Letter: Tempe to consider updating local ordinance for bicyclist right-of-way

From: Ed Beighe <edb@cazbike.org>
Sent: Monday, January 29, 2018 4:39:16 PM
To: CM – Council Communicator
Subject: Sec. 7-52(d)

I write this both as a cyclist who cycles in Tempe daily, and as president of Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists.

I understand that in the wake of the tragic death of cyclist Xiaoying Wen in a crosswalk there has been additional scrutiny of Tempe’s city code:

Sec. 7-52. Riding on sidewalks or bicycle lanes.
(d) Any person riding a bicycle 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.
(quoted here without the ebike updates)
The rule unfortunately lumps 3 items together and treats them equally. 1)bikeway, 2) sidewalk, and 3) bicycle path
1) bikeway —
Unlike sidewalk riding, rules of the road for cyclists when cycling in the roadway are well-defined by state law. Unfortunately your code Sec 7-52(d) contains extra baggage that in our view should not be there at all. Specifically the term “bikeway” is not defined in state law nor could I find it in your city code. It is, however, defined by MUTCD; you can view these definitions at https://azbikelaw.org/definitions/
The term is very broad and generic to the extent that a road with bike lane is a bikeway, or a road with a bike route (such as your “BikeIt” routes) is a bikeway.
This code section could be construed to mean that a bicyclist riding on a street with a bike lane (or a bike route) would not know who must yield to whom at, e.g. a stop sign or a signal.
Rules of the road need to be uniform statewide, and there no good reason to add confusion with local codes — please re-write this code section to make clear that it does not affect right-of-way for cyclists traveling in the roadway (the term bikeway should be stricken from this code section).
2) sidewalk —
this should be re-visited in the wake of what Tempe Police have said publicly about Wen’s fatal incident, e.g. “bicycles are not afforded any legal protection by a crosswalk”; as well as how it comports with Maxwell ; the opinion which highlights the void in state laws with regard to bicyclists right-of-way in crosswalks.
If you are going to allow sidewalk cycling — which Tempe historically always has — consider making rules which treat bicyclists traveling along crosswalks similarly to pedestrians. Note that peds do not have unconditional right-of-way in a crosswalk, a “pedestrian shall not suddenly leave any curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield” 28-792.
3) bicycle path —
The “bicycle path” clause is also potentially problematical. Starting off with it’s not necessarily clear what a bicycle path is or isn’t. Assuming it’s things like the canal paths; consider what the rule means for cyclists crossing at a signalized (or some are “HAWK”) crossing. Some are unsignalized (Warner just east of Kyrene). The recently constructed area of Hardy mid-way between University and Broadway also appears to be a bicycle path (it’s raised and separated from the roadway by a curb). Bicyclist there would, rightly, expect cross-traffic to have to stop (since cross traffic has a stop sign and the path does not) and yield to the path except that’s not what this code says.
Ed Beighe
President, Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists


On Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 10:28 AM, Keating, Randy <Randy_Keating@tempe.gov> wrote:

Hi Ed,

At the last work study session, I requested staff bring back the bike codes for review. It’s my intention to change this code so that cars would need to yield to bicyclists in the crosswalk, not the other way around.




On Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 11:22 AM, Ed Beighe <edb@cazbike.org> wrote:

Thanks for your attention to this issue.

do you understand my concerns about #1 “bikeways”? The Tempe local code makes it so that bicyclists riding in the road on roads that are “bikeways” must unconditionally yield to drivers even though e.g. when the driver is at a stop sign, or the driver is at a red signal? or an opposite direction driver is turning left across the bicyclist?  (i.e. contrary to normal rules)?
These may be unintended results; which is why I strongly urge you to remove “bikeways” from local regulation. Any facility on-street is already well-regulated by the normal ARS Title 28 rules.
With regard to your intention involving crosswalks — I’m glad it’s being looked at. Honestly, I’ve sunk hours and hours reviewing the issue (all around arizona + case law from states with statutes similar to ARS, there are a number of notable cases out of Washington state)… it’s a bit of a quagmire.
FYI, Yuma recently (2015) revamped their sidewalk codes; at the time, they based their concepts on Tempe’s (with regard to sidewalk -> crosswalk ), it’s their section 208-13A linked here:
Outside of Yuma and Tempe, I’m not aware of any city in AZ which regulates crosswalk entry, at least not explicitly.
I would much prefer — and I understand it’s beyond your control — the state enact at least a framework for cycling on the sidewalk; this, by the way, was one of the recommendations from  ADOT’s 2011 BSAP (Bicycle Safety Action Plan )  see section 5.12



On Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 10:34 AM, Keating, Randy <Randy_Keating@tempe.gov> wrote:

Hi Ed,

Sorry for the delay, but I have an incredibly busy day yesterday. I understand you point about the bikeways and that will be something we look at as well. Thanks for the very helpful information.

Have a good day,


On Wed, Jun 20, 2018 at 1:57 PM, Keating, Randy <Randy_Keating@tempe.gov> wrote:
Hi Ed,

Thanks for your patience on this. I just met with city staff and PD, and we believe there are things that can be done to improve bike safety in Tempe, specifically looking at section 7-52 as well as other avenues. I will be forming a working group at the August 2nd Work Study Session to work with city staff and the transportation commission to come up with recommendations to take to council. As a stakeholder, I will be sure you are invited to those working group meetings if you are interested in participating.


