The city of Yuma recently adopted sweeping reforms to regulate the operation of bicycles on sidewalks within the city. The subject of legal operation of bicyclists on sidewalks is nearly undefined in state law, and as a result varies dramatically from city to city. Just a tiny sample: Tuscon is generally not allowed at all, in Phoenix it is generally allowed unless prohibited by sign, in Tempe it is generally allowed unless prohibited by sign but stipulates only in the same direction as adjacent traffic flow.
Sidewalk operation may feel like a safe alternative to riding in the road, but in fact contains many safety pitfalls for bicyclists who are not aware of them, as well as danger for pedestrians.
Yuma police investigator Clay Lawson did an analysis and found the large majority of bike-MV crashes involve cyclists who were riding on the sidewalk, mostly counter to the flow of adjacent traffic, just prior to the crash. This is consistent with other places, e.g. this analysis showed in Phoenix around 70% of all bike-MV collisions were sidewalk-involved. Lawson also remarked at the high cyclist fault-rate for collisions in Yuma, as high as 83% in some recent years.
The ordinance was crafted by Investigator Lawson and Gene Dalbey, president of Yuma Regional Bicycle Coalition as well as Yuma representative to the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists. Highlights of the ordinance:
- Tightens the places where sidewalk cycling is dis-allowed to where business doors swing open to the sidewalk; further these areas must be designated by sign, so cyclists will know the law applies. The old law applied in any “business district” which is very broad, and it wasn’t well-understood what was and was not a business district.
- Bans sidewalk cycling where a designated bicycle lane is available
- Stipulates that cycling must be only in the direction of flow of adjacent traffic
- Bicyclist must yield the right-of-way at all intersections (i.e. crosswalks)
- Motorists must yield the right-of-way when crossing any driveway to any bicyclist “lawfully” on the sidewalk
Here is Yuma’s bicycle ordinance: O2015-019
There is a pre-existing booby trap in the Yuma code that affects bicyclists using the roadway, and Yuma should consider eliminating this provision as it is discriminatory against bicyclists, not “bicycle friendly”, and may be in conflict with state statute: bicyclists in Yuma may not “impede the free flow of traffic”, Section 213-06. Bicyclists will impede other traffic in certain situations where safety warrants, e.g. when riding in a lane which is too narrow to share safely, this is a normal and reasonable movement of traffic, see also A.R.S. 28-704.
Yuma Sun news story: Yuma police tout new bicycle ordinance