Running Safety and Etiquette
Anyone who has been a runner for a while has probably run in the road at one time or another. Often runners encounter other runners, cyclist, dog walkers and cars and trucks. Even if you run on a trail or the side-walk you may have encountered all of these fellow travelers. On several occasions I have been running on a trail and had to negotiate a park ranger’s pickup truck or golf cart type vehicle.
“Right of way”
Runners often feel like they have the right of way as pedestrians. This may be true in some places but we do need to be both responsible and careful. When we encounter vehicles while out running, runners often loose in the collision. Is it worth being “right” or being a little aggressive with someone we feel is in the wrong?
I see runners running too far into the street or running three abreast and blocking traffic. With my own running club I occasionally see an oblivious mob taking up most or all of a street with no awareness of what they are doing. Sometimes patient drivers will give them the room and time they need to eventually get out-of-the-way.
Too often I have had cars pass way too close, even when they have plenty of room. I’ve had cars slow down and follow me as they try to give me room but only piss me off or freak me out. How about the cyclists who refuse to move at all? They know the challenges of the road but sometimes they act just like cars.
Most people are respectful and careful. Drivers pass at a safe distance, cyclists move over a bit, dog walkers have their pets sit or pull them a little closer. Many people out walking are aware of their surroundings and will move right even without a prompt.
Here are a few things that all of us should keep in mind as runners, cyclists, walkers or drivers.
Share the road and be courteous. Stay on the sidewalk or side of the road out of traffic. I always run inside of the white line on the side of the road. Most drivers do not cross over the white line and by staying inside the line I give them plenty of room. The side-walk is the best bet for safety.
When running in a group, run single file on busy or narrow roads. Don’t run three abreast so you can chat. That just pisses people off. And don’t run in the middle of the road blocking both lanes. That is completely inconsiderate.
When someone gives you the “go-ahead” at an intersection, wave politely and smile. Let them know that you appreciate their courtesy. They are more likely to be courteous next time.But keep an eye on them, they may still pull out in front of you.
At a cross walk, Don’t dart out in front of cars just because you are at a cross walk. The car can still hit you.
If there is a walk light button use it sparingly. If there aren’t any cars or they are far enough away that you can cross safely without stopping traffic, don’t press the button! A few times I have been stopped at a red light at a cross walk and watched a runner who crossed the street before the light changed and before I was even close to the cross walk. Even as a runner this pisses me off. Imagine how other stressed out and hurried drivers must feel. It doesn’t help our case any if we are carelessly stopping drivers when we don’t need to. Use your best judgment and be careful!
Always assume the driver doesn’t see you.
When a cyclist is approaching you, move over and look them in the eye. On a road a cyclist can only move over so much, so you need to give them room. By looking them in the eye you know if they see you and can usually get a pretty good idea of what they are going to do. I often get an appreciative nod or smile when I do this. They don’t want to hit you and they don’t want to get hurt either.
Run against traffic so you can see if a car or cyclist is going to pass too close. Be prepared to jump out-of-the-way. I want to see the white of their eyes before they hit me!
It’s a good idea to run with proper ID just in case. If you do get hit and become unconscious the people who are trying to help will need to contact your family. Some people suggest carrying your cell phone so you can call for help. When traveling carry your business card and the hotel room key.
Runner’s World suggests that in the dark, drivers can see you up to half a mile away if you are wearing a head lamp and up to a quarter-mile away if you have a flash light. At 150 yards bright clothing can get drivers attention. You should avoid dark colors at night and wear as much reflective material as possible. I’ve been running behind people in the dark many times. When a car comes up behind us and their lights hit the people in front of me, they often light up like a Christmas tree.
When I run after dark in the Fall or Winter I often wear a reflective vest and an LED head lamp. While I feel like a DPW worker, sometimes it is not enough and cars still get too close. You have to ALWAYS be aware.
You should always be aware of your surroundings. Know the area you are running in and if it is safe or unsafe at certain times. I see people, especially women, walking with ear buds and being totally oblivious. To me this is just asking for trouble. I often call out “To the right”, but these people cannot hear me and I’ve had some close calls. If they can’t’ hear me and I’m trying to get their attention, imagine how easy it would be for someone to hurt them.
It is easy to get lost in your thoughts or just space out while running. A few times I’ve almost been run over by a cyclist or run into someone else because I was not paying attention. You may think you are alone out there but you’re usually not.
If you are approaching an intersection or cross walk and see a runner waiting, flash your lights if you are going to slow down and let them cross. They may just reach for that cross walk light button and make you stop.
Runners need some room when you are passing them but you don’t need to go into the other lane. Also, don’t drive next to a runner for long. I get nervous when a car slows down and drives beside or behind me. I guess they are waiting for a good time to pass, but I’m just waiting for them to hit me.
I often run on the sidewalk or paths in a park. I’m always encountering walkers who are deep in thought, conversation or just deep space. Two or three people walking side by side having a great chat; Fantastic. But how do they expect me to get around them?
I’ve yelled out “To the right” many times. Often people look around in complete bewilderment. Totally confused as to what to do; what side is my right anyway? As a walker please try to stay to the right side of the path and please try to pay some attention to your surroundings. And take off the ear buds.
I used to yell out “On your left”, but I think people were more confused by that. I think that people have an easier time responding to the command to get to the right. When you tell them you are on their left they’re not sure what to do about that. It is really amazing how many people seem to forget what side is their right side.
Run well my friends!