Ruling: cyclists are required to satisfy nighttime lighting requirements even on the sidewalk

There’s a recent (7/11/2013) Arizona Court of Appeals District 1 (“Phoenix”) ruling Arizona v. Baggett  (full text via findlaw, or direct link from CoA, or 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. Cite case as:

State v. Baggett, 306 P.3d 81, 82 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2013)

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 (it’s not clear to me that Baggett is “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. and 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

The Phoenix code can be found online at (handy direct link to all of Chapter 36). Here are the relevant sections:

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:

36-97 Definitions.

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 put it plainly: 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… (see their code 5-2(a) below) 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.

Below is the email from Mr. Daniel Brown of the City of Phoenix’s “Law Department”  (which i believe is the, or part of, City Attorney’s office); indicating bicycling is generally allowed, unless prohibited by sign… i.e. nothing about how bikes are vehicles and therefore prohibited.

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 could have 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.

City of Phoenix Traffic Barricade Manual

Not a legal authority, nevertheless, the City of Phoenix Traffic Barricade Manual states that (emphasis added):

Bicyclists may legally use both street and sidewalk…

— p. 30 Phoenix Traffic Barricade Manual, 9th Edition 2017; linked here.

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 🙂

Proposed Fix

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.

12 thoughts on “Ruling: cyclists are required to satisfy nighttime lighting requirements even on the sidewalk”

  1. > The ruling quotes 28-811, but concluded that it didn’t assert applicability on sidewalks, but I think it does.
    > “§ 28-811(B) do not address whether A.R.S. § 28-817(A) applies to bicycles traveling on sidewalks.”
    > They do, however, use the interpretation that 811 is a section regarding the location where article 11 (811-818) applies (and don’t say anything about “(B) applies only to children”.
    > I hypothesize that the word “chapter” in 28-811(B) should be “article”. 811 is labelled “applicability of ARTICLE”.
    > I believe 28-811 is intended to make 811-817 applicable on a “highway”, including the sidewalk, not just the roadway/shoulder, unless the specific statute specifies otherwise.
    > 52. “Street” or “highway” means the entire width between the boundary
    > lines of every way if a part of the way is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.

  2. The question was “is it illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in Phoenix”; note that the question never answered, though an (incorrect) answer could be inferred…

    Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 9:51 PM
    Subject: Bike laws


    I am responding to the question you submitted to Mayor Stanton. I am the liaison to city hall for the Police Department.

    The city code that covers the use of bicycles is Article IX. The city code is available for review at the following link:

    By state law, bikes are considered a vehicle and must obey all traffic laws. This is the link to the GOHS bike safety website.

    Please do not hesitate to call me should you have a any further questions.

    Commander Benny Piña
    City Manager Liaison
    “Policing With A Purpose”

  3. I’m not a lawyer. But I believe it is perfectly legal to ride a bicycle on any sidewalk in Phoenix.
    And I ride upon the sidewalk in Phoenix nearly every day.

  4. CITY OF TUCSON Code; ILLEGAL unless signs allow it:
    5-2(a) It shall be unlawful to ride a bicycle on any public sidewalks, or upon a designated pedestrian path in any public park, unless signs are posted specifically permitting bicycling.

    CITY OF MESA Codes:
    see Title 10 Traffic, Chapter 1 Bicycles:

    Curisously, in the definition of bicycle, there is no wheelsize requirement

    Pretty standard stuff, 10-1-7: TRAFFIC LAWS APPLICABLE TO PERSONS RIDING BICYCLE says “upon a roadway”
    and specifically, 10-1-15: RIDING ON SIDEWALKS: When signs are erected giving notice thereof, no person shall ride a bicycle…”

    see Title 10 Vehicles and traffic, 10.60 Bicycles:
    Interstingly, the definition of bicycle has no wheelsize requirement.
    This whole section only deals with a bike registration, which by the way is required; there is not an,e.g. traffic law applicability code. (apparently, then, in Glendale any/all traffic violation by bicyclists simply fall under state statute)
    In the chapter called Miscellaneous, there is
    10.64.025 Bicycle riding on sidewalks. No person shall ride or operate a bicycle upon any public sidewalk in any business district within the city except where such sidewalk is officially designated as part of an established bicycle route. Pedestrians shall have the right-of-way on sidewalks. The prohibition in this section shall not apply to peace officers on bicycle patrol.

    chapter 213 Bicycles.

    213-01 Definitions… BICYCLE. Every device propelled by human power, upon which any person may ride, having two tandem wheels either of which is more than 16 inches in diameter.
    213-05 Riding on Sidewalks / No person shall operate any of the vehicles coming under this chapter upon a sidewalk within a business district, unless in a designated bike lane.

