Shoulder Use

When must I ride my bicycle on the shoulder? 

First, it’s important to define what a shoulder is, and isn’t.  ” ‘Roadway’ means that portion of a highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder”  §28-601(22). Busier streets are typically divided into one or more travel lanes in each direction, with a solid white stripe, called an edge line (often referred to as a fog line), at the right edge of the rightmost lane. The area to the right of the edge line is the shoulder. Note that not all streets have edge lines. It’s also possible to have a left edge line and a left shoulder, for example on a one-way street or divided road. Note also that the shoulder may or may not be paved, it is simply that region next to the roadway. Most of this discussion tacitly assumes a paved shoulder; however not all shoulders are paved.

A quick word about bicycle lanes: bicycle lanes are not shoulders, and shoulders are not bicycle lanes. Bicycle lanes are usually designed to AASHTO standards, and must be marked according to MUTCD specifications and designated as such by the local authority; this usually involving both a stripe and painted symbol ground markings and (now optional) “bike lane” regulatory signs.

So, designated bike lanes are part of the roadway, whereas shoulders are, by definition, not. See below for More about Bike Lanes.

Pecos
typical open-shoulder street (that is, has a shoulder with no curb or gutter). Pecos Road, Phoenix AZ ~ 2400 east block. This shoulder is frequently used by joggers and bicyclists.

In Arizona a bicyclist generally may travel on any shoulder  – because it is not prohibited by any statute. (Motorists are not explicitly prohibited from driving on the shoulder, either*) However, on controlled-access highways jurisdictions may, and do, restrict bicycle use (§28-733). In particular, ADOT restricts bicyclists on limited-access highways where allowed to the shoulder, and prohibits bicyclists altogether on other, mostly urban, controlled-access highways. Likewise, local authorities may regulate the operation of bicycles on roads under their jurisdiction; although this is uncommon (§28-626 & 627).

Arizona has no mandatory shoulder use law for bicyclists. §28-815A specifies where, laterally, a bicyclist must ride when riding on the roadway. It contains no provisions for requiring removal from the roadway onto any shoulder, ever.

IMG243
There’s the edge line, there’s the curb. Where may a bicyclist ride? Where must a bicyclist ride? The phrase “…or curb” is often mis-interpreted.

Bicyclists must ride “as close as practicable” to the right hand edge of the roadway when traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic; but only if (among other exceptions) the lane is wide enough to share, and have no general duty to not impede other drivers nor to travel as fast as motorized traffic, that is to say §28-704A  and §28-701E are inapplicable to bicyclists because they specifically apply only to drivers of motor vehicles. Drivers of vehicles, which includes bicyclists, on two-lane highways, that is one lane in each direction, have a duty to pull off the roadway, when safe, if impeding five or more vehicles and passing is unsafe (§28-704C). If a shoulder is available and safe (e.g. clear of debris, wide enough to allow a cyclist to completely exit the roadway), a bicyclist under such conditions would be required to leave the roadway and allow traffic to clear.

warnerAt51stStPhx
It should be self-evident this is not a bike lane (note the diagonal crosshatch markings); and also self-evident the right lane is “too narrow to share…”. The shoulder disappears just around the bend. Warner Rd eastbound at 51st St, Phoenix.

Typical roads in urban settings are multiple lanes in each direction, and as such 28-704C is not applicable. The law presumes that faster traffic can overtake in one of the other available lanes, so bicyclists are never required to leave the travel lane.

So, in sum, bicyclists except for the caveats mentioned (certain limited-access highways; and under particular conditions on a two-lane highway) are never required to use a shoulder, though many often choose to.

More about Bike Lanes

As explained above, a duly marked and designated bike lane, unlike a shoulder, is part of the roadway and as its name suggests, it is also a lane, albeit one for the “exclusive use of bicycles” (§28-815C). There is no explicit statute requiring a bicyclist to use any bike lane.

This bit (shown below in strikethrough) reflected my earlier mis-interpretation of the Slow Driver Law:

 

Bicyclists must, however, when traveling slower than the “normal speed of traffic” (along with exceptions for passing and turning left) comply with Arizona’s general Slow Driver Law , §28-721B which states drivers (includes bicyclists) “shall drive the vehicle in the right-hand lane then available for traffic…”. So if a bike lane is then available, a bicyclist must use it. Note that then available also means that if the bike lane is, e.g. blocked or filled with debris, or has some other defect it may well exist but is not available and need not be used.

