Arizona Road Cyclist News
Jack Quinn, Editor
 

 © February 21, 2010

Arizona Road Cyclist News is published every other Wednesday and sent out by E-mail free of charge.

I apologize for getting this issue out several days late. I would list all of the appropriate excuses here if I thought anyone would care, but since that is not the case, let's get down to business.

In this issue:
     3 Cyclists Win in Court on "Riding to the Right"
     Nine-Mile Hill to Get Bike Lanes
     Phoenix Midweek Criterium Series Takes a Breather
     Tucson Midweek Criterium Series has Started
     Yuma's North End Classic -- February 27 & 28
     San Tan Criterium -- March 6
     Hungry Dog Criterium -- March 7?
     Tucson Bicycle Classic Stage Race, March 12, 13 & 14
     Sierra Vista Bicycle Classic -- March 14
     Mining Country Challenge -- March 20
     About Arizona Road Cycling News

3 Cyclists Win in Court on "Riding to the Right"

My thanks to Ed Beighe, who maintains the Arizona Bike Law Blog, for drawing my attention to several cases involving cyclists not riding far enough to the right to suit a police officer. All three cyclists lost their cases in traffic court, but all three later won on appeal.

Many of us have had a police officer pull us over or yell at us over a bullhorn for not riding far enough to the right to suit the officer. The officer will often assert that cyclists are required "to ride as far to the right as possible." That is not true. The officer will also often state that you were stopped for your own safety, which is paternalistic poppycock. With the exception of intoxicated drivers, against whom there is no real protection, motorists will almost never drive into the rear of a cyclist who is riding out in the lane, but they will strike cyclists by misjudging the width of their vehicles when attempting to pass too close. Riding too far to the right in narrow traffic lanes is dangerous.

Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) 28-815 reads that "A person riding a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway...."

The two portions in italics are important. The first basically says that unless a cyclist is riding slower than the traffic present at the time, there is no obligation to ride to the right.

The second point is that when traffic does require that a cyclist ride to the right, the requirement is to ride as far to the right as "practicable," not as far to the right at "possible." Just how close to the edge of the road is it "practicable" to ride? This is obviously open to interpretation. Most cyclists who have given the matter some thought believe that riding about two feet to the left of the edge of the road or of the gutter pan is about as far to the right as it is practicable to ride. The law itself spells out some examples of when it is not practicable to keep to the right:

1. If overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.

2. If preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.

3. If reasonably necessary to avoid conditions, including fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals or surface hazards.

4. If the lane in which the person is operating the bicycle is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side withing the lane.

It should be pointed out, that in the statutes, the word "vehicle" refers to a motor vehicle; a bicycle is not a vehicle according to Arizona traffic laws.

How wide must a lane be before it is safe for a cyclist to share it with a motor vehicle? The general view is that any lane narrower than 14 feet, not including the gutter pan, is too narrow to share. Richard Moore, a traffic planner and cyclist, has created a diagram in PDF format showing how this width is calculated, which you can view by clicking here. Many lanes on Arizona urban streets are only 11 feet wide, and are therefore not wide enough to share, and the cyclist is not only permitted but is actually encouraged to move out into the lane in order to discourage drivers of motor vehicles from passing dangerously close.

Subsection B of the statute reads: "Persons riding bicycles on a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles." This subsection has an upside and a downside for cyclists. On the negative side, cyclists who ride more than two abreast on the street outside of a bike lane would seem to be violating the statute under all conditions. What if cyclists group more than two abreast at a stop light? What if one cyclists is passing two other cyclists who are riding two abreast? If a group of cyclists takes over a lane that is too narrow share with motor vehicles, it should not matter how many of them ride abreast as long as they all ride within a single lane. However, I would not want to have to defend myself against a traffic ticket written under those circumstances.

On the positive side, there is an implied right to ride two abreast, no matter how narrow the lane and no matter how much it annoys motorists or police officers, and that right has been upheld in court.

Unfortunately, many police officers assigned to traffic duty have no more than a superficial understanding of traffic laws, and although the justices and magistrates who conduct traffic court are pledged to neutrality, many of them will bend over backwards to find in favor of the police officer, especially in rural jurisdictions, suburbs, and rural communities. However, if the hearing officer disregards the law in deciding against the accused, the accused has a right to appeal to superior court, where a trained judge can usually be expected to rule according to the law.

On December 4, 2007, cyclists Ben Goren was charged with violating ARS 28-815 when riding southbound on Rural Road in Tempe in the left wheel lane of the curb lane of the street. In court, the officer told the hearing officer that he believed that Mr. Goren should have been riding to the very right hand side of the lane with his handlebars overlapping the sidewalk, which would have required him to ride in the gutter with no room for maneuvering, or better yet, on the sidewalk, although in Tempe's University District, signs are posted which specifically prohibit cyclists from riding on the sidewalk. He said the lane was 12 feet 10 inches wide, which he said was wide enough for a bicycle to share with a motor vehicle.

