Is it illegal to ride a motorized bicycle on the sidewalk in Phoenix?

Story from the Arizona Republic; I copied the whole thing because it was only a few sentences long (my emphasis added):

Woman dies when motorized bike collides with car in Phoenix
by Jack Highberger – Jan. 20, 2011 12:26 PM The Arizona Republic-12 News Breaking News Team
A 53-year-old woman died Tuesday night (1/18/2011) when her motorized bicycle collided with a car on Dunlap and 25th avenues.
The woman was driving the motorized bicycle on a sidewalk when she entered the crosswalk and collided with the car, said Sgt. Tommy Thompson of the Phoenix Police Department.
She was not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision.
She was taken to the hospital where she later died. The driver of the car, who is also a 53-year-old woman, was not charged by Phoenix police. Authorities said it’s illegal to operate a motorized vehicle on a sidewalk.

First off, let me say that this type of collision is pretty common, and it is exactly why sidewalk cycling, motorized or not, is not recommended. But is it illegal?
I have written before on the tangled thicket that is the motorized bicycle law, see these two articles for background, definitions, and laws:

And since it involves a sidewalk/crosswalk, see also:

The city of Phoenix code of ordinances is, thankfully, now online at codepublishing.com/AZ/Phoenix/ (go to Part II,  Chapter 36 for traffic).

So, Is it Illegal to ride a Motorized Bicycle on the Sidewalk in Phoenix?

Preface: as things turn out, this particular collision did not involve any riding in the crosswalk, see analysis of crash data, below.

Short answer: probably not.

The law alluded to by “Authorities” is presumably Phoenix Sec. 36-63  “No person shall drive upon, across or within any sidewalk…”. Or perhaps its companion in the ARS §28-904 which is a little different: “A person shall not drive a vehicle on a sidewalk”.  But exactly how or if that applies to motorized bicycles is highly questionable.

The city attorney really ought to look at it — with all due respect to the police, I think this may be a case where they are just speaking off the top of their heads without actually considering the law.

This feels like another one of those issues that will never be gotten to the bottom of.

Phoenix has no (none i can find) ordinance specifically controlling motorized bicycles. Contrast this to, for example, the city of Tucson, which bans both plain-old bicycles generally, as well as a specific ordinance that specifically bans motorized bicycles from sidewalks.

So since there is no specific city ordinance, it would fall back to bicycle codes, along with whatever the ARS says.

And the actual issue isn’t whether or not a motorized bicycle may be ridden on the sidewalk, it’s really about what happens when they are ridden in a crosswalk. The answer for *bicycles* is clearly that they are NOT prohibited, see e.g. Maxwell v Gossett, but it is unclear how the motor might affect that… it seems to me that it would not.

There are a couple of reference in the city code about devices “propelled by human power”, e.g. 36-16 Applicability — it remains unclear where the motor fits in.

The “Motorized Play Vehicle” Wildcard

Some cities have taken the (incorrect, in my opinion) position that motorized bicycles are simply motorized play vehicles — which are banned from just about everywhere; including streets and sidewalks. Most/many cities, including Phoenix, had pre-existing (that is to say: pre-dating the ARS that defined motorized bicycles) such laws; Phoenix 36-1, and 36-64, and the above link for full discussion.

The ACR Arizona Crash Report / ASDM

This is ADOT IncidentId=2560864 (full record dumped below) , The ACR is city of Phoenix file number 11000104937 (listed as FileNumber=201100104937 in ASDM data). The narrative in the ACR doesn’t match with the news reports; there is in reality apparently no crosswalk involvement

The narrative states: “U1 (the moto-bicyclist) SB in RTO lane entered intersection to proceed straight through and collided with the side of U2 (the driver) which was also SB in the RTO lane and executed a right turn at the intersection” (my abbreviations). So it’s not really all that clear to me what when on — both units were in the RTO lane, was the driver overtaking in the RTO lane?

There are two RTO lanes at 25th and Dunlap; as well as a LTO lane, and there are no through lanes. It seems the likely scenario was the Toyota was in R1 (the RTO lane to the left), while the moto-bicyclist was in R2; though the narrative doesn’t say that. The page of the ACR where lane numbers are listed is missing (I think that page is optional). In ASDM data both units are listed as lane=Lane: RIGHT_TURN_1_40 which I’m supposing is wrong, that the bike was actually in R2.

