After reading my recent articles about the use of bike paths and sidewalks, several of my friends have raised issues about how cyclists are using the roadway, complaining that these cyclists were in the road, using left-turn lanes, etc. I suspected that cyclists are actually allowed to do these things, but I am not (yet) a cyclist, and have learned from experience not to make assumptions, so I did some research. Here is a summary of what I learned.
Cyclists can use the roadway, in the same way a motorist can. The law stating that is A.R.S. 28-812, which 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 . . .”
That’s it. A cyclist in the roadway is the same as a car in the roadway, but not quite. The major modification to this blanket statement is found in A.R.S. 28-815, which tells the cyclists that they must also “ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway . . .”
But, then A.R.S 28-815 also includes a long list of exceptions to the exception, confirming my suspicion that a lawyer was involved in drafting these laws. So, here are the times a cyclist does NOT have to stay as close as practicable to the right side of the road:
- If passing another bicycle or vehicle.
- If preparing to turn left at an intersection, or into a private road or driveway.
- If reasonably necessary to avoid obstacles.
- If the lane is too narrow for a vehicle and bicycle to travel side-by-side safely.
So, does the second exception mean that a cyclist can use the left-turn lane that cars are using? Yes. And, collectively, these statutes show that if a cyclist is in the roadway in front of a motorist because of any of these exceptions, then the motorist must yield (slow down or stop) for the cyclist to be able to safely clear the roadway. Under any of these circumstances, the cyclist has the right-of-way, even if the cyclist is going slower than vehicle traffic. But, cyclists (everyone) must not unnecessarily slow traffic (A.R.S. 28-704).
In the official government guidelines on cycling safely, cyclists are given generous leeway in how far over (or how NOT far over) to the right they should travel–because generally the further to the right they get, the more dangerous it is for them (Arizona Bicycling Street Smarts, by the Arizona Department of Transportation, Chapter 2; www.azbikeped.org/chapter2a.asp).
Finally, A.R.S. 28-815 does say cyclists can travel on the roadway next to each other (“two abreast”), and are not required to be single-file–as I have heard some drivers assume. But, again, cyclists need to keep in mind the requirement to not slow traffic unnecessarily.
The law is increasingly friendly to cyclists, as we gain a greater appreciation for the double benefit of encouraging activity and decreasing automobile use. We motorists need to cut cyclists some slack. And, slowing down for them and giving them some room also happens to be the law. 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.