Applicability Statutes — why are there two?

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.

8 thoughts on “Applicability Statutes — why are there two?”

  1. “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;”
    this now seems wrong to me…

    But rather 811B is generally applicable but only to the extent of the bicycle-specific statutes appearing in this article. This would make clear, for example, that bicyclists are required to have a headlight at night (817) even if riding on the sidewalk; I.e. 811B makes that statute applicable. 812 would not make that (or any) statue applicable since sidewalks are outside of the roadway or adjoining shoulder.

    Note the heading 28-811: “..; applicability of *article*”. So I think it’s really meant to apply the bicycle-specific sections in that article (813-817) on a highway or path (even though it says “this *chapter* applies”), and that the remainder of chapter 3,4,5 apply on a roadway and its shoulder, per 28-812.

    For reference, ARS 28-621 is the “applicability on highways” section:

    UVC 1997 has this, which corresponds with 28-811(A):
    11-1201 (b) The parent of a[ny] child and the guardian of a[ny] ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit [any such] child or ward to violate [any of the provisions of] this [article].

    But I can’t see any section which corresponds to 28-811(B).

  2. This refers to another wording of the explantion of how 811B and 812 fit together:
    So “highway” includes the sidewalk and all of the right of way to the private property line. That means any direct statutes in the chapter that apply to bicycles include the sidewalk. There is no sidewalk statute for a bicycle.

    Then with 812, we find laws that apply indirectly (the “driver of a vehicle” laws) and that is limited to roadways and shoulders.

    So the equipment and lights and whatnot are direct laws under 811B, but within the language of the bicycle law, limited in location in some situations. Like 816 has no location limitation so riding on a sidewalk with packages that would hinder having one hand on the handlebars would be applicable anywhere on a highway. Same with 817, the headlight rule.

  3. The riding with packages, 28-816, seems to be sometimes used to claim it is a prohibition on riding hands free, including at one attorney’s website

    But it clearly just prohibits carrying articles that would prevent you from holding on with at least one hand.

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