In asdm, both units are southbound; but on the ACR, the Toyota is listed as westbound (presumably the direction it would be going at the completion of its right turn)… I’m not sure if somebody corrected that or what

Generally: Note that motorized bicyclists are not categorized as PersonType PEDALCYCLIST in official traffic stats (they are actually listed as DRIVER), so don’t count as a bicyclist fatality.

I’m not sure if it’s possible to “find” other motorized bicycle incidents in ASDM data; it may also be the case that they are, in less serious cases, simply coded as bicycles and that’s the end of it(?). In any event, for fatalities anyway, a couple of telling fields pop up in the unit table of asdm that might be useful for finding motorized bicycle collisions

VehicleStateCode: UN — a moped would, typically anyway, have a plate; whereas a motorized bicycle doesn’t
BodyStyle: MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED
Make: UNKNOWN — not sure if this is helpful or not?

4 thoughts on “Is it illegal to ride a motorized bicycle on the sidewalk in Phoenix?”

  1. Too bad they have such terrible roads with no bike paths and vehicles whizzing very closely by you that you sometimes feel you have to go on the sidewalk for your own safety.

    A person’s estimate of their own safety is usually better than the strictures of the law. The law is often only used to decide insurance cases, so the insurer can escape payment. I was in insurance and I know how they operate. It’s America’s Largest Organized Criminal Enterprise ;’)

  2. Full asdm record dump:

    mysql> SELECT * FROM pretty_2011_incident WHERE IncidentID=2560864;
    *************************** 1. row ***************************
                     IncidentID: 2560864
                      Microfilm: 20680110
               ADOTReceivedDate: 2011-11-09 00:00:00
                         Status: 200
               DataConv2008Flag: -1
                   IncidentDate: 2011-01-18
               IncidentDateTime: 2011-01-18 20:50:00
                    OfficerNcic: 723
                      OfficerId: 5669
                     FileNumber: 201100104937
                   ExtendedNcic: 723
            DamageOverLimitFlag: 1
                PhotosTakenFlag: -1
               PhotographerName: 
                 PhotographerID: 0
             PhotographerAgency: 
        InvestigatedAtSceneFlag: -1
           DateTimeInvestigated: 1900-01-01 00:00:00
                CollisionManner: SIDESWIPE_SAME_DIRECTION
                 LightCondition: DARK_LIGHTED
              FirstHarmfulEvent: MOTOR_VEHICLE_IN_TRANSPORT
           FirstHarmfulLocation: NOT_REPORTED_255
                     TotalUnits: 2
                 TotalMotorists: 3
              TotalNonMotorists: 0
                  TotalInjuries: 0
                TotalFatalities: 1
         TotalMotoristsInjuries: 0
      TotalNonMotoristsInjuries: 0
       TotalMotoristsFatalities: 1
    TotalNonMotoristsFatalities: 0
                 InjurySeverity: 5
           MedicalTransportFlag: 1
              FatalAccidentFlag: 1
                    TowAwayFlag: 1
                  NscReportable: FATALS_INJURIES_OR_PROPERTY_DAMAGE_OVER_1000
           SchoolBusRelatedFlag: 0
            WorkZoneRelatedFlag: 0
             WorkersPresentFlag: -1
                  HazardousFlag: 0
                  HitAndRunFlag: 0
                         OnRoad: 25th Ave
                CrossingFeature: Dunlap Ave
                         Offset: 0
             OffsetMeasuredFlag: 0
                          MPNum: 0
                       MPOffset: 0
                         CityId: 214
                       CountyId: 13
                       Latitude: 33.5675717919138
                      Longitude: -112.112519129654
              ValidLocationFlag: 1
            LocationToolVersion: SEP2010
            HESIntersectionFlag: -1
               IntersectionFlag: 1
            IntersectionRouteID: 14738
           IntersectionATISCode:                                 
                 TrafficWayType: TWO_WAY_NOT_DIVIDED
               IntersectionType: FOUR_WAY_INTERSECTION
               JunctionRelation: INTERSECTION_NON_INTERCHANGE
                        Weather: CLEAR
        PropertyDamageOwnerCode: NOT_APPLICABLE_MINUS_1
         PropertyDamageDescCode: -1
    
