Cycling on the sidewalk is generally far more dangerous than doing so properly in the roadway. All stats and studies that I am aware of reinforce this fact. For example, in the city of Phoenix’s 2007 Bicycle Collision Summary in the majority of the bike-motor vehicle collisions the cyclist was riding on the sidewalk just before the collision. (308 of 440 total collisions = 70%); and these numbers are pretty consistent, in the previous 2005 summary, it was 72%.
What about legality, though? (roundup of laws across 50 states here)First, we will consider Arizona state law — The Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS). The short answer is there is no statute prohibiting sidewalk cycling, it is therefore permitted. But the story doesn’t end there because in Arizona, local authorities are granted the authority to regulate all aspects of bicycle operation.
Arizona Revised Statutes
The longer explanation involves dissecting the rights and responsibilities of bicycle riders — §28-812 — which states that cyclists operating on the roadway or shoulder must follow the rules that apply to drivers of vehicles. Sidewalks are not part of the roadway or shoulder, see definitions in §28-601. In contrast, drivers of cars or other vehicles are expressly forbidden from driving on sidewalks, §28-904.
If this seems surprising, it also seemed that way to Arizona Supreme Court Justice Jack D. H. Hays too. Writing with reference to sidewalk cycling in the case of Maxwell v. Gossett (the whole case findings are reproduced below):
I am disturbed by the fact that the legal duties and obligations of persons on bicycles are not defined in the law. Some bicyclists ride with traffic, others ride facing traffic, and of course some ride in the crosswalk. Our statutes give no indication of what is and what is not appropriate.
This case was from 1980, and from what I can tell nothing has changed statutorially, and is still the law of the land.
I should also mention here that bicycles with wheels smaller
than 16″ — nominally a children’s “toy” bicycle — are not legally defined as bicycles at all, see definitions §28-101.
But we’re not done yet! ARS specifically grants the power to local authorities to regulate the operation of bicycles in §28-627 . This means that cities can, and most do, place regulations on the use of sidewalks by cyclists. Since there are dozens of independent cities, I can’t look at each of them but Phoenix is typical; see Chapter 36, Article IX (relevant codes are linked in ruling-cyclists-are-required-to-satisfy-nighttime-lighting-requirements). Highlights are that the direction of travel is not mentioned, cyclists must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, and that the city may ban cycling by means of erecting signs. Phoenix launched a major media blitz along with installing “dozens” of wrong-way signs around town in Oct 2015.
Tempe’s code (of 1988, I believe)(here’s an easy way to see the whole Chapter 7 Bicycles) adds that bicycles must be operated “with traffic” when on sidewalks — an unusual (but firmly grounded in safety) restriction, sec. 7-52(c), there’s also a (an overly?) restrictive crosswalk rule requiring that bicyclists yield to “all traffic”, sec. 7-52d. Tempe’s code was majoryly re-aligned in Aug 2019 but the same provisions were rolled forward into Chapter 19.
Here’s a few more; Flagstaff is allowed unless posted, basically just like Phoenix (codepublishing.com/az/flagstaff/ 9-05-001-0007 ). Prescott, the city of Prescott, is banned. Conversely, in Prescott Valley, it is allowed unless posted, see here for references to both PV and city of Prescott ordinances.
In Tuscon, it is generally banned unless a sign allows it, see 5-2 of Tuscon code. (curiously, I cannot find a definition of ‘bicycle’ in their city code — i guess that means the state’s definition applies).
Scottsdale doesn’t seem to have any special or particular rules about sidewalk riding; 17-83 says the chief of police (which is odd, typically codes like this say the city engineer or somesuch) may erect no riding signs on any sidewalk; unsure if there are any anywhere.
Yuma is discussing major revisions as of early 2015 — for the current and proposed ordinance see this comment. Yuma has a suspiciously high, consistently the highest of all larger AZ jurisdictions, bicyclist most at fault rate of something like 73% — statewide average is 52%. [update: it passed, see new-yuma-sidewalk-ordinance for details]
There is no Arizona state law regulating sidewalk cycling, but cities can and do have their own set of restrictions and requirement. Furthermore, the case of Maxwell v. Gossett reaches the somewhat surprising conclusion that cyclists riding in crosswalks (i.e. the continuation of riding on the sidewalk) have much the same right-of-way as pedestrians.
