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Cycling in Arizona: What are the rules of the road?

Posted at 12:38 PM, Mar 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-01 17:22:23-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — When driving down the roadways, people may notice cyclist in bike lanes, on sidewalks and even riding in front of us on the road.

Deputy James Allerton with the Pima County Sheriff's Department said even though they're everywhere, doesn't mean they're allowed to be.

"Cyclist have a lot of the same laws that they need to follow as motorist, obviously bicyclist are a little different, but you still need to follow the motor vehicle laws as a bicyclist," Allerton said.

Those laws include:

  1. Ride on the right
  2. Obey traffic control devices (like signs and signals)
  3. If you're under 18, wear a helmet, according to city laws
  4. Use hand signals to show your intentions and side in a predictable fashion
  5. Don't ride on the sidewalk, according to city ordinance
  6. Wear bright color clothing or have flashing lights to make sure you're seen
  7. Look behind (to be aware of your surrounds)
  8. Make sure to stop at a stop sign (but you don't have to put your foot down to comply with the law)
  9. Only two riders abreast to the side, but to help motorist, ride single-file when safe to do so, and stay at least two to three feet from the edge of the road.
  10. Bicyclist, just like drivers, must not go faster than 15 miles per hour in a school zone when the sign is in place.
  11. Stay at least 3 feet from motorist, but 5 feet is recommended
  12. Ride as close to the right as practical
  13. Always ride with the flow of traffic
  14. If glass, grates, loose gravel, cattle guards, and oily pavement is in the way, a bicycle isn't allowed to take the lane if it's not wide enough to share with a motorist
  15. Follow the lane markings (meaning stay within the white line if there is one.)
  16. However, if there is no white line, the law states cyclist are allowed on the road, as long as they're still following the traffic rules.

"A lot of these things are just for the bicyclist safety, and to avoid collisions," Allerton said.

However, cyclists have the same legal right to use the road as motorists. Same road, same rules, same rights and which means same responsibilities.

Gates Pass, on the west side of Tucson, has a lot of tricky, narrow roadways with no designated bike lane. Some cyclist prefer the bike lane because it makes them feel safer.

"You feel like that is like your reserved area where you can just go up and down," Jermey Sarvay, local cyclist, said. "You don't really have to worry about cars as much. When you don't have that bike path, typically you're a lot more alert."

Even with no bike lane, Sarvay said riding this path is for the scenery.

"It's a beautiful ride, like some of the best views in Tucson," Sarvay said.

Some motorist think it's too dangerous for cyclist.

"We often think that they're taking their life into their own hands," resident Joe Lovato said.

Either way, the Sheriff's Department stresses the Importance of a cyclist being aware of their surroundings.

"Cyclist should be conscientious of vehicles and courtesy to motor vehicles, if they're backing up traffic, which they should be aware of traffic around them, they should simply move over to the right and get out of the way."

According to Arizona Statute 28-815, a person riding a bicycle in this situation should ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, unless passing another vehicle or bicycle, preparing to turn left, needs to avoid conditions due to surface hazards or stuff in the way or if the lane is too narrow for the bicyclist to safely travel.

If a cyclist doesn't follow the rules of the road, Allerton said the sheriff's Department will issue them a citation.

Motorist are urged to stay calm on the roadways when a cyclist may be in the way or doing anything illegal. Allerton added, if
anyone sees anything illegal, especially a repeat offense, they're encouraged to report it.

Overall, the cyclist and motorist agree they both just want safety on the roads.

"They are part of the road, they have rights on the road and you just got to give them a wide birth, get around them, and try to keep everyone safe," Lovato said.

To read more about Arizona statutes for transportation, go here.

For more information about Arizona cyclist safety tips, go here.