Bicycling Prohibitions on Highways/Freeways

From time to time, the question about bicycling on freeways (a.k.a. highways, or more officially “controlled access highways”) comes up. Just what are the rules? This ADOT page has a good summary:

…Of course, not all roads are open to pedestrians and bicyclists – pedestrians are prohibited from walking along all controlled-access highways. Bicyclists are permitted by ADOT policy to ride on the shoulders of controlled-access highways, except where prohibited…

Let’s dig a little deeper… By statute, the state (ADOT) or local authorities may prohibit bicyclists’ use of any part of a controlled-access highway:

§28-733. Restrictions on use of controlled access highway

A. The director may, and local authorities by ordinance may, prohibit the use of any part of a controlled access highway… by pedestrians, bicycles or other nonmotorized traffic…

ADOT’s formal written policy: Traffic Engineering Guidelines and Processes, 1030 Controlled-Access Highways as Bikeways (emphasis in original):

Bicycles as defined in Arizona Revised Statutes §28-101 are permitted by law to operate on all State highways, including controlled-access highways, except where excluded by administrative regulation and the posting of signs to give notice of a prohibition. Bicycles shall not be prohibited from controlled-access highways except under those conditions where alternate routes are available and where such alternate routes are considered comparable or better in terms of convenience and safety

And then goes on to list specifically where the prohibitions are, what are generally speaking the urbanized areas. For example the restriction on I-10 is from MP 114.86 (Miller Road) to MP 270.59 (Kolb Road) — that is the entire Metro Phoenix through Metro Tucson region.

Besides ADOT (“the director”), I am not aware of any circumstance where any other authority has prohibited bicyclists from any street or highway in Arizona, see below.

Furthermore, ADOT, Intermodal Transportation Division, State Engineer, MGT 02-1 Bicycle Policy (in case of dead link, here’s a copy. There is also still a copy at azbikeped site, in color, as of April 2020 ), emphasis added:

ADOT further advocates that bicyclists have the right to operate in a legal manner on all roadways open to public travel, with the exception of fully controlled-access highways. Bicyclists may use fully controlled-access highways in Arizona except where specifically excluded by regulation and where posted signs give notice of a prohibition

[Note that as of Oct 2017, this document has been “sunsetted” whatever that means]

In September 2016, ADOT published the Complete Transportation Guidebook. It’s about 100 pages with a lot of fancy graphics. I have no idea how that fits in to any of this; quick keyword searched didn’t turn up anything regarding freeways; controlled access, limited access, etc.

What about Safety?

As might be expected, there isn’t much in the way of safety data; there was a paper Bicycle – Motor Vehicle Collisions  on Controlled Access Highways  in Arizona (if that link goes dead, copy) by Richard C. Moeur and Michelle N. Bina covering over 11 years of statewide crash data. There were only 9 incidents (6 injuries, and 3 fatalities) over the entire period. So, in short, any bike-MV collision on a controlled access highway is pretty rare.

Here is an example of a 2005 study conducted by ADOT,  I-15 Bicycle Access Analysis, where both convenience and safety, as required by policy, be evaluated. The study concluded for both reasons,  bicycle access should continue to be allowed.

Interstate 15 Bicyclist Access Analysis

Interstate 15 Bicyclist Access Analysis Richard C. Moeur, PE Traffic Design Manager, Northern Region; Arizona Department of Transportation, Intermodal Transportation Division, Traffic Engineering Group. February 2005.

As expected, the analysis considered comparisons between use of shoulder along the Interstate compared to the alternate route. Characteristics of the roadways including shoulder width and condition, crash history, vehicular volume, elevation, and maximum speed limits were considered.

Conclusion: “Do not prohibit bicyclist access to I-15”.


Some other ADOT Issues / Rumble Strips, Not necessarily related to controlled access

Under “ADOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Policies” at, the following links should be:

Also, see Standard Drawings for rumble strips at:

Traffic Guidelines and Procedures (TGP) homepage.


As mentioned above, whether or not a bicyclist can ride on an interstate in Arizona has nothing to do with a road’s status as a part of the federal interstate highway system, but rather what the jurisdiction has determined for a fully controlled-access highway. There is some interesting background and FHWA stuff in this article that deals with Missouri: Interstate riding perfectly legal where that state’s DOT has determined to allow bicyclists to the shoulder along any interstate there; they coincidentally even referred to the Moeur and Bina ADOT study “The Arizona Department of Transportation released a study in 2002 that looked at the safety record of bicycling along the shoulders of controlled access highways. The study found there were less than one crash per year in Arizona and that it was not a significant safety hazard. ”

Useful FHWA page relating to bicyclists and freeways, covers shared use paths….  “There are no Federal laws or regulations that prohibit bicycle use on Interstate highways or other freeways”. Also covers that bicyclists must be accommodated under federal law on certain federally-funded projects, see 23 U.S.C. 217, transportation plans must consider bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.

Can ADOT ban bicyclists?

It’s clear that ADOT can place restrictions on bicyclist’s usage of fully-controlled highways, as referenced to 28-733, above.  But what about restricting bicyclists on other ADOT roadways?

Doesn’t appear that any bicyclists have been involved in any of the public meetings on this proposal for a “Median Urban Interchange” (MUD) at Grand Ave and Bell road – )-and-bell-road-interchange

Now, the roadway and traffic designers are planning to prohibit bicyclists from making certain movements through the US 60 – Grand Ave / Bell intersection as part of the project. An alternative bicycle route could be a good three miles out of the way.