Bike lanes are an example of a preferential use lane. Other examples of preferential use lanes are for taxis, buses, and HOV (High Occupancy Vehicles). The type of user the lane is for is not/never required to use it. HOV drivers are not required to use HOV lanes, etc.

A Last word about shoulders

cap
This two-lane highway has a wide, graded, dirt/gravel shoulder. Maricopa Road; near the Wild Horse Pass Casino.

Remember, not all roads have shoulders, and not all roads with shoulders have paved shoulders. It may well be possible to ride on this shoulder like the one pictured at left, for example with a mountain bike — but it is never required.

Arizona law does not define the term “improved shoulder”. (in contrast, see Texas shoulder laws, mentioned below). Shoulders are just shoulders, and the laws have to work on all types of highways.

Two Abreast

Two abreast riding is generally allowed “Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadway set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.” §28-815B.  Note that the number of riders abreast restriction only applies on “the roadway”; as we’ve seen above, a shoulder is not part of a roadway.

The narrow-lane exception in §28-815A(4) “If the lane in which the person is operating the bicycle is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane” is generally understood to mean ONE bicycle, and if the exception applies to one bicycle, it also applies to two bicyclists riding abreast. In other words, some lanes will be just wide enough to safely share with one bicyclist; if bicyclists are riding two-abreast in such a lane, they are required to “single up” in the presence of faster traffic. By contrast, when riding in a narrow lane, cyclists may continue to ride two-abreast subject only to the rules already mentioned above.

______________________________________________________

§28-729(1) says on laned roads “A person shall drive a vehicle as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane…”. And  §28-721A says that “On all roadways of sufficient width, a person shall drive a vehicle on the right half of the roadway…”; either statute is generally taken to mean when driving on the roadway, a driver must only operate on the right side (i.e. in the correct direction) of the roadway; and not on any shoulder; the shoulder is not a lane.  That being said, to the extent that 28-721A and/or 28-729(1) does prohibit drivers of vehicles from operating on the shoulder; SB1218 in 1986 made several changes regarding the operation of bicyclists. Among them, it clarified 28-812 to make clear that bicyclists are permitted to use a shoulder by adding the language “OR UPON A SHOULDER ADJOINING A ROADWAY” (historical footnote; the word ‘upon’ has since been changed to ‘on’, probably just a conforming change).

While Arizona law is mum, In contrast some states get very specific about shoulder usage; consider Texas Transportation Code – Section 545.058. Driving On Improved Shoulder, e.g. allowing drivers to drive on shoulders but only when “necessary and safe”. And furthermore exempting bicyclists from shoulder prohibitions.

Some further references

  • Bicyclists are generally granted the same rights and responsibilities as a driver of a vehicle, see §28-812.
  • ADOT policy 1030: Controlled-Access Highways as Bikeways specifies exactly which freeways bicyclists are allowed to use (shoulder only).
  • More about ASHTO and MUTCD standards for designated Bike Lanes.
  • See comment below for the correct interpretation of the word ‘or’ in ‘as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway”; which appear, e.g. in Arizona AFRAP rule (28-815A); and also appears in the required position for right turns law 28-751A and a variation in the generic slow-moving vehicle rule 28-721B.
  • The terms ‘street’ and ‘highway’ are synonymous in Arizona law, see definitions here.
  • Edge lines are specified in sections 3B06 and 7 of the MUTCD. Edge lines are sometimes/frequently mis-used by traffic engineers on urban streets to create “fake bike lanes”.
  • Diagonal crosshatch markings (see Warner Rd photo, above, are specified in sections 3B24 of the MUTCD… “diagonal crosshatch markings may be used to discourage travel on certain paved areas, such as shoulders…”

11 thoughts on “Shoulder Use”

  1. Painstakingly detailed explanation of CA law — which contains same AFRAP language of “or curb” regarding, what Watchell refers to as the “slow bicyclists law” aka AFRAP — states flatly that “5. Bicyclists Are Not Required to Ride on the Shoulder – The slow bicycle rule applies only on the roadway. Bicyclists, even slow ones, are never required to ride on the shoulder (or on sidewalks or bike paths) rather than on the roadway…”

    Bicycles and the Law: The Case of California by Alan Wachtel
    published:
    18 ENVIRONS, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW AND POLICY JOURNAL 105–124 (May 1995)
    University of California, Davis, Environmental Law Society

    CA’s AFRAP law: CVC 21202

    Same info at wiki, see Bicyclists are allowed, but never required, to ride in the shoulder.

