Monday, November 26, 2012

Runner / Pedestrian Safety on the Roads

It is time that motorists wake the frak up when driving around bikers, pedestrians and runners!

There have been too many people hurt by careless drivers who don't pay attention to the road, who simply don't care or are completely hostile to bikers, runners and pedestrians on the streets. Unfortunately, I am convinced that things are getting worse and not better.

The final straw was when Michael McKean, aka David St. Hubbins was hit by a vehicle in New York this spring.
Listen, I get it. I drive a lot more than I run. Waiting for someone slow to cross the street is annoying. No one likes to slow down. But here's the thing. How would you feel if you hurt or killed someone's mother, father, sister, brother or kid because you couldn't wait 10 seconds for someone to cross the street or slow down (to the speed limit instead of 20 over)? There is a lack of common courtesy in our society and no where is it more apparent than on our roads. I think about my safety while I am running on the streets of our town often (constantly) and keep my head on a swivel.

I had one experience recently that ticked me off and I knew immediately after it happened that it would end up here. A couple weekends ago, I was crossing a busy, "secondary" street and had the walk signal. I started crossing (after looking) and after I started out noticed a car coming up to the stop light going way too fast, intending to turn right. She didn't stop at all. In fact, she only slowed down slightly to make the turn. Already halfway across the street in my bright red shirt, I kept my eye on the car and made eye contact with the driver. She still kept coming! It was only when I raised my hand in a traffic cop-like manner did she finally stop a couple feet from me. I was TICKED!

I shouted at her "You are ridiculous! You need to watch out for pedestrians!". So it wasn't the most eloquent of statements, but it was all I could think of at the moment and I managed not to curse. I could not say the same for the driver who, in an almost uninterested manner gave me an FU as she drove off. I was mad not so much because she could have hit me, but someone else because of her carelessness. I imagined one of the neighborhood kids, maybe my kids, getting hit because she was not paying attention to her surroundings or traffic laws. They will want to cross these streets soon to get to their friends house, the ice cream shop or the convenience store. It scares me that they will need to deal with crossing these streets...

The thing is, as a biker, runner or pedestrian, even if you're completely in the right, it doesn't matter. You lose against a 3000 pound vehicle moving at a high rate of speed. It's physics! So, what can we do? Seems to me there are but 2 options. The first is to work towards driver education about pedestrians. This could come in many forms. PSAs, social media movements, more education by the state and federal transportation authorities, implementation and enforcement of stiffer fines for bad motorists. This all is tough to do.

The other option is to watch out for yourself as much as possible. The Road Runners Club of America has a few related tips:

  • Run against traffic if running on the road. If running on the sidewalk or multi-use trails, travel on the right and pass on the left.
  • Never run more than two abreast if you are running in a group. Don’t be a road or trail hog.
  • Alert pedestrians when you are passing them – don’t assume they are aware of their surroundings. A simple “on your left” warning will suffice.
  • Be alert on blind curves.
  • Stop at stop signs and ensure oncoming traffic yields to you before proceeding across a road. Don’t assume cars will stop if you are entering a cross walk (Ain't that the truth).
I'll add a couple of my own:
  • Don't get lost in the music with headphones. In fact, if you're on streets, the headphones should be off your ears. I've found that, if I must have music, using the speaker on my phone is ideal. When my surroundings are quiet, I hear the music but am not isolated from the world.
  • Wear bright clothing as much as possible (especially if it is dark, but you want to be visible regardless).
  • Communicate with motorists. I've found that a point to where you are headed or bike-like hand signals work well.
I've thought about trying to write a contract for both runners / bikers and motorists to sign. 

What would the motorists need to offer in the contract?

What would the bikers / runners / pedestrians need to offer?

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