Thursday, December 18, 2008

Running On Roads

The following letter was originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on December 5th. The writer, Jenna, argues that runners should stay off the roads. My comments follow her letter.
Editor:
As a Winnipegger who regularly runs outdoors year round, I am constantly infuriated by other runners' insistence at running on the street. The street is a place for traffic with wheels, whether it's a busy street like Portage Avenue or the meandering Wellington Crescent. I can understand a driver's irritation at coming across a wayward runner schlepping along a street when there is a perfectly good sidewalk to be had.
I realize that sidewalks are currently coated in patches of icy snow that could down a pedestrian at the slightest misstep. Conditions aren't great. But these conditions will improve with a few more snowfalls and a steady freezing temperature, making running on the sidewalk viable and comfortable.If you can't handle running on the sidewalk, where you belong as a pedestrian, maybe you should take it inside to a treadmill. When it comes to a confrontation with a vehicle, a runner is not going to come out a winner.
Jenna
The crux of Jenna's argument is found in her last sentence, "a runner will always fair second in a battle with a vehicle". No argument here! We runners are pretty well at the bottom of the roadway food chain only just
ahead of walkers and just below cyclists. Jenna reminds us that we need to be vigilant, smart, and respectful of vehicular traffic. But to stop running on the road altogether?! Well, that's simply not possible, and to suggest we "take it inside to a treadmill" is unreasonable and simplistic.
Coincidentally, I was hit by an SUV while running on the sidewalk several weeks ago
and then was verbally and viciously assaulted by the driver for my troubles. A friend recently found himself battling with vehicles while running across an intersection in the pedestrian lane on the green light. Another friend was clipped from behind by a vehicle while running through Assiniboine Park, a runners' haven, in broad daylight in a large group. The driver of the vehicle stopped, not to apologize or assist, but to rant at the runners about his broken mirror! Clearly, there's a lot of idiot drivers out there and they're going to find you whether you run on the road, the sidewalk, or on the trails. Fortunately, they're in the minority, and cool headed drivers prevail.
Most drivers are courteous, they slow down when approaching runners, they make eye-contact and they give a wide berth when passing. They recognize the need to share the roadway with pedestrians and cyclists for the benefit of the community. They understand that running on winter sidewalks is dangerous and often impossible due to ice and knee-deep snow.
My view is it's an
issue of fundamental respect. Drivers respecting runners and runners respecting drivers. We runners need to maintain a vigilance and healthy fear of running on roads. We must never assume drivers can see us. We must run towards traffic, wear reflective gear and a headlamp at night, consider leaving the tunes at home, and most notable, understand that no matter who's at fault, (in Jenna's words) a runner will "come in second in a confrontation with a vehicle". Likewise, drivers must learn to share the road, to ease up on the pedal when approaching a runner. They must understand that we're just regular folk, good folk... we're your sons, your daughters, your friends, your mothers and fathers. Good drivers share the road.
So dear runners, when you run on the road, be smart, never lose your guard, maintain a healthy fear of vehicular traffic and ... watch out for the idiots!
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