    Ohio AFRAP ORC 4511.55 does NOT include the “or curb”. So I was mistaken in thinking the wording is consistent (among the many states that has AFRAP law).

  2. Musings about vehicular shoulder use. There is no Arizona Statute that prohibits use; nor is there anything in the MUTCD that would imply that it prohibited.
    (also would like to add the section from mutcd on “Chevron” solid white line markings; it says something there about how crossing of such markings is “discouraged”)…

    I found:
    3A6-1 A solid line discourages or prohibits crossing (depending on the specific application),

    3B3-20 Where crossing the lane line markings is discouraged, the lane line markings shall consist of a normal or wide solid white line.

    30 Where crossing the lane line markings is prohibited, the lane line markings shall consist of a solid double white line (see Figure 3B-12).

    Evidently, if a lane line is “normal” (4-6 inches wide), then it is not intended to be prohibited (there’s still no supporting law, though). But if it is “wide”, that could mean it is discouraged but not prohibited.

    On Sat, Sep 08, 2012 at 12:40:01PM -0700, Ed Beighe wrote:
    > ah yes the stripe is a TCD but there’s nothing in mutcd prohibiting driving over a solid white stripe (is there?)…
    > IIRC it says solid white stripes are used in places where crossing is “discouraged”.
    >
    > az has that “can’t drive over a gore point” law; i forget how that’s worded but it wouldn’t apply to an edgeline.
    >
    > ________________________________
    > From:
    > Sent: Saturday, September 8, 2012 11:58 AM
    > Subject: Re: do not pass on shoulder
    >
    > Oh, and the “stripe”/edge-line-pavement-marking is a TCD too, so the
    > police (those of them who realize this) could cite a person for the
    > generic TCD rule. *However* my earlier comment applies: I see NO WAY
    > for a person to know that a (wide) shoulder is not an additional lane.

  3. Here is some explanation of the same phrase that gets wrongly interpreted when applying to bicycles AFRAP on laned roads *with* shoulders from the bicycledriving discussion group (direct link to post) …

    Bob Shanteau Aug 02 06:12AM -0700

    On 8/1/2013 11:35 PM, Martin Pion wrote:
    >> rights – *Not all bicycle drivers endorse repealing cyclist laws,
    >> *that allow us to control lanes of traffic whenever necessary for
    >> width or expansive safety or operational needs*.*

    Beck’s main point is that repealing the FTR law would leave bicyclists subject to the Slow Moving Vehicle law, which says that drivers of slow moving vehicles must drive in the right-hand lane or as close to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway as practicable. The problem is that he doesn’t understand the “or” in the SMV law. He thinks it means “and”, such that SMVs are required to drive at the right edge of the right-hand lane. He is mistaken.

    In our article The Marginalization of Bicyclists – How the car lane paradigm eroded our lane rights and what we can do to restore them Dan Gutierrez and I explain what the “or” in the SMV law means:

    ===

    UVC 11-301 — Drive on right side of roadways — exceptions …
    (b) Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road, alley, or driveway.

    The intent of this subsection is to facilitate the overtaking of slowly moving vehicles by faster moving vehicles. …

    What does the “or” in “the right-hand lane or as close as practicable to the right” mean?

    There has been a lot of confusion about what the “or” in UVC 11-301(b) means. Some people mistakenly interpret the “or” to mean “and”. By this interpretation, a narrow slow moving vehicle (such as a motorcycle) would have to be driven in the right side of the right-hand lane in order to comply with UVC 11-301(b), presumably in order to facilitate passing by faster vehicles in the same lane. Since the UVC specifically grants motorcyclists the right to use a full lane (see below), a driver could get a ticket for passing a motorcyclist without changing lanes. Therefore that interpretation must be incorrect.

