I have been a distance runner for the last few years. There is very little overlap between my hobby of running and my career as a personal injury lawyer, but there are traffic law issues that arise for runners. One of these is whether a runner may use a bike lane. I have heard various opinions online and among my friends in the East Valley Runners Club (uncompensated plug). I did some research today and found an apparent answer, which surprised me because it conflicts with both the “lore” and the practice among most runners.
The beginning of the analysis apparently starts with Arizona Revised Statute §28-815(C). It states the following:
A path or lane that is designated as a bicycle path or lane by state or local authorities is for the exclusive use of bicycles even though other uses are permitted pursuant to subsection D or are otherwise permitted by state or local authorities.
This seems remarkably clear for something that has created so much confusion. If there is a bike path or lane, only bicycles can use it. That is what “exclusive” means. Even I can’t argue that a runner is a bicycle.
So, I looked for exceptions. A.R.S. §28-815 itself immediately points to subsection “D” as one place to find such an exception. But “D” just carves out a potential use for “state or local authority” or “in case of emergency or for crossing the path or lane to gain access to a public or private road or driveway.” So, that doesn’t help us runners.
I also looked in the city codes of Mesa and Gilbert, where I live and where I do most of my running. I could find no city code modifying the “exclusivity” of §28-815. Maybe there are such codes in other jurisdictions; I only checked those two.
But, it is equally important to understand what constitutes a bike path. Herein lies hope for the runners. The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), makes recommendations to government bodies about how to do things like marking bike paths. A.R.S. §28-641 basically mandates that Arizona follow it.
That MUTCD says that “longitudinal pavement markings shall be used to define bicycle lanes.” (MUTCD 9C.04.02). That language suggests that all that is needed to define a bike path is the white line along the side of the road, nothing more. However, the MUTCD also has guidance about how and where to put the words “bike lane” and the familiar bicycle “drawing.” But, its language doesn’t seem to require it. The MUTCD advisors have proposed that the language be clarified to say “longitudinal pavement markings and bicycle lane symbol or word markings shall be used to define bicycle lanes.” But that additional language has not yet been adopted.
In addition, the Maricopa County Department of Transportation has its own manual for such things (http://www.mcdot.maricopa.gov/technical/eng-manuals/pavementmarking.pdf ). That manual clearly requires a “longitudinal” line along the side of the road, AND a directional arrow, AND a depiction of a bicyclist (at least the 2005 version I found online (Page 4-24) in order to mark a bike path. So, between these two sources, it seems that a marked area on the side of the road that does not have all three (or at least two) is something other than the bike path addressed in ARS §28-815.
I admit I may have missed a statute, code or ruling that changes this conclusion, but what this research indicates is that a bike lane in Arizona is one that has a line down the side of the road, plus a depiction of a bicyclist and a direction arrow (as mandated in the MCDOT manual). When a true bike path exists, only bikes are legally permitted to use it.