I am often shocked that this misunderstanding of Arizona law still routinely comes up. I am still encountering bicyclists, motorists, police, insurance adjusters and sometimes lawyers who are confused about the law in Arizona on this issue. Bicycles can lawfully ride in either direction in a crosswalk and can ride in either direction on sidewalks (except in a few cities with strange ordinances prohibiting it or limiting it) in Arizona. I first wrote about this problem, five years ago Yield! - Bicycles in Crosswalks and on Sidewalks are the same as Pedestrians in Arizona. Even now, I have people that find this article that I wrote and contact me to discuss this issue.
Sometimes, police scold bicyclists and incorrectly inform them that they are not allowed to ride a bicycle in a crosswalk. Despite, the fact that your crossing guard at school may have yelled at you to "walk your bikes"; this is incorrect and not the law.
Unfortunately, this is still is somehow an source of confusion despite the fact that the Arizona Supreme Court addressed this same issue way back in 1980 in Maxwell v. Gossett, 126 Ariz. 98, 612 P.2d 1061, (1980). In that case, a ten-year-old boy was riding his bicycle in a crosswalk when he was struck by a car turning right at the intersection. The case held that bicycle riders in crosswalks have the same rights as pedestrians and that under Arizona law a crosswalk is not a roadway. “This statute does not apply because it governs the rider of a bike in a ‘roadway,' which is defined as ‘the paved, improved, or proper driving portion of a public highway *101 **1064 designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.' RCW 46.04.500. A crosswalk is not a roadway.” Maxwell v. Gossett, 126 Ariz. 98, 100-01, 612 P.2d 1061, 1063-64 (1980) citing Crawford v. Miller, 18 Wash.App. 151, 152-53, 566 P.2d 1264, 1265-66 (1977) (Emphasis added).
Some Arizona cities have enacted some rather strange and unnecessary ordinances, which simply add to the confusion on this issue. For instance, the City of Tempe has a local ordinance, which has often been misconstrued and its importance has been over-estimated.Tempe Ordinance 7-52(d) addresses bicycles that are about to enter or cross a roadway " Any person riding a bicycle, electric bicycle or light motorized vehicle on a bikeway, sidewalk or bicycle path that is about to enter or cross a roadway shall yield the right-of-way to all traffic on such roadway. (emphasis added). Tempe has often misinterpreted this ordinance to take the ridiculous position that bicycles need to yield to cars in crosswalks, despite the fact that the law in Arizona since 1980 has been that a crosswalk is not a roadway.
The issue of whether bicycles can ride on sidewalks also comes up regularly. In general, it is perfectly lawful to ride on the sidewalk in the State of Arizona. Often, the sidewalk is the safest place to ride, especially for the casual bicyclist who is not comfortable braving traffic in the street.
Probably not coincidentally, the home of the two largest Universities in Arizona, Tempe and Tucson have their own ordinances that regulate bikes on sidewalks. Tempe Ordinance 7-52(c) is unusual, in that it does restrict bicycles on sidewalks to riding in the same direction of travel. This is certainly not the norm in Arizona. The City of Tucson has an even more strange ordinance that prohibits most riding on sidewalks all together:
SEC. 5-2. Riding on sidewalks and pedestrian paths, and through underpasses. A. It shall be unlawful to ride a bicycle on any public sidewalks, or upon a designated pedestrian path in any public park, unless signs are posted specifically permitting bicycling.
So, the general rule is that bikes can lawfully ride in either direction in a crosswalk or on the sidewalk in Arizona, unless you are in Tempe or Tucson, in which case, you need to interpret their quirky local ordinances.