Category Archives: bikelaw

Cleapor Fatality — Mesa police stonewall

The stonewall has broken, and a flood of details that implicate the cyclist as being at fault in the collision have been released in an AZ Republic article published October 13, 2007. Why it took until now, weeks after Mesa police declared there would be no citations issued is baffling. Mesa police spokesman Detective Chris Arvayo could have (and in my opinion, should have) either released these explanations sooner, or simply stated the investigation was ongoing. He either said, or left the impression that the case was closed without saying why. Continue reading Cleapor Fatality — Mesa police stonewall

Moped and Motorized Bicycles in Arizona

[for an update involving troubles in Tempe, see Is your motorized bicycle a play vehicle?]

Every now and then an unusual story involving bicycles, in this case motorized bicycles, and a point of law comes along. Surely, this is one of those cases. It revolves around a relatively new law enacted last year, that defines a whole new category: motorized bicycles. See HB2796, 2nd Regular legislature (2006). Continue reading Moped and Motorized Bicycles in Arizona

Insurance Considerations

Bicycling & the LawI’m reading Bob Mionske’s excellent book Bicycling & the Law (available from velogear), here is what I distilled out of the section on car insurance and liability systems as it relates to Arizona.

Arizona operates on the traditional “tort liability” system. By comparison, the three other systems used in decreasing order of popularity are: no fault, hybrid, and choice. Continue reading Insurance Considerations

Is a Bikelane part of the Roadway?

Is a bike lane part of the roadway?

Briefly, the accepted answer in Arizona as well as everywhere in the United States except OR, is simply ‘yes‘. What follows is a possibly interesting counter-point…


Borromeo V. Shea ( to read full case, search LegalWA.org, supreme court decisions fo: Borromeo v. Shea) affirmed that the bike lane was indeed part of the roadway in the State of Washington. Washington’s definition of roadway is virtually identical to Arizona:

(WA) RCW 46.04.500 “Roadway” means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the sidewalk or shoulder even though such sidewalk or shoulder is used by persons riding bicycles.

(AZ) §28-601(21) “Roadway” means that portion of a highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder…

The definition of vehicle, though, is completely different — in WA bikes are explicitly defined as vehicles, and in AZ they are explicitly excluded from being vehicles:

(Wash) RCW 46.04.670 “Vehicle” includes every device capable of being moved upon a public highway and in, upon, or by which any persons or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, including bicycles

(AZ) §28-101 “Vehicle” means a device in, on or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a public highway, excluding devices moved by human power…

The Washington Supreme Court reasoned from the plain meaning of their statutes that bike lanes are part of the roadway.

So, what about Arizona?

In Arizona, on the other hand, bicycles are clearly not vehicles and so bike lanes are clearly not “designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel” — vehicles are banned from them! [§28-815(D) ]. Thus the “plain meaning” of Arizona’s statutes indicate that bike lanes are not part of the roadway.

However, case law from the Arizona Court of Appeals found in Rosenthal v. County of Pima (local copy) that a bicyclist in a bike lane was required to follow the rules of the road (in this case, required to ride in the direction of traffic). The case seems pretty straightforward. I note that the definition of “roadway” or “vehicle” doesn’t even appear in the opinion (perhaps that is a shortcoming of the case as brought?):

(appellee’s argument that, which the trial judge agreed with) those who ride in bike paths, because they are not roadways, are not (subject to the rules of the road). The argument both defies logic and is contrary to the express statutory language of A.R.S. §§ 28-728 and 28-811.

164 Ariz. 98; 791 P.2d 365; 1990 Ariz. App.Rosenthal v. County of Pima (link to opinon on Leagle)

The twist here is that since the bicyclist was a minor, the  applicability statute cited was §28-811 , and §28-812 was not considered (also see Applicability Statutes – why are there two?). Confusingly, both say when and which statutes apply to bicyclists; 811 says that “this chapter [chapter 3 – Traffic and Vehicle Regulation] applies to a bicycle when it is operated on a highway or on a path“, whereas 812 says the rules, chapters 3, 4 and 5, apply to a “person riding a bicycle on a roadway or on a shoulder” [this confusion is explained in applicability-statutes-why-are-there-two; and seems settled based on a 2013 Court of Appeals decision Arizona v. Baggett]

In any event, Rosenthal doesn’t shed any light on whether or not a bikelane is part of the roadway. Thus the “plain meaning” of Arizona’s statutes stands: bike lanes are not part of the roadway. This is not in conflict with Rosenthal, it just means that the appellee’s argument was mis-constructed from the beginning. They were apparently counting solely on 28-811, overlooking (presumably because it wasn’t helpful to the case) 28-812 entirely.

Would the outcome have been different had the cyclist not been a minor? I would think not — since the rider was definitely either “on a roadway” or “adjoining a roadway”, then 28-728 would definitely be applicable. Or another way to say it, is that it still wouldn’t matter whether or not a bike lane is or is not part of the roadway.

Tucson Bike Lane

This occurs to me later: Tucson had almost no bike lanes [as of the time this was written, in 2007. It seems it may have changed in the meantime]. They are often incorrectly called bike lanes; they are also referred to under various made-up terms like “bike shoulder”. But they are not bike lanes.

Would this matter to the case at hand? The opinion refers to a couple of times “bike lane” and other times as a “path”. But again, this doesn’t seem to have made a difference. It’s just sloppy terminology. Most likely, the collision occurred on a SHOULDER.