I had written a post, not long ago, pointing out that Arizona law establishes that only bikes can use a bike lane (right—not runners), but that a bike lane must be marked with the image of a bike and direction arrows to be a bike lane, not just a line along the shoulder of the road (A.R.S. 28-815(C))
That law does not address the many other situations runners and cyclists face. Because I am a runner, I will approach this article mostly from the runner’s perspective. Because I am a personal injury lawyer, I will briefly apply these laws to scenarios involving a collision between a runner and a cyclist—which, unfortunately, does happen regularly.
Before looking at any of the statutes or codes, let me clarify that none of these laws refer specifically to “runners” as a different class. That is because, under Arizona law, references to “pedestrians” also apply to runners. A pedestrian is defined as “any person afoot” (A.R.S 28-101.44). I don’t care how fast you are, runners are still “afoot.”
Also, let me remind you that I am just the messenger, and that I am not talking about customs, logic, necessity, tradition, what I will actually do, or even what to do when the law doesn’t clarify. I am only trying to find what the law says.
So, here is the first revelation: If there is a sidewalk available, a runner cannot legally be running on the road. A.R.S. 28-796 says: “If sidewalks are provided, a pedestrian shall not walk along and on an adjacent roadway.” So, if there is a sidewalk on either side of the road, a runner “shall not” run on the road.
But, since we runners have to be on the sidewalk, can bikes use them? Yes, unless there are signs or city codes prohibiting such use. I found no city codes in the Phoenix metropolitan area prohibiting bike use on a sidewalk. Tucson prohibits bikes from using sidewalks unless a sign permits it (Tucson City Code, 5-2). Tempe permits bikes to use sidewalks, but City Code 7-52(b) does require bikes on a sidewalk to yield to runners. So does Gilbert City Code 62-106, and Chandler City Code 13-8.1. Strangely, Arizona law does not establish the right-of-way standards for sidewalk use, leaving it to the cities to clarify—which many have not. For example, Mesa has no such clarification. Even though bikes are supposed to yield the right-of-way at times, it would still be foolish for a runner hold her ground against a careening ASU student who is late for class.
In a situation where no sidewalks are present, runners can use the roadway (but not the official bike path portion of it). In that situation, the runner must be “only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic that may approach from the opposite direction” (A.R.S. 28-796 (B)). Did you catch the word “only” in that statute? We must run facing traffic if we are on the roadway. Bikes, by the way, have to do exactly the opposite. A.R.S 28-812 says “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 . . .” This means, among other things, that a bike has to ride on the “right half of the roadway,” with vehicle traffic (A.R.S. 28-721(A)). In the common situation where a runner and a cyclist are going opposite directions (the runner against traffic and the cyclist with it) in a part of the roadway they can both legally use, then the runner should yield to the cyclist. I conclude this because the cyclist has all the “rights” of a driver of a vehicle. The only place I have found that a motorist (the bike) has to yield to a pedestrian (the runner) on a roadway is at a marked or unmarked crosswalk (A.R.S. 28-792(A)). I choose to conclude from that finding that, in all other situations, the runner must yield to the bike.
To summarize what these laws seem to tell us about proper runner and cyclist conduct, the following are a few hypothetical collisions between a cyclist and a runner. In a real life personal injury claim, many other factors would be considered, but from the right-of-way analysis alone, the following seem true:
- If a cyclist and a runner crash on a sidewalk, it’s the cyclist’s fault. The cyclist should have yielded to the runner.
- If a cyclist and a runner crash head on, on the left side of the street, it is the runner’s fault. The runner should have yielded to the cyclist.
- If a cyclist hits a runner from behind on the right side of the road, it is the runner’s fault. The runner should have been on the other side of the road.
- If a cyclist hits a runner in a properly marked bike path, it is the runner’s fault. The runner shouldn’t be in the bike path (; see previous article; A.R.S. 28-815(C)).
As always, common sense, courtesy, and caution will do more than the statutes and codes to keep us all safe while we run (and cycle) for fun and fitness. We are principally doing these activities for health and enjoyment, and getting in an accident defeats both. Knowing and following the law can help keep us all running and pedaling. If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact Attorney Kevin Fine with Davis Miles McGuire Gardner at (480) 733-6800 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.