Bicyclists would still be allowed on US 60 – Grand Ave (and, perhaps, meet the intent of 23 USC 109: Standards (m) Protection of Nonmotorized Transportation Traffic? – although funding is from MAG’s Prop 400 so no federal funds involved). But means of access from Bell to US60 could be restricted with the thinking that, “given the design of this ‘interchange’ it seems unwise to allow bicyclists to access Grand via the proposed ramps (that would narrow to 12 feet). It will place the bicyclist in the far left lanes of Grand Ave upon entry.”

A MUD would be challenging even to the “savvy” bicyclist. But we know bicyclists are using the intersection (e.g. refer to Strava “heatmap” at ).

My understanding is that ADOT has the legal authority to ban bicyclists only on fully-controlled-access freeways, meaning a highway where all access control is in place (refer to Arizona Revised Statutes 28-733. Restrictions on use of controlled access highway – and ADOT ITD Bicycle Policy & Traffic Engineering Guidelines and Processes 1030 Controlled-Access Highways as Bikeways

Also, a reminder that MAG Regional Council adopted a Complete Streets Guide: “With the implementation of Complete Streets, nonmotorized and public transportation facilities will be considered on the same basis as institutionalized components of streets” ( & The Regional Council-adopted Regional Bikeways Master Plan also recommended policies such as “incorporate the concepts of routine accommodation and complete streets into the planning of all roadways” and “accommodate bicyclists with facilities at freeway interchanges” ( &

What about Local street or highway prohibitions? (#local)

Aside from controlled access highway regulations mentioned above, bicyclist prohibitions are extremely rare (one instance).

Local jurisdictions have the authority to regulate the operation of bicycles on streets in their jurisdictions, but there is only one known instance of them exercising their authority to ban bicyclists from any street in any jurisdiction anywhere in Arizona.

The only known bit of road in all of Arizona under local jurisdiction which prohibits bicyclists (it also prohibits pedestrians) is 44th Street between University and Washington. It is to the City of Phoenix’s shame that this is the case — bike not friendly alert. It’s not known how this decision was made, below in the comments are some historical notes.

See list of definitions, roadway, highway, etc.

Are there Minimum Speed Limits on the State Highway System?

[that content moved here]

9 thoughts on “Bicycling Prohibitions on Highways/Freeways”

  1. People are typically surprised when I tell them that essentially every interstate on-ramp in AZ has a sign “[bicycles] use shoulder only” (R9-101). As a “symbol message sign”, without a formal experiment approved by the FHWA, that is technically not in conformance to the MUTCD. I believe there was discussion about standardizing that sign in the next edition.

  2. If A.R.S. 28-721 were enforced better (slower traffic keep right), it would be safer to bike on freeways because bicyclists would always be next to the slowest cars on the road.

    We need a law like the Autobahn’s that prohibits passing on the right.

  3. “If A.R.S. 28-721 were enforced better (slower traffic keep right), it would be safer to bike on freeways because bicyclists would always be next to the slowest cars on the road.
    We need a law like the Autobahn’s that prohibits passing on the right.”
    How about you don’t ride a bicycle near traffic traveling at 75MPH

  4. “We need a law like the Autobahn’s that prohibits passing on the right.”

    Close, but not quite. The only reason drivers pass on the right is because slower drivers and looky-loos are driving slowly in the left lanes.

    Instead of enforcing a prohibition on passing on the right, we need to enforce a prohibition on driving in the left lane unless drivers are actively passing another car.

    If you keep the slowpokes out of the left lane there will be no opportunity to pass on the right in the first place.

  5. There were “several requests between 2004-2018 to prohibit bicyclists along noncontrolled [i.e. not “fully” controlled] access highways, e.g. SR 88 Apache Trail, SR 89 A Mingus Mountain, SR 89A Oak Creek Canyon, and ADOT Traffic always turned them down. Also, after retrofitting every drain grate along the former SR 153 and the 202 Spur, in and out of Sky Harbor, bicyclists were allowed to use the shoulders of those controlled-access highways. Then, after the turnback of 153 to the City of Phoenix – 44th Street – the City prohibited access”

    … at same time (at least 10 years ago) grates along eastbound Spur 202 (Sky Harbor Blvd) between airport terminals and Priest were retrofitted: this was a relatively big job with a few dozen grates involved. The bicycle signing “Bikes must exit” is still in place as of March 2019, e.g. so I believe still legal.

  6. Here’s a brief report from Oklahoma Highway Patrol about a bicyclist fatal crash on I-40 McIntosh County, OK January, 2020:

    Cyclist killed on I-40 identified
    staff reports Jan 4, 2020
    A Pampa, Texas, man who died while riding a bicycle on Interstate 40 approximately 6 miles east of Checotah in McIntosh County has been identified as Cody Ellis, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report…
    According to OHP, Ellis was eastbound on the shoulder of I-40, and Brittany Booth, 28, of Wister, was driving a 2016 GMC Sierra eastbound in the outside lane. For an unknown reason, Ellis rode into the lane of traffic where Booth was driving. She was unable to stop and collided with the bicycle. Both stayed in contact for approximately 46 feet before separating…

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