    A correct interpretation of the “or” in UVC 11-301(b) follows this line of reasoning:
    The driver of a slow moving vehicle is in compliance with the law by meeting one of two conditions:
    1. Operating in the right-hand lane
    2. Operating as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway

    On an UNLANED road:

    * The roadway does not have a right-hand lane for traffic, so condition 1 does not apply.
    * The roadway does have a right-hand curb or edge, so condition 2 applies.
    * Therefore the driver of a slow moving vehicle operating as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway is in compliance with UVC 11-301(b).

    On a LANED road:

    * The roadway has a right-hand lane for traffic, so condition 1 applies.
    * The roadway has a right-hand edge or curb, so condition 2 also applies.
    * Condition 1 is less restrictive than Condition 2.
    * Only the less restrictive of the two conditions needs to be met in order to comply with the law.
    * Therefore the driver of a slow moving vehicle operating in the right-hand lane for traffic is in compliance with UVC 11-301(b).

    In 1975, the NCUTLO /Panel on Bicycle Laws came to the same interpretation when it considered what would be required of bicyclists on laned roads if the provision were deleted:

    UVC 11-301(b) … will effectively require bicycles to stay in the right lane (although it will not require them to stay near the right edge of the roadway) when moving slower than other traffic.

    Bob Shanteau

    ===

    Serge Issakov Aug 02 03:15PM -0700 wrote:
    Michael, Martin got cited for violating the local version of that law. That’s what you don’t seem to appreciate. We know the FTR law *shouldn’t*make riding like that illegal. That’s why Bob Shanteau and others got those exceptions in there. But too many people, including law enforcement and judges, not to mention the vast majority of motorists *and bicyclists* believe that kind of riding violates FTR never-the-less. That’s the problem… a problem that can only be addressed by removing the law.

    Serge

  4. xxx xxxxx, Esq. xxx Legal Advisor

    xxxx is an attorney, specializing in representing bicyclists who have been injured in motor vehicle collisions. In addtion to his activities with CAzB, he serves as the chairman of the Enforcement Subcommittee of the Tucscon-Pima BAC. xxx is an LCI, a League Certified cycling Instructor. Contact him here.

  5. NJ Supreme court decision (Argued September 26, 2011 – Decided January 18, 2012) said in part in Polzo vs. Essex County
    “Bicyclists do not have special privileges on a roadway’s shoulder. Indeed, a bicycle rider is directed to ride on the furthest right hand side of the roadway, not on the roadway’s shoulder. The Motor Vehicle Code does not designate the roadway’s shoulder as a bicycle lane”
    Similarly to, and citing, Boub, the NJSupreme court said essentially that bicyclists are not intended road users, and more germane to this thread, they travel on the shoulder at their own risk.
    Here is a link to the decision, I had a hard time finding it lamarchefirm.com

  6. Good wording regarding shoulder use in the FLORIDA BICYCLE LAW ENFORCEMENT GUIDE
    from floridabicycle.org (my emphais added):

    Roads with flush shoulders: where no bicycle lane is marked, a white edge line is typically marked to indicate the edge of the roadway; any pavement to the right of the edge line is shoulder pavement, not a bicycle lane unless it is marked with the bicycle lane symbol.
    Since the definition of “roadway” excludes shoulders, cyclists are not required to ride on paved shoulders that are not marked as bicycle lanes, although they may prefer to do so. A cyclist who rides on a paved shoulder typically needs to maintain 2 feet of clearance from the pavement edge. The cyclist should still travel on the right because (1) this reduces crash risk at intersections and driveways (drivers don’t expect traffic on shoulders to approach from the “wrong” direction) and (2) whenever the cyclist enters the roadway (e.g., to pass a pedestrian or other cyclist, cross an intersection, keep clear of a
    vehicle approaching to enter the roadway at a driveway, avoid debris or obstructions, etc.), right-side operation becomes mandatory

  7. I was thinking about all this shoulder-business the other day as I was proceeding eastbound on Warner Road around S. 51st Street in Phoenix in the right hand through lane with some driver behind me blaring their horn for some reason. The shoulder here is not only a shoulder, it’s marked with solid-white diagonal striping…
    http://goo.gl/maps/feBpn

    This happens maybe one out of 10 times along this stretch. Interestingly, it’s always drivers who need to be in the left lane (they continue ahead to the double-left-turn lanes at the westbound I-10 ramp). Impatient?

