it is operated on a highway or on a path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
The term highway has a statutory definition in §28-101, which is more expansive than ‘roadway’ and would include, in addition to the roadway itself , any shoulders, bike lanes, and even the sidewalk.
There is some confusion/speculation/whathaveyou over the word ‘chapter’; and what that really means, and/or if it actually means to have said ‘article’ (as the title states). This section means, or has come to mean, that the Article 11 (i.e. 28-811 through 28-817) statutes apply, unless specified, not just on a roadway, but also “on a highway or on a path…”. This was made clear by the Court of Appeals ruling in Arizona v. Baggett, where the issue was whether or not 28-817 (nighttime lighting requirement) applied to a sidewalk cyclist. The Court ruled that 28-817 applies irrespective of 28-811B or 28-812; however they explain 28-811B:
… (28-811B) simply provides that bicycles operating on “highways” or special bike paths must follow the bicycle traffic regulations set forth in A.R.S. §§ 28-811 through 28-818
and further explain in footnote that (emphasis in original):
The plain language of A.R.S. § 28-811(B) appears to recognize the fact that some bicycle regulations may apply to areas other than highways and bike paths. See A.R.S. § 28-811(B) (stating that the bicycle regulations contained in A.R.S. § 28-811 through 28-818 apply to bicycles operated on highways and bike paths “[e]xcept as otherwise provided in this article”)
So i am leaving this following statement here as a reminder, struck through, because it is wrong; i.e. A and B are, in fact, to be read separately, and my “mistaken assumption” was in fact not mistaken!…
I was under the mistaken assumption that A and B, as well as the statute title were to be read separately, and that 28-811B would therefore apply to anyone operating a bicycle. I have since been set straight; the whole statute applies only to (the parents of) minors using bicycles.
By the way, the ruling Rosenthal v. County of Pima (see Is a Bikelane part of the Roadway?) §28-812, and was based wholly on applying §28-811B.
So to sum up; as their titles suggest, 28-812 tells bicycle riders how traffic laws apply to them; whereas 28-811B refers to the bicycle-specific Article applies.
What if the device you are riding is not a bicycle?
That’s an interesting question.