    So it’s banned in a geographic area; I’m not sure if there’s a definition elsewhere of exactly what is the business district (there may be, i just didn’t look). The language about bike lane is i imagine old stuff (bike lanes on sidewalks aren’t up to standards anymore).

    Town of Cottonwood, AZ Title 10 Vehicles and Traffic [broken link, grr]

    10.32.020 Bicycle on Sidewalk Prohibited A. Riding on Sidewalks Prohibited: No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk

    Interesting that they don’t have the, …unless there’s a sign allowing, clause, like Tucson does.

    Sedona I tried looking for Sedona’s code but couldn’t find *anything* about the operation of bicycles. Sedona (as of 2012 anyway) has a profusion of “BICYCLE wrong way/ Ride with traffic” signs, MUTCD R5-1b / R9-3cP, see section 9B07.

  5. This is placed here for those who persistently say, wrongly, that Arizona State Law prohibits bicycling on the sidewalk:

    ADOT Bicycle Safety Action Plan; final report, p.89 (emphasis added)

    Bicycle Riding on Sidewalks

    …When riding in the roadway or shoulder, Arizona law requires bicycles to ride with traffic. ARS 28‐721 states that vehicles (and bicyclists) operating on the roadway should drive on the right half of the roadway. ARS 28‐812 states that 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 applicable to the driver of a vehicle. The definition (ARS 28‐601) of a roadway excludes the shoulder and sidewalk… ARS 28‐904 prohibits motor vehicles from riding on sidewalks. Arizona law does not prohibit bicycles from operating on sidewalks or from facing traffic while riding on the sidewalk.

  6. Editorial from the going over the Baggett ruling, with respect to Flagstaff, they state “Since we brought up sidewalks, let’s start with them. In Flagstaff, it is legal to ride on most sidewalks, except in a designated area at the heart of downtown”

  7. Here are a couple of emails from City of Phoenix:

    —- Forwarded by Daniel L. Brown/LAW/PHX on 08/12/2013 08:14 AM —–
    Daniel L. Brown/LAW/PHX 07/15/2013 09:49 AM

    To Chris Shipley/PCC/PHX,
    cc Daniel L. Brown/LAW/PHX@PHXENT
    Subject Re: Is it legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk in the City of Phoenix?Link


    Generally, Chapter 36, Article IX governs bicycles within the City of Phoenix (there may be other State laws found in Title 28 of State statutes).The applicable provisions related to riding a bicycle on a sidewalk are Phoenix City Code Sections 36-112 and 36-113:

    Sec. 36-112
    Where authorized signs are erected on a sidewalk or roadway prohibiting the riding of bicycles thereon, no person shall disobey such signs.
    (Code 1962, § 37-25.04)

    Sec. 36-113.
    Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk he shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian.
    (Code 1962, § 37-25.05)

    In other words, riding a bicycle is permitted on some sidewalks, but prohibited on others, and where permitted, the bicycle must yield to any pedestrian. Hope this helps. Let me know if you require anything more.


    Daniel L. Brown, Acting Chief Counsel
    City of Phoenix Law Department
    200 West Washington Street, Room 1300
    Phoenix, Arizona 85003-1611
    telephone: (602) 262-6761
    facsimile: (602) 534-9866

    —– Forwarded by Matt Stone/PCC/PHX on 08/12/2013 11:52 AM —–

    From: Joseph Perez/STR/PHX
    To: Daniel L. Brown/LAW/PHX@PHXENT,
    Cc: Chris Shipley/PCC/PHX@PHXENT, Matt Stone/PCC/PHX@PHXENT
    Date: 08/12/2013 11:35 AM
    Subject: Re: Fw: Is it legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk in the City of Phoenix?

    I am not aware of any sidewalk in Phoenix with authorized signs erected to prohibit riding bicycles thereon.

    Joseph Perez
    Bicycle Coordinator
    Traffic Engineer II
    City of Phoenix
    Street Transportation Department
    (602) 534-9529

  8. After reading this article, one might still feel confused as to wether or not it is leagle to ride a bike on a sidewalk. Some statutes say some say no. Traveling to and from work every day on a bike, I personally feel safer on the sidewalk. Coming from Mesa, which is very bike friendly, the route I take here in Phoenix, has no designated bike lanes. So I will continue to use the sidewalk. A lot of laws are mind boggling. Similar to smoke shops. They can legally sell drug paraphernalia, but people cannot be in possession of drug paraphernalia. confusing.

  9. In the City of Phoenix, are bicyclists legally allowed to drive on sidewalk against traffic- while also not yielding to vehicle whom is at stop sign making a right turn with flow of traffic so vehicle driver is looking at oncoming traffic which is in different eye view direction of bicyclist, and bicyclist also rides bike across crosswalk?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *