As a whole, states are cracking down on bicycle law enforcement and the nation’s rate of cyclist fatalities has declined as a result. In 2010 there were more than a hundred less bicycle fatalities than in 2001. Unfortunately, the state of Arizona remains one of the most dangerous for cyclists. In 2010 the state saw 19 bicycle fatalities and more than 1,500 bicycle injuries.
Half of bicycle accidents in Arizona occur because either the bicyclist or the motorist failed to yield. Half of all bicycle accidents occur when a car is turning right, mostly to be attributed to “right on red” allowances. Half of the accidents involved a bicycle traveling against traffic. A third of bicycle accidents occur when a bicycle is on the sidewalk. Although riding on the sidewalk is legal as long as the cyclist is not surpassing the speed of foot travel, it is not the safest way to travel. When a bicyclist is riding on the sidewalk they allow themselves less room to maneuver. Also, suddenly entering the road from the sidewalk can catch motorists off guard.
Arizona’s Department of Transportation has taken notice of the dangers that the state’s roads pose to bicyclists, and has created a plan to ensure cyclist safety. ADOT’s bicycle safety action plan was introduced in late 2010 and strives to reduce bicycle fatalities by 12% by the year 2018. The plan will install 4-ft wide shoulders on all highway projects, new “wrong way” signs on bike lanes, include more information about bicyclists on the driver’s written exam, mandate taillights at night and urge police to enforce the “3 ft” following clearance law.
A bicycle is defined as a device that is propelled by human power and on which a person may ride. In Arizona, as in any other state, a bicycle is legally treated as a vehicle. Cyclists have the same rights on the road as motorists, and must obey by the same traffic laws as other vehicles. This includes stopping for stop signs and red lights, adhering to certain speed limits and the flow of traffic, using lights at night and yielding the right-of-way when entering a roadway. In addition, any traffic violation committed on a bicycle can affect the cyclist’s driving record.
Bicyclists are required to use hand and arm signals from the left side of the bicycle. For a left turn, the cyclist’s hand and arm must be extended horizontally. When turning right, the hand and arm must be extended upward. To stop or decrease speed, cyclists are expected to lift their hand up and extend their arm downward. Cyclists are advised to use a blinking taillight when riding at night, and never to ride on the sidewalk or against traffic. Although Arizona does not have any helmet law in place, cyclists are always encouraged to wear a helmet. Helmet usage decreases the risk of serious head injury by 80 percent.