Mr. Goren measured the lane width at 11 feet, not including the gutter pan and maintained that the lane was not wide enough to share. He submitted a drawing, which he produced, and a pamphlet published by the Arizona Department of Transportation to support his argument.

The hearing officer found Mr. Goren in violation of the statute. Although he agreed that Mr. Goren had a right to ride in the center of the lane, he ruled that by riding in the left wheel track, Mr. Goren was not giving vehicles in the next lane sufficient space to pass him with three feet of clearance and thereby obey ARS 28-735.

The superior court judge overruled the hearing officer, writing in his decision: "The duty imposed in A.R.S. § 28-815(A)(4) is applicable to bicyclists not motor vehicles." In other words, drivers of motor vehicles are required to give cyclists three feet of clearance when passing, but cyclists are not required to give three feet of clearance to motor vehicles. You can read the appeal court ruling in PDF format by clicking here, and you can listen to the audio of the original traffic hearing by clicking here.

Pima County sheriff's deputies have a history of harassing Tucson-area cyclists on the weekly Shoot Out Ride. Cyclists have begun fighting back in the courts by appealing unjust traffic citations and convictions to Superior Court and wining.

In one Pima County case, cyclist Corey J. Piscopo was cited for not riding his bicycle far enough to the right in Madera Canyon. The cyclist was represented in court by attorney Erik Ryberg, who also maintains the Tucson Bike Lawyer Website. The defendant argued that the 11-foot wide lane was not wide enough to share, and he therefore had the right to ride out in the lane. The Pima County Justice Court ruled against him, but the cyclist prevailed on appeal. The appeal judge's succinct ruling in PDF format is available by clicking here.

Yet another Pima County case involves a cyclist, Jonathan Roberts, who was ticketed by a sheriff's deputy for riding two abreast. The cyclist testified that he was riding a rotating pace line, that Arizona law permits cyclists to ride two abreast, and that the lane was too narrow to share with a motor vehicle. As is too often the case, the traffic court ruled against the cyclist and in favor of the deputy. The traffic court's ruling was overturned in Superior Court on appeal on January 6 of this year. The superior court did not rule on the question of whether the cyclists had an absolute right to ride two abreast, noting that the 11-foot-wide lane was too narrow to share and that Mr. Roberts therefore had a right to ride out in the lane.  The Superior Court judge's decision in PDF format can be read by clicking here.

These three rulings are important for cyclists, because they can be cited in traffic court as precedent by any cyclist who is unjustly ticketed for not riding far enough to the right to suit a police officer. Perhaps if more hearing officers in traffic court realized that cyclists are going to appeal rulings that are not based on the law, they would be more inclined to do their jobs properly, and that in turn might in turn motivate police officers to respect cyclists' rights to the road and only write citations when a cyclist actually violates a statute.

Nine-Mile Hill to Get Bike Lanes

My thanks to reader Skip Legrady for drawing my attention to the fact that Rio Verde Drive is to be widened and bike lanes are to be added. Rio Verde Drive, better known to Phoenix-area cyclists as Nine-Mile Hill, descends from Reata Pass in North Scottsdale to the community of Rio Verde, and it used to be a favorite of those masochistic cyclists who enjoyed slogging up one of the longest hills in the Greater Phoenix area. However, the road is narrow, and with the opening of McDowell Mountain Park, traffic on the road became heavy enough to make it dangerous for cyclists, especially on weekends, when lines of pickup trucks towing trailers loaded with off-road vehicles speed down the hill, often precariously driven by young males who steer with one hand while juggling an open can of beer in the other and entertaining themselves by passing as closely as possible to cyclists without actually striking one.

Construction work on the project is scheduled to begin on March 1 and continue to the end of June. When completed, the road will sport new, five-foot wide shoulders, which I hope will be entirely dedicated to the bike lanes. During construction, the road will remain open but with restrictions and pilot cars to guide traffic through the work areas. To read the official announcement to the public in PDF format, click here.

Phoenix Midweek Criterium Series Takes a Breather

There will be no bicycle racing in the parking lot at Phoenix Municipal Stadium this week due to the fact that another event has priority use of the facility. Racing will be back Tuesday evening of next week, however, from 5 to 7 p.m. and continue on Tuesday evenings until the end of April. One exception is that the Tuesday March 9 race has been rescheduled to Thursday March 11. There are four races nightly: a D race for beginners and juniors, a C race for category 4 and 5 riders, a B race for category 3, 4, and 5 riders, and an A race for category 1, 2, 3, and 4 racers. Riders register for the races on site, and both day and annual racing licenses can also be purchased.

The Phoenix Midweek Criterium Series is promoted by the Phoenix Consumer Cycle Club (PCCC). To view the race series brochure in PDF format, click here.

