There’s a recent (7/11/2013) Arizona Court of Appeals District 1 (“Phoenix”) ruling Arizona v. Baggett (or at google scholar) that affirms that bicyclists must use a headlight during nighttime, 28-817, not just when riding in the roadway, but also on the sidewalk.
By extension, other bicycle-specific rules (generally 28-813 through 28-817; so for example one-seat per person; the one-hand rule; stuff like that) would also apply to cyclists using the sidewalk; while those that specifically mention the roadway, e.g. 815A and B do only apply on the roadway. Look up the bicycle statutes at bicycle-laws.
This ruling adds to a very slender body of case law involving bicycle laws in Arizona; see also Maxwell v. Gossett, and Rosenthal v. County of Pima for the only other published cases I am aware of in the history of Arizona!
Is it illegal to cycle on the sidewalk in Phoenix?
There some mis-information floating around in the media, see e.g. yumasun.com and azstarnet.com sourced from something called “Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services”. It claims sidewalk cycling in Phoenix is illegal under city code; that is explicitly not part of the decision — so, i’m not sure where or why that was said. Here is the passage from the news article (my emphasis added):
On top of that, the judge said, Baggett was violating a Phoenix city ordinance, similar to many other communities, which makes it illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk. So if police didn’t stop Baggett for the lack of a headlight, they could have stopped and cited him anyway.
The trouble is, there seems to be nothing like this in the ruling. There is an oblique reference to this in a footnote but it doesn’t say anything like what is in the article. Here is what the decision says on that topic; it is footnote number 4 on page 4 (again, my emphasis):
Our review of the record shows the parties did not raise the issue of whether Baggett violated the Phoenix City Code by riding his bicycle on the sidewalk. See generally Phoenix City Code § 36-63 (2013) (prohibiting vehicles from driving on sidewalks); Phoenix City Code § 36-113 (2013) (subjecting bicycles, like vehicles, to all relevant sections of the city code regarding sidewalks). As a result, we do not address this issue on appeal. State v. Gendron, 168 Ariz. 153, 154, 812 P.2d 626, 627 (1991).
Note, by the way, that there’s a typo in the footnote; it should say 36-116, not 36-113 (see below). Upon reflection, it seems highly likely that the reporter didn’t actually speak with the judge, rather when the reporter wrote “the judge said”, he mixing things that were actually in the ruling with things that aren’t there, perhaps inferring them, and then mis-attributing it the judge — i.e. sloppy reporting. (I do sort of hate saying that without knowing, but i can’t figure out how to contact him — I would love to hear what he has to say). It would be highly out-of-characther for a judge to be commenting like that in the media; especially on a case which can still be appealed.
What the Phoenix City Code says about sidewalk cycling
This code is from Chapter 36, Article VII. Miscellaneous Traffic and Vehicle Regulations:
36-63 Operation of vehicles on sidewalks.
(a) No person shall drive upon, across or within any sidewalk area except at a permanent or temporary driveway….
The following codes are from Chapter 36, Article IX. Bicycles:
Bicycle: A device propelled by human power upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels either of which is more than sixteen inches in diameter and including any device generally recognized as a bicycle though equipped with two front or two rear wheels…
36-112 Obedience to signs.
Where authorized signs are erected on a sidewalk or roadway prohibiting the riding of bicycles thereon, no person shall disobey such signs.
36-113 Pedestrian right-of-way.
Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk he shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian.
36-116 Applicability of vehicle laws.
Every person propelling a pushcart or any device propelled by human power and having one or more wheels sixteen or more inches in diameter, shall be subject to all provisions of this chapter applicable to the driver of any vehicle, except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.
First, let’s step back and review relevant A.R.S (“state”) statutes: under state’s Applicability of traffic laws to bicycle riders, §28-812, bicyclists must follow laws applicable to drivers of vehicles when on the roadway and shoulder (which excludes the sidewalk, see §28-601(22)); and therefore the state’s law banning driving on the sidewalk, §28-904, cannot apply to bicyclists.
Moving on, Phoenix has an approximately equivalent Applicability rule, 36-116, which doesn’t use the term ‘bicycle’, but does seem to include bicycles into a class of devices (so long as the wheel size requirement is met; also see below for more on wheelsize); it also makes no mention of where the rules might apply. Then, there is also a code, 36-63, in a prior article that prohibits sidewalk driving of a vehicle. This code is very similar to 28-904.