By way of some more background on the legality of cycling in crosswalks; an analysis prepared by the Tuscon City Attorney’s office in 1998 found that (my emphasis) “…it is apparent that under the present state of law in Arizona a bicyclist is not prohibited from riding on or across a crosswalk…”. This analysis, as would be expected, relies heavily on Maxwell.
Some recent (2010) activity by Tuscon-area law enforcement resulted in this white-paper ARS 28-815(A) – The Most Incorrectly Used Citation: Riding a Bicycle in a Crosswalk IS Permissive and Lawful in Arizona, by attorney Eric Post.
The jurisprudence regarding cycling in crosswalks is all going the same way, you can read these full published cases on google scholar. These cases are all construing similar laws, and of course, Maxwell had direct bearing in Arizona since it is an Arizona Supreme Court ruling. All conclude something to the effect of “…bicycle riders and users of other human-powered conveyances legally in the crosswalk were entitled to the same rights as pedestrians” (which is quoted from the Tuscon City Attorney’s analysis, linked above; which refers to several other persuasive cases).
- Nish v. Schaefer, 2006 WY 85; 138 P.3d 1134; — Wyo. Supreme Court 2006
- Pudmaroff v. Allen, 89 Wn. App. 928; 951 P.2d 335; — Wash. Court of Appeals, 1st Div. 1998. And reached the Wash. Supreme Court in 1999 fully upheld.
- Luellman v. Ambroz, 2 Neb.App. 855; 516 NW 2d 627 – Neb: Court of Appeals 1994
- Schallenberger v. Rudd, 244 Kan. 230; 767 P. 2d 841 – Kan: Supreme Court 1989
- Maxwell v. Gossett, 126 Ariz. 98; 612 P. 2d 1061 – Ariz: Supreme Court 1980 (also reproduced below)
- Crawford v. Miller, 566 P. 2d 1264 – Wash: Court of Appeals, 1st Div. 1977. This case is cited by Maxwell, and importantly says that “A crosswalk is not a roadway…” for the purposes of the cyclist applicability statute.
I didn’t know where else to put this, but for cross-reference purposes, see this case law from Illinois: Lewis v. Northern Illinois Gas Co., 422 NE 2d 889 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist. 1981. Illinois law explictly states a bicycle is not a vehicle for the purposes of prohibiting driving on sidewalk. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-1412.1.)
The UVC (Uniform Vehicle Code — a model set of laws) certainly clears up the confusion, but remember, this has never been adopted in Arizona:
UVC § 11-1209(c), Bicycles and human powered vehicles on sidewalks
A person propelling a vehicle by human power upon and along a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
Some states, e.g. Florida, have adopted this sort of law… would that be good? That’s a good question… In the meantime I would just be happy to see police actually learn and enforce the law as it exists. Instead they typically fault the wrong party, and even wrongly cite the bicyclist for phony violations.
There’s a good general article about issues with sidewalk cycing at cyclingsavvy.org, written referring to UVC rules Sidewalk Strife: Leave the roadway, and you leave some important rights behind.
Below is the full Maxwell opinion; in that case a juvenile bicyclist was riding thru a crosswalk when he was right-crossed by a motorist; both had a green signal.
Notably he was riding on the “wrong side”; which in the court’s opinion didn’t change result or outcome.
Maxwell v. Gossett, 126 Ariz. 98
612 P.2d 1061, 1062
Charles J. MAXWELL, next of friend of Jeffrey Jon Maxwell, Appellee,
Celia Sharon GOSSETT and Thomas G. Gossett, husband and wife, Appellants.
Supreme Court of Arizona, In Division.
June 2, 1980.
Action was brought for injuries sustained by ten-year-old bicyclist in intersection collision with defendants’ automobile. The Superior Court of Maricopa County, Cause No. C-351976, Rufus C. Coulter, J., instructed the jury on contributory negligence by a child, but refused defendants’ instructions concerning alleged violation of traffic laws. Defendants appealed from an award of damages for the injuries to the bicyclist. The Supreme Court, Cameron, J., held that the trial court properly refused to give defendents’ requested instructions.
Hays, J., concurred specially and filed statement
- There was no causal connection between possibility that ten-year-old boy may have been riding bicycle on wrong side of street and collision with automobile which occurred while he was in crosswalk at intersection; thus, trial court, in action for injuries sustained in the accident, did not err on refusing to instruct jury as to statute requiring that bicycles be ridden on right side of street, since it was immaterial to whether he was negligent while riding his bicycle in crosswalk. A.R.S. § 28-815
- Safety zone statutes had no application to facts in action for injuries sustained by ten-year-old bicyclist when struck by car while riding in crosswalk. A.R.S. §§ 28-101, subd. 40, 28-602, subds. 2, 2(a, b), 28-831.
