A bicyclist is considered the driver of a vehicle for the purposes of the transportation code, A.R.S. Title 28.
More fully, a bicyclist is “…granted all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle…” §28-812, which goes on to state specifically which Chapters of Title 28 these rules apply to, 3, 4 and 5 which are the Rules of the road, DUI, and Penalties, respectively.
(side note: This is as opposed to defining a bicycle as a vehicle, which is done in some other states, but not in Arizona where the term vehicle specifically excludes bicycles, see the definition of vehicle at §28-101)
(for more about 2 troublesome Arizona laws that refer to yielding to vehicles; see these notes about a case in Illinois. That case involves stop sign/intersection entrance, the second troublesome law is left turns. By troublesome, I mean troublesome for bicyclists who are involved in collisions when a motorist has a stop sign, or a motorist is turning left)
Rules of the Road
Syntax #1: The driver of a vehicle
So a typical rule of the road is constructed like so:
the driver of a vehicle; under some condition; shall (or sometimes shall not; and one that says may) do something.
For example, here is what to do when approaching a yield sign “The driver of a vehicle approaching a yield sign shall slow down … and shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle…” §28-855(C).
Another example is what to do when preparing to turn “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn shall do so as follows…” §28-751.
Note that the phrase “driver of a vehicle” is verbatim what the bicyclist applicability statue says. We can therefore confidently conclude that reading 28-855C together with 28-812 means that bicyclists must stop at stop signs in the same manner as drivers of vehicles are required to.
And so it goes. Except that there are a whole bunch of normal rules of the road that have a slightly different syntax…
Syntax #2: A person shall drive a vehicle
on some precondition (optional); a person shall/not drive a vehicle; in some particular fashion.
So for example the rule for speeding is “A person shall not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent” §28-701(A) .
Another example, a very elementary rule of the road concerns which direction to travel “On all roadways of sufficient width, a person shall drive a vehicle on the right half of the roadway…” §28-721(A) , i.e. never ride or drive the “wrong way”.
Do these rules apply to bicyclists? Unfortunately the statutory construction mentioned above breaks down with this syntax. And a word-by-word parsing finds that the terms ‘drive’ and ‘vehicle’ have problematic statutory definitions, discussed below in the DUI section. Nevertheless, most people (including me) believe that these rules apply equally to bicyclists — that is, in the examples above, bicyclists must not go faster than is reasonable and prudent, and bicyclists must operate on the right-hand half of the roadway (i.e. in the correct direction of traffic). Does anyone think otherwise?
Syntax #3: Other
There is at least one more syntax that doesn’t fit either the driver of a vehicle, or the a person shall drive a vehicle formulation. What to do at a red light has its own unique syntax; stating nothing about a person driving! “…vehicular traffic facing a steady red signal alone shall stop before entering the intersection and shall remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown” §28-645(a)(3). This one seems rather bizarre, after all vehicles don’t do things, their drivers do.
In any event, most people, including me believe this law applies to bicyclists. Does anyone think otherwise?
What does this all mean?
It seems to me there is general agreement that both bicyclists and motorists must, to use the examples cited above 1) yield at yield signs, 2) follow the same methods of turning, 3) not speed, 4) only go in the correct direction, and 5) stop at red lights. And those are just examples, so more broadly all the rules of the road — who yields to whom, and how to operate — all apply to both bicyclists and motorists (though there are a select few, like impeding, that apply explicitly and only to motorists)
My guess is it’s just sloppy drafting. (todo: how is the UVC drafted?)
So if you’ve hung on this long, you’re probably wondering why I even brought this up. It all revolves around DUI law. The bicyclist applicability statute explicitly mentions that Chapter 4, DUI, applies to bicyclists via 28-812 (see above). For this reason alone I would tend to think the DUI laws apply to bicyclists. (For a very long, very old article about Bicyclists and DUI/”BUI”, including a survey of other state’s approaches, go here), but read on.
I note that the implied consent (to testing) explicitly applies only to a “person who operates a motor vehicle in this state gives consent” §28-1321, so at least that much is clear. And also makes sense from the standpoint that implied consent laws have been consistently upheld against constitutional challenges largely because in the United States, driving is considered a privilege rather than a right, On public roads, driving a motor vehicle is a privilege, riding a bike is a (statutorily-granted) right. No license is required to operate a bicycle, and there is no mechanism to revoke the right to ride a bicycle.
None of the definitions or applicability statutes in Chapter 4 limit DUI to motorists. The basic DUI statute is “It is unlawful for a person to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle … while under the influence of intoxicating liquor… §28-1381A.
I am told, rather vehemently, it is simply and plainly impossible for a bicyclist to violate the DUI statute. The argument goes like this; the term ‘drive’ cannot apply to a bicyclist because of the definition of drive. And/or the term ‘vehicle’ plainly excludes bicycles. In this statutory interpretation, the bicyclist applicability statute is immaterial (but I don’t know why that should be the case?). Here are the definitions:
“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 or used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks.
“Drive” means to operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle [emphasis added]
and, for completeness and by contrast, the definition of driver doesn’t include the word motor, but contrast to operator:
“Driver” means a person who drives or is in actual physical
control of a vehicle.
“Operator” means a person who drives a motor vehicle on a highway, who is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle on a highway or who is exercising control over or steering a vehicle being towed by a motor vehicle.
— all from §28-101
That’s all very interesting, but if correct, it would also mean many rules of the road cannot likewise apply to bicyclists because they refer to ‘vehicle’, or ‘drive’.
One other angle is how any of this might affect animal riders or drivers of animal-drawn vehicles. The applicability statute for them is nearly a carbon-copy of that for bicyclists: “A person riding an animal or driving an animal drawn vehicle on a roadway has all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle…” §28-625. In other words, the applicability statute mixes ‘driving’ with ‘vehicle’. The term driving has no statutory definition; but drive and driver does. Is this all somehow consistent? Or just some sloppy drafting. [I’ll make note of this here: i’ve heard a number of times there is an “old” AZ supreme court case that found someone driving an animal drawn wagon was upheld being found guilty of dui. At this point, i consider it an urban legend, but you never know 🙂 ]
For extra credit: Is a Moped a Motor Vehicle? What about a Motorized Bicycle? (scroll down a bit).
There’s another theory i’ve heard swirling around; and it is that a ‘duty’ is strictly a civil law concept (most traffic infractions are civil violations) that has no meaning in criminal law (dui violations are criminal ones). Therefore the duties imposed in 28-812 have no effect on DUI, and thus bicyclists cannot be subject to DUI.
I’ve not been able to find out anything to back this up.
It is also always possible to claim DUI laws “by their nature can have no application” (from 28-812) to bicyclists.