    mysql> SELECT * FROM pretty_2011_person WHERE IncidentID=2560864;
    *************************** 1. row ***************************
             IncidentID: 2560864
                 UnitID: 4848649
             UnitNumber: 2
               PersonID: 7205228
           PersonNumber: 1
             PersonType: DRIVER
                ZipCode: 0
                    Age: 53
                    Sex: Female
           SeatPosition: 11
           SafetyDevice: SHOULDER_AND_LAP_BELT
                 Airbag: UNKNOWN_99
           InjuryStatus: NO_INJURY
               Ejection: NOT_REPORTED_255
             Extraction: NOT_REPORTED_255
    NonMotoristLocation: NOT_REPORTED_255
         AlcoholUseFlag: -1
              BACResult: -1
              TestTypeA: MINUS_1
            DrugUseFlag: -1
               DrugType: MINUS_1
              TestTypeD: -1
        TransportSource: MINUS_1
          TransportedTo: No Data
             Violation1: NO_IMPROPER_ACTION
             Violation2: NOT_APPLICABLE_0
           LicenseClass: D
            Endorsement:  
           Restriction1:  
           Restriction2:  
    *************************** 2. row ***************************
             IncidentID: 2560864
                 UnitID: 4848649
             UnitNumber: 2
               PersonID: 7205229
           PersonNumber: 2
             PersonType: PASSENGER
                ZipCode: 0
                    Age: 30
                    Sex: Male
           SeatPosition: 13
           SafetyDevice: SHOULDER_AND_LAP_BELT
                 Airbag: UNKNOWN_99
           InjuryStatus: NO_INJURY
               Ejection: NOT_EJECTED
             Extraction: NOT_APPLICABLE_0
    NonMotoristLocation: NOT_REPORTED_255
         AlcoholUseFlag: -1
              BACResult: -1
              TestTypeA: MINUS_1
            DrugUseFlag: -1
               DrugType: MINUS_1
              TestTypeD: -1
        TransportSource: MINUS_1
          TransportedTo: No Data
             Violation1: NOT_APPLICABLE_MINUS_1
             Violation2: NOT_APPLICABLE_0
           LicenseClass: -
            Endorsement: -
           Restriction1: *
           Restriction2:  
    *************************** 3. row ***************************
             IncidentID: 2560864
                 UnitID: 4848189
             UnitNumber: 1
               PersonID: 7206064
           PersonNumber: 1
             PersonType: DRIVER
                ZipCode: 0
                    Age: 53
                    Sex: Female
           SeatPosition: 11
           SafetyDevice: NONE_USED
                 Airbag: UNKNOWN_99
           InjuryStatus: FATAL
               Ejection: NOT_REPORTED_255
             Extraction: NOT_REPORTED_255
    NonMotoristLocation: NOT_REPORTED_255
         AlcoholUseFlag: 1
              BACResult: 0
              TestTypeA: BLOOD_TEST
            DrugUseFlag: 1
               DrugType: NO_DRUGS_REPORTED_NEGATIVE
              TestTypeD: 101
        TransportSource: NOT_TRANSPORTED_0
          TransportedTo: JCL / PMT AMBULANCE 422
             Violation1: FAILED_TO_YIELD_RIGHT_OF_WAY_103
             Violation2: NOT_APPLICABLE_0
           LicenseClass: D
            Endorsement:  
           Restriction1:  
           Restriction2: 
    