  8. 28-812 bit about “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” [italics mine] (when was that added, 1989??) is, of course, not in current UVC*

    And regarding, “’drivers of vehicles’ are not permitted to drive on the shoulder,” don’t forget 751 – Required position and method of turning – 1.: The driver of a vehicle intending to turn shall do so as follows: 1. Right turns. Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway” [italics mine] and 724 – Overtaking on the right – B.: “The driver shall not make the movement by driving off the pavement or main traveled portion of the roadway” [italics mine].

    This came up in Road Safety Assessment (SR 77 [Oracle Road] Milepost 72.9 to 74.85):

    · The only (pedestrian) walkways along Oracle Road are the paved shoulders (there are a couple of very short sidewalk segments). The paved shoulder ends where right-turn lanes are striped, creating discontinuities for pedestrians walking along the shoulder
    · Pedestrians were observed crossing mid-block, walking in the right-turn lanes, walking along the shoulder, and being “squeezed” by aggressive drivers making right turns. Foot-paths have been worn in the vegetation at locations where the paved shoulder becomes a right-turn lane.
    · The team observed motorists using the shoulders as right-turn lanes, with vehicles traveling as much as 300 feet on the shoulder before turning right (with some vehicles passing several driveways before turning right). This creates concerns for pedestrians using the shoulder, especially at night when it is difficult for motorists to see pedestrians. It also creates confusion for motorists turning from driveways who aren’t sure where the vehicle using the shoulder is going to turn.

    Resulted in recommendations to “Install signing to prohibit driving on shoulder, especially in the vicinity of multiple closely spaced driveways” http://wwwa.azdot.gov/traffic/moas/pdf/r/r04-017.pdf and, get this, “Install bike lane markings on the shoulder to discourage motorists from driving on the shoulder (Pima County Sheriff’s Department indicated these markings would make it easier to enforce for driving on shoulder).”

    ______________________________
    *(Interesting though amendment (shown in bold, below) proposed from Bicycle Technical Committee (Proposed Changes to UVC Chapters 1 and 11):
    11-1202-Traffic laws apply to persons on bicycles and other human powered vehicles
    (a) Every person propelling a vehicle by human power or riding a bicycle shall have all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under chapters 10 and 11, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to those provisions which by their nature can have no application
    (b) Bicycle travel on the shoulder of the roadway shall be permitted except where regulations prohibit or restrict shoulder travel for bicyclists.

    and

    11-304 When passing on the right is permitted
    … Such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway, except that a person operating a bicycle may pass on the shoulder, provided the movement may be done in safety.

  9. Regarding mandatory bike lane laws:
    Various compendiums of state-by-state reviews reveal that relatively few states have mandatory use laws, e.g. guide-to-improving-laws shows 6; and LAB lists 8 state. Regardless, it seems disingenuous to me because it implies bike lane use is not mandatory in most states, when in fact if your state, like AZ, has the standard Slow moving vehicle rule (modeled after UVC 11-301b), bicyclists moving slower than the normal speed of traffic are required to use the rightmost lane “then available”.
    A usually-worded slow moving vehicle law is a de facto mandatory bike lane use law.
    AFRAP (As Far Right As Practicable, a.k.a. FTR / Far To the Right) laws can also potentially be a de facto mandatory use law but the SMV is more broad.

  10. bicycledriving.org’s Guide to Improving Bicycle Laws notes that only four states have mandatory shoulder use laws with various exceptions; Alaska, Colorado, Maryland, and New York.
    It also noted the current version of UVC, unlike AZ, does not specify where bicycle laws apply; in other words, they apply where other traffic laws apply; see UVC §11—1202—Traffic laws apply to persons on bicycles…
    And as mentioned in a previous comment, there is a recommendation to update the UVC to make shoulder use explicitly permitted (and explicitly optional).

  11. Here’s another thought on why it’s not a good idea to mark typical rural roadways with bike lanes, rather than shoulders:
    Can you mark road shoulders as bike lanes?:

    …If rural road shoulders are to be used by bicyclists and pedestrians, it is advisable to not mark it as a bike lane. Doing so would pose a safety hazard, implying that bikes and pedestrians would be required (illegally) to share a bike lane. A better choice is to place a sign advising folks to share the road…

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