A LOT OF TIME GOES BY;  A WORKING GROUP DEVELOPS EXTENSIVE CHANGES TO CHAPTERS 7 and 19 (bicycles, and traffic, respectively ) ; over time the focus of the w.g. becomes how to handle e-scooters


From: Ed Beighe <edb@cazbike.org>
Date: Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 3:23 PM
Subject: Bicycle Ordinance
To: CM – Council Communicator <CouncilCommunicator@tempe.gov>


Dear Council Members,

It is our understanding that Ordinance O219.2, which affects bicyclists, among many others, is planned to be voted on for final passage at the 6/27/2019 council meeting.
I respectfully urge you to table it for further consideration, or if necessary vote against it in its present form.
We also respectfully request that the ordinance in it’s final form be made available with enough time for a thorough outside legal analysis; it is our understanding that it continues to be changed day-by-day; yet this process seems to be opaque, and a final vote potentially just days away.
The ordinance is very long and very complex; we have identified a number of inconsistencies, small and large, that should be addressed before passage. Our legal advisor, attorney Eric Post is preparing a detailed point-by-point and will be sent under separate cover as soon as possible.
In summary, issues we feel that should be addressed before passage are
It blurs the established distinction in ARS (Arizona Revised Statutes) between a ‘vehicle’ and a ‘device’. A bicycle, as well as an electric bike, electric miniature/standup scooters, and things like skateboards, roller skates, wagons are all NOT vehicles; yet the ordinance makes reference to “Human/Non-human Powered Vehicles”. This can cause unexpected, negative side-effects for users of these devices. Your code should be consistent with ARS.
It also contains a new, and complex, section applying to persons on a bicycle which appears to be an attempt to mimic a state statute which already applies all bicyclists (and ebicyclists, and escooterists). In your version, there are several unexplained language differences; again a source of possible confusion, and mis-interpretation. Your code should not contain codes if their only purpose is to duplicate state statute — you should strike this complex section in its entirety and simply extend rights and duties of bicyclists under state law to whomever you feel.
We are also disappointed that the ordinance fails to address how bicyclists are expected to enter crosswalks (where riding on the sidewalk is permitted) other than to say they “shall yield to all traffic”.
There are a number of drafting issues, typographical errors, “hanging” definitions, out of date definitions, and so forth; Please see a list at


Ed Beighe
Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists


This letter (follow link to read) was submitted by Eric Post to Tempe City Council 6/20/2019 regarding proposed changes pending at the 6/27 council meeting.





2 Responses to “Letter: Tempe to consider updating local ordinance for bicyclist right-of-way”
  1. Bill Gibson says:

    Any confusion regarding right of way is unacceptable. I propose a physical standard, reflecting the speed and mass of the vehicle or pedestrian. All larger and faster vehicles must yield to smaller and slower vehicles or pedestrians, unless the intersection is controlled by a sign or a signal light. Larger and faster vehicles may pass only if a minimum space between themselves and the slower, smaller vehicle or pedestrian is maintained. Regardless of precedent law, the larger and faster vehicle or person must be held liable in case of accident.

  2. admin says:

    Review of this ordinance is on the agenda of the 4/10/2018 Tempe Transportation Commission Agenda.
    There is a staff report (Item 4) in the meeting packet.

    The staff report contacts are Shelly Seyler, Deputy Public Works Director Shelly_seyler@tempe.gov, and Julian Dresang, City Traffic Engineer Julian_dresang@tempe.gov

    0) This is more of an aside — in the powerpoint version; 28-815A, Arizona’s AFRAP (as-far-right-as-practicable) is quoted out of context, it leave the impression bicyclists must always stay to the far right; without exception. Mis-understanding of this law is the root of bicyclist harassment by motorists. By quoting ot of context, you are reinforcing these prejudicial views and spreding mis-information.
    AND, the law seems to me to have NOTHING to do with the matter at hand, does it?

    1) I have nothing against Julian or Shelly but I would have prefered to see this information authored by the City Attorney’s office.

    2) The staff report does not address the issues raised above relating to bicyclists in the roadway (the “bikeway” clause).
    (see https://www.cazbike.org/letter-tempe-to-consider-updating-local-ordinance-for-bicyclist-right-of-way/ for email exchange between myself and Councilman Keating).
    These are critical issues to bicyclists using Tempe’s roads because many of Tempe’s roads appear to fit the defintion of a bikeway.

    3) The report states (claims?) that Phoenix as well as Mesa and Scottsdale require that “Upon entering roadway, bicyclist
    must yield the ROW to all vehicles approaching”
    In reviewing Phoenix ordinances, I don’t believe this to be the case (I didn’t specifically look again at mesa and Scottsdale) — can you provide me with the ordinance number you are referring to?
    I believe you may be misconstruing the code about emerging from an alley or driveway, etc; and does NOT apply to crosswalks.

    PCC 36-110 Yielding right-of-way.
    The operator of a bicycle emerging from an alley, driveway, or building shall, upon approaching a sidewalk or the sidewalk area extending across such alley, driveway, or building exit, yield the right-of-way to all pedestrians approaching on said sidewalk or sidewalk area, and upon entering the roadway shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching on said roadway.

    4) No analysis of bikes at crosswalks in Arizona could possibly be complete without an understanding of the Arizona Supreme Court decision on Maxwell, which by the way occurred in Mesa.

    Ed Beighe
    President, Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists

    a side note: this is same packet that has staff report (Item 6) on proposed changes to several speed limits within City of Tempe (speed limit changes, per city law, require hearings and an ordinance change)

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