- Statute which applies same traffic laws to bicyclists as to drivers of motor vehicles does not prohibit riding of bicycle in cross-walk. A.R.S. §§ 28-602, subd. 2, 28-812, 28-831.
- Issue whether ten-year-old boy was negligent in riding bicycle in crosswalk was question of general contributory negligence for which jury was properly instructed, not negligence based on violation of statute which applies same traffic laws to riders of bicycles as it does to drivers of motor vehi-cles. A.R.S. § 28-812.
Burch, Cracchiolo, Levie, Guyer & Weyl, P. A. by Barry A. MacBan, Daniel P. Jantsch, Thomas G. Bakker, Phoenix, for appellee.Hoffman, Salcito & Stevens, P. A. by Gene C. Stevens, James W. Evans, James W. Fritz, Phoenix, for appellants.
CAMERON, Justice.This is an appeal by the defendants from an award of $15,250 for injuries to Jeffrey Jon Maxwell, a minor, as a result of an intersection accident. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 19(e), Rules of Civil Ap-pellate Procedure, 17A A.R.S.Defendants contend on appeal that the trial court erred in refusing to give instructions relating to various statutory duties and responsibilities of one who operates a bicycle on the public streets.The facts necessary for a determination of this matter on appeal are as follows. The intersection of 8th Avenue and Alma School Road is located in Mesa, Arizona. 8th Avenue runs east and west, and Alma School Road runs north and south. At the northwest corner of the intersection is a U-Totem convenience market, and to the east of the intersection, on the south side of 8th Avenue, is the Ida Redbird School.From the northwest corner, where the U-Totem Market is located, to the northeast corner, is a clearly marked crosswalk. On the morning of 1 February 1977, ten year old Jeffrey Maxwell was on his way to the Ida Redbird School. He stopped for candy at the U-Totem Market, put the candy in his pocket, and proceeded to ride his bicycle from the northwest corner to the northeast corner, in the marked crosswalk. At about the same time, the defendant, Mrs. Gossett, was proceeding west on 8th Avenue intending to make a right (north) turn onto Alma School Road, at the same intersection. The traffic light was green, and she made her right turn, ran into Jeffrey, and he was injured.The court instructed the jury on contributory negligence by a child of Jeffrey’s age, but refused defendants’ instructions concerning alleged violation of the Arizona traffic laws. Defendants’ offered instructions were as follows:
“R.A.J.I. Negligence 7- Violation of Statute
“If you find that any party to this suit violated any of the following laws, then that party is negligent. You should then determine whether that negligence was a cause of the Plaintiff’s injury.
“§ 28-812, A.R.S., Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles
“Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted an of the rights and shall be subject to all the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except as to special regulations in this article, and except as to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.
“§ 28-101, A.R.S., Definitions
“In this title, unless the context otherwise requires:
“40. ‘Safety-zone’ means the area or space officially set apart within a roadway for the exclusive use of pedestrians and which is protected or is so marked or indicated by adequate signs as to be plainly visible at all times while set apart as a safety zone.
“§ 28-831, A.R.S., Driving through safety zone prohibited
“No vehicle shall at any time be driven through or within a safety zone.
“§ 28-815 A., A.R.S., Riding on roadways and bicycle paths; prohibition of motor vehicle traffic on bike paths
“Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.”
We will consider the failure to instruct as to each of the statutes cited by defendant.
A.R.S. § 28-815(A)
 This statute requires that bicycles must be ridden on the right side of the road or with the traffic. Jeffrey was riding his bicycle in the crosswalk at the intersection. Whether he had been operating the bicycle on the left side, contrary to the statute, before he entered the crosswalk, whether he intended to continue operating his bicycle on the roadway, contrary to statute, after he left the crosswalk, or even whether he intended to ride his bicycle on the. available sidewalk on the north side of 8th Avenue, is immaterial as to whether he was negligent while riding his bicycle in the crosswalk. We agree with the New Mexico Court of Appeals which stated in a similar case:
“The accident occurred at the intersection of Chelwood, a north-south street, and Menaul, an east-west street. The trial court found that decedent was proceeding in a southerly direction on Chelwood at the time of the accident. The Wylie vehicle was traveling in an easterly direction on Menaul. Even if we accept defendants’ contention that decedent was operating his bicycle on the left side of Chelwood in violation of the statutes alluded to, we must uphold the trial court’s finding of absence of contributory negligence.