Tucson Midweek Criterium Series has Started

The Tucson Midweek Criterium Series is also underway on Wednesday evenings through March 24, promoted by Team Tolero. There are three races held each week: a C race for category 4 and 5 riders, a B race for category 3, 4, and 5 riders, and an A race for category 1, 2, and 3 riders. Racers must register in advance at Bikereg.com. To go to the race's Web page, first click here and then click on "EVENTS."

Yuma's North End Classic -- February 27 & 28

The Yuma Bike Club presents the Doug Flynn Memorial Classic on February 27 and 28 in and near Yuma. Readers of Arizona Road Cyclist News may remember that Doug Flynn was a Yuma cyclist and president of the Yuma Bike Club who was killed in a head-on collision with a passenger car south of Yuma last September.

Saturday's race is a criterium in downtown Yuma, and Sunday's race is a circuit race on a 2.5-mile course across the Colorado River in California. This year's prize list includes $4,500 in cash and primes. New this year is a race for category 4 and 5 masters in the 30+ age group. There is also a raffle of a gift certificate for $500 in VeloVie products, with the proceeds of the raffle to benefit Doug Flynn's family. You can browse the race's Website by clicking here.

San Tan Criterium -- March 6

San Tan Cycling and Paragon Cycling present the San Tan Criterium on March 6, which will be held south of Mesa's Falcon Field beginning at 7 a.m. with the women's pro and category 1/2/3 race beginning at 2:50 p.m. and the main event, the men's pro and category 1/2 race, beginning at 3:40 p.m. The entry fee is $30 for USA Cycling racers and free for the kids' race, which begins at 12 noon. To access the event's Website, click here.

Hungry Dog Criterium -- March 7?

The Hungry Dog Criterium is on the racing calendar for March 7. However, as of this writing, I was unable to find any information about this event.

Tucson Bicycle Classic Stage Race, March 12, 13 & 14

TriSports.com presents the Tucson Bicycle Stage race over a three day period from March 12 through March 14 with a $6,800 prize list. Friday's race is a time trial, Saturday's is a road race, Sunday's is a circuit race. Entry fees for the three-day event vary from $30 for juniors 10 to 12 years old to $85 for professional and category 1 male racers. At $10 to $15 late fee will be added for registrations submitted after March 1. To access the event's Website for more information, click here.

Sierra Vista Bicycle Classic -- March 14

The Greater Arizona Bicycle Association (GABA) is putting on the Sierra Vista Bicycle Classic on March 14 with 40-, 71-, 90-, and 100-mile options. The 71-mile and longer options go through the historic copper-mining town of Bisbee just north of the Mexican border. After the event, riders are invited to partake of a barbeque lunch compliments of Mike's Cowboy Barbeque. This sounds like an event that might make it worthwhile for Phoenix-area cyclists to gas up the old buggy and make the drive south.

The weather should be cool for this ride, as much of it takes place at higher altitudes above 4,700 feet. To access the ride's Website, click here.

Mining Country Challenge -- March 20

It's not too early to start getting into shape for the Phoenix Metro Bicycle Club's Annual Mining Country Challenge. There are two versions of this ride, a 96-mile full (almost) century ride and a 66-mile metric century. Both rides start in Superior, Arizona. The official start of the century is 8:00 a.m. with the metric century starting a half-hour later. Registration and check-in open in Superior at 7:00 a.m.

Both of these rides are very tough and rank among the most challenging organized rides in Arizona. The metric century goes from Superior to Winkleman and back and crosses twice over "End of the World", the leg-breaking 11% climb that goes on and on. As a prelude to End of the World, the return ride from Winkelman also includes Ray Mine Hill.

The full century is a loop starting in Superior and heading uphill over Top of the World to Miami and Globe. From Globe, the ride turns to the right and passes over the El Capitan climb. From there it's mostly an exhilarating downhill ride to Winkleman and lunch, but then the ride climbs Ray Mine Hill and the incredibly tough climb over End of the World before descending back to Superior.

Online pre-registration is now open. The cost of the ride is $30 for members of PMBC, ABC, and GABA and $35 for others until March 16. After that, the price jumps to $40 for members of these three clubs and $40 for non-members.

To view the Mining Country Challenge Website, click here.

About Arizona Road Cycling News

Arizona Road Cyclist News is sent out every two weeks by E-mail to its subscribers. Subscriptions are free of charge. Arizona Road Cyclist News is copyrighted. You may forward the entire copy by E-mail to anyone you wish. You may also copy and send individual articles as long as you cite Arizona Road Cyclist News as the source.

If someone has sent you this newsletter and you would like to subscribe, you may do so by going to the Website www.azroadcyclist.com. All E-mail addresses are held confidential. We do not share them with anyone, and at any time you may unsubscribe and thereby permanently erase your personal information from our servers.

We ask for your Zip code in order to get an idea of our subscriber distribution and not for any other purpose.
 

Arizona Road Cyclist News,  http://www.azroadcyclist.com
Jack Quinn, Editor