    mysql> SELECT * FROM pretty_2011_unit WHERE IncidentID=2560864;
    *************************** 1. row ***************************
           IncidentID: 2560864
               UnitID: 4848189
           UnitNumber: 1
             UnitType: DRIVER
      TravelDirection: SOUTH
        RoadAlignment: STRAIGHT
            RoadGrade: LEVEL
                 Lane: RIGHT_TURN_1_40
           UnitAction: GOING_STRAIGHT_AHEAD
     MostHarmfulEvent: NOT_REPORTED_255
        HitAndRunFlag: 0
       RoadCondition1: NO_CONTRIBUTING_CIRCUMSTANCES
       RoadCondition2: NO_CONTRIBUTING_CIRCUMSTANCES
        EnvCondition1: NO_CONTRIBUTING_CIRCUMSTANCES
        EnvCondition2: 
     VehicleStateCode: UN
              RegYear: 1900
            BodyStyle: MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED
                 Make: UNKNOWN
                Color: UNKNOWN
              BusFlag: 0
             GVWRFlag: 0
           HazmatFlag: 0
          PostedSpeed: 35
       EstimatedSpeed: 15
         DisabledFlag: 1
           DamageArea: UNDEFINED_MINUS_1
              Defect1: NO_CONTRIBUTING_CIRCUMSTANCES
              Defect2: 
       EventSequence1: MOTOR_VEHICLE_IN_TRANSPORT
       EventSequence2: BLANK_0
       EventSequence3: BLANK_0
       EventSequence4: BLANK_0
          ControlType: TRAFFIC_CONTROL_SIGNAL
    SurfaceCondition1: DRY
    *************************** 2. row ***************************
           IncidentID: 2560864
               UnitID: 4848649
           UnitNumber: 2
             UnitType: DRIVER
      TravelDirection: SOUTH
        RoadAlignment: STRAIGHT
            RoadGrade: LEVEL
                 Lane: RIGHT_TURN_1_40
           UnitAction: MAKING_RIGHT_TURN
     MostHarmfulEvent: NOT_REPORTED_255
        HitAndRunFlag: 0
       RoadCondition1: NO_CONTRIBUTING_CIRCUMSTANCES
       RoadCondition2: NO_CONTRIBUTING_CIRCUMSTANCES
        EnvCondition1: NO_CONTRIBUTING_CIRCUMSTANCES
        EnvCondition2: 
     VehicleStateCode: AZ
              RegYear: 1900
            BodyStyle: PASSENGER_4DSD_SEDAN_4_DR
                 Make: TOYT_TOYOTA
                Color: RED_RED
              BusFlag: 0
             GVWRFlag: 0
           HazmatFlag: 0
          PostedSpeed: 35
       EstimatedSpeed: 15
         DisabledFlag: 0
           DamageArea: UNDEFINED_MINUS_1
              Defect1: NO_CONTRIBUTING_CIRCUMSTANCES
              Defect2: 
       EventSequence1: MOTOR_VEHICLE_IN_TRANSPORT
       EventSequence2: BLANK_0
       EventSequence3: BLANK_0
       EventSequence4: BLANK_0
          ControlType: TRAFFIC_CONTROL_SIGNAL
    SurfaceCondition1: DRY
    
    
  3. It might be handy to look for other relatively odd combination of MOPED (BodyType of 125) and a make of OTHER/UNKNOWN, and no license plate (UN) — these are likely suspects that may in fact be motorized bicycles, and not actually mopeds.
    I was surprised at how few moped collisions there are, in absolute numbers; maybe a dozen a year

    mysql> SELECT count(1) count, eUnitType Type, 
    BodyStyleDesc, MakeDesc, 
    VehicleStateCode State, eInjuryStatus FROM
    2012_person p JOIN 2012_unit u ON p.UnitID=u.UnitID WHERE BodyStyle=125  
    GROUP BY 2,3,4,5,6 ;
    +-------+--------+---------------------+--------------+-------+---------------------------+
    | count | Type   | BodyStyleDesc       | MakeDesc     | State | eInjuryStatus             |
    +-------+--------+---------------------+--------------+-------+---------------------------+
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | HOND_HONDA   | AZ    | POSSIBLE_INJURY           |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | HOND_HONDA   | AZ    | NON_INCAPACITATING_INJURY |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | NOT_REPORTED | AZ    | NON_INCAPACITATING_INJURY |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | NOT_REPORTED | UN    | POSSIBLE_INJURY           |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | OPEL_OPEL    | UN    | NON_INCAPACITATING_INJURY |
    |     3 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | OTHER        | AZ    | NON_INCAPACITATING_INJURY |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | OTHER        | AZ    | INCAPACITATING_INJURY     |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | OTHER        | UN    | NON_INCAPACITATING_INJURY |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | UNKNOWN      | AZ    | NO_INJURY                 |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | UNKNOWN      | AZ    | POSSIBLE_INJURY           |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | UNKNOWN      | UN    | POSSIBLE_INJURY           |
    |     2 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | UNKNOWN      | UN    | FATAL                     |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | YAMA_YAMAHA  | MN    | NON_INCAPACITATING_INJURY |
    |     1 | DRIVER | MOTORCYCLE_MP_MOPED | YAMA_YAMAHA  | UN    | INCAPACITATING_INJURY     |
    +-------+--------+---------------------+--------------+-------+---------------------------+

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