* * * * * *
” * * * Here the evidence sustains an inference that the collision would not have been avoided even if the decedent had been obeying the statutory mandates relating to traffic flow. The violation of the statutes, if any, did not even cause or contribute to the accident in fact. * *” Wilson v. Wylie, 86 N.M. 9, 12, 518 P.2d 1213, 1216 (1973).
Causation is still a part of the law of negli-gence, Pacht v. Morris, 107 Ariz. 392, 489 P.2d 29 (1971), and we find no causal con-nection between the fact that Jeffrey may have been riding on the left hand side of the street before he stopped at the U-Totem Market and the accident which occurred while he was in the crosswalk at the inter-section.
“In this state, it is reversible error to give an instruction on a legal theory as to which there is not substantial evidence, (citations omitted) and it is equally re-versible error not to give an instruction on a legal theory within the issues of the case which is supported by substantial evidence.” Newman v. Piazza, 6 Ariz. App. 396, 398, 433 P.2d 47, 49 (1967).
The instruction, if given, would have been error.
A.R.S. § 28-831
 This statute states “no vehicle shall at any time be driven through or within a safety zone.” By definition, a safety zone is set apart for the exclusive use of pedes-trians, A.R.S. § 28-101(40), and, assuming a bicycle is a vehicle for the purposes of the statute, it would have been equally violative of the statute for either Jeffrey or Mrs. Gossett to drive or ride their vehicles in such a safety zone. Weare not concerned in the instant case with a safety zone, however. Jeffrey was not crossing the street in a safety zone. He was crossing the street in a crosswalk as defined by A.R.S. § 28-602(2)(a) and (b), and the safety zone stat-utes have no applicability to the facts in this matter. We find no error.
A.R.S. § 28-812
[3,4] Finally, defendants contend that by this statute, A.R.S. § 28-812, the automobile traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles, and that, when read with A.R.S. § 28-831 defining safety zones and A.R.S. § 28-602(2) which defines crosswalks, it is unlawful to ride a bicycle in a crosswalk. We agree that this section generally applies the same traffic laws to riders of bicycles as it does to drivers of motor vehicles. The statute excludes, however, provisions “which by their nature have no application.” We do not read the cited statutes as prohibiting the riding of a bicycle in a crosswalk.
We are aware that teachers and concerned parents regularly instruct their children to dismount and walk their bicycles through the crosswalks or major intersections, and that their children, just as regularly, ignore this sound advice. However, this is a question of general contributory negligence for which the jury was properly instructed. It was not negligence based upon a violation of the statute. We find no error.
We note also that some courts have held that a crosswalk is not a part of the roadway for the purposes of the statute. In a case wherein a minor was hit by an automobile as she was riding her bicycle in an intersection, the Washington Court of Appeals, construing a Washington statute almost identical to ours, has stated:
” * * * Miller contends that at the time of the accident, Kelley Ann was a bicyclist subject to the requirements of the Motor Vehicle Code, RCW 46.61.755; the Crawfords contend that she was a pedestrian. RCW 46.04.400. The instruction directed the jury to determine which law applied. RCW 46.61.755 reads as follows:
Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter, except as to special regulations in RCW 46.61.750 through 46.61.780 and except as to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature can have no application.
“This statute does not apply because it governs the rider of a bike in a ‘roadway,’ which is defined as ‘the paved, improved, or proper driving portion of a public highway designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.’ RCW 46.04.500. A cross walk is not a roadway.” Crawford v Mil1er, 18 Wash.App. 151, 152-53, 566. P.2d 1264, 1265-66 (1977).
STRUCKMEYER, C. J., concurs.
HAYS, Justice, specially concurring:
I concur in the result. However, I am disturbed by the fact that the legal duties and obligations of persons on bicycles are not defined in the law. Some bicyclists ride with traffic, others ride facing traffic, and of course some ride in the crosswalk. Our statutes give no indication of what is and what is not appropriate. I think this is a matter for the legislature and I hope that they will take the time to determine what should be the rights and the obligations of those who use bicycles in today’s heavy traffic.