(I’ve always wondered why cities feel the need to have duplicative codes? It often leads only to unintended consequences and confusion)
So, the claim could be made that by reading 36-113 in combination with 36-63 makes it illegal to ride a bicycle — since it fits the description of a “device propelled by human power…” on (‘upon’) the sidewalk. I believe that might be the case, if it were not for two additional codes in Article IX, the bicycle article.
36-113 anticipates bicyclist’s using the sidewalk; and that in 36-112 the city may erect signs on sidewalks prohibiting the riding of bicycles (and therefore not prohibited in the absence of a such a sign — I would assert). I also note that there is no code that says “Whenever any person is driving a vehicle upon a sidewalk he shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian”.
One also has to wonder if bicycles are permitted on “Bicycle And Pedestrian” bridges? Vehicles are generally banned from these. There are many of the projects that go over interstates, and canals and such… and oh yeah, what about the many multi-purpose paths?
To be blunt: if the City of Phoenix intended to make sidewalk cycling generally illegal; they would, like e.g. the City of Tucson, have simply said so… and not relied on some strained combination of other codes. Local jurisdictions are certainly within their powers to enact a general sidewalk ban, Tucson and Prescott to name a couple, have done so; but at this point Phoenix has not. See the main article, sidewalk-cycling-in-arizona, for references to those and other local laws regulating sidewalk cycling.
Despite this confusion, I’m not aware of anyone claiming (the news item linked above, notwithstanding) this amounts to a general prohibition on sidewalk cycling in Phoenix; and I’m certainly not aware of any case law that would affirm that.
The wheelsize issue
Phoenix has added yet another layer of inconsistency with the ARS; in 36-116 their wheelsize is spec’ed as “sixteen or more inches” whereas the state statute, and for that matter the code definition of bicycle, says “more than sixteen inches” (see 28-101, and 36-97). This has the effect of categorizing a very common category of bike (16″ BMX bike) as subject to vehicular rules under the Phoenix code; a category that is widely used by a wide range of ages of children (and adults, for that matter).
Whether this is good or bad is highly subjective; however, it’s yet another inconsistency that is confusing at best. The reference to a wheelsize and no reference to age is believed to be an indirect way of exempting young children (think a toddler riding a tricycle); however this, again, is subjective and imprecise. Very young children, say as young at 5 years old, commonly ride 16″ bikes.
Phoenix DOES require a license plate for all bicycles
The city of Phoenix DOES, however, require all bicycles to have a city-issued license plate. PCC 36-98 has been in place since at least 1962, and yes it is still in effect. The plate is currently impossible to obtain — ergo all bicyclists in Phoenix are operating illegally; oh unless you have a plate from the ’60s
I believe this issue could be rather straightforwardly settled by the Phoenix City Attorney’s office rendering a written interpretation. Below, is the extent of that in the form of an email from Daniel Brown of the City of Phoenix’s “Law Department” (which i believe is the, or part of, City Attorney’s office). Since it doesn’t address the confusion induced by 36-116; it doesn’t settle anything. Mr. Brown had me contact Denton Casey, whom I had a nice phone conversation, who more-or-less verbally agreed, but made it clear they are not going to render any sort of “official” opinion. Mr. Casey (from what i gathered) splits his time between the Law Dept and legal advisor to the Phoenix PD.
So, the issue, real or imagined, with the city code can be readily fixed to make 36-116 conform to the modern-day 28-812; I also suggest changing the wheelsize to conform with the state definition of bicycle in 28-101. What the heck is a “pushcart” anyway? Also, 36-98 should be deleted altogether, since it is not only not enforced, it is not even possible to comply with.
A BILL (?); Technical corrections to city code to conform to A.R.S.; modify 36-116 as below, and deletes section 36-98 entirely.
36-116 Applicability of vehicle laws.
Every person propelling a pushcart or any device propelled by human power and having one or more wheels MORE THAN sixteen or more inches in diameter ON A ROADWAY OR SHOULDER ADJOINING A ROADWAY, shall be subject to all provisions of this chapter applicable to the driver of any vehicle, except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.