Tempe’s Local Ordinance — Part II

Background: in August 2019, City of Tempe made substantial changes to their local codes dealing with traffic[1]. Although the focus shifted over time (the process began soon after a Nov 2017 crosswalk death of a bicyclist), the ostensible reason to get something passed at that particular time was the feeling that escooters needed further regulation; and it would be mayhem if the fall school session began with “no laws” in place.

I somewhat [2] disagree with that logic because in the meantime the state of Arizona passed both ebike [3] and escooter legislation that in effect made ebikes and escooters users mostly equivalent to bicyclists; who as we all know have  “all of the rights and is subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle” when riding in the roadway. [ ARS §28-812]

Praise for the August 2019 Code

The new code fixed a glaring problem in Tempe’s old code what stated bicyclists traveling on a “bikeway” must yield to other traffic irrespective of normal right-of-way rules.[4]

Complaints about the  August 2019 Code

-1- Despite last-minute tweaking of subsection E, Sec. 19-151 continues to have problems for non-pedestrians. The intent appears to be meant to apply only to sidewalk-riders, however the language of the code does not say that; and therefore could be mis-applied to roadway riders, in contravention of normal rules of the road.

-2- It blurs the established distinction in ARS (Arizona Revised Statutes) between a ‘vehicle’ and a ‘device’. A bicycle, as well as an electric bike, electric miniature/standup scooters, and things like skateboards, roller skates, wagons are all NOT vehicles, nor are they motor vehicles. [ ARS §28-101]; yet the ordinance makes reference to “Human/Non-human Powered Vehicles”. This can cause unexpected, negative side-effects for users of these devices. Tempe’s code should be consistent with ARS.

-3- The far-right code Sec. 19-214(H) appears to intend to duplicate ARS 28-815A, but using slightly different language. Since bicyclists, and now ebikes and escooters are already are subject to ARS this code is unnecessary and may cause , again, unexpected, negative side-effects.

Remaining Issues not yet Addressed

The issue about how bicyclists riding along the sidewalk are expected to enter crosswalks was unchanged from the old (1980’s) code[5]

I feel Tempe should grant bicyclists, et al, the rights and duties of pedestrians, who already “… shall not suddenly leave any curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield” 28-792.

See also what how the UVC and City of Boulder handles this at the original tempes-local-ordinance article


[1] Please see tempes-local-ordinance for many more details of that process. Here’s a quick link to the adopted ordinance  O2019.22 

[2] Tempe had bad, old codes referring to “motorized play vehicles” that needed to be gotten rid of, see here or at #tempe subheading on the escooter article.

[3] Tempe passed their own ebike codes in January 2017, about a year before the state.

[4] see detailed explanation in letter to council Jan 29, 2018, the main sticking point is the reference to the nebulous term “bikeway”.

[5] this was the old code Sec. 7-52d referred to in letter to council Jan 29, 2018. That section survived unchanged with regard to riders on sidewalks and shared paths in the new code as Sec. 19-212(C), and states that bicyclists must “yield to all traffic”.


Code Provisions Relating to Bicycles at Crosswalks

There is a document produced by CoT that claims to compare Tempe’s ordinances relating to bicycles to the cities of Scottsdale, Phoenix, Chandler and Mesa.

With regard to entering crosswalks: see this comment which relates all of those to the ARS as well as UVC for specific code comparisons

In short, someone at Tempe is claiming that the rule about “emerging from alley, driveway or building”, which exists in ARS (for motorists), the UVC, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Mesa is the same as Tempe’s rule; which is crazy.

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