Friday, April 1, 2016

The Runner's Guide to the Rules of the Road

It's spring and everyone is heading outside to run and bike. It's the best time of year to be an endurance athlete. It's also the best time of year to get run down by a distracted driver. It's up to the runner to be aware of the hazards on the road. Plus now that I've completed my online driving school aka punishment for talking on my phone while driving, I'm pretty much an expert on this subject.

The Runner's Guide to The Rules of the Road

Last week on my epic 45 mile bike ride, I was huffing and puffing my way towards home. An unhelmeted guy on a bike was coming towards me, gesturing wildly. "Move over!" he screeched, waving me to the opposite side of the street. "You're going the wrong way!" he said. Ok, buddy. Have another cocktail. I was riding WITH traffic because bicycles must follow the car rules of the road. As if I'd take advice from an idiot riding helmetless into traffic.

source: giphy.com
Then I read this story about a runner who was pulled over by the police for running in the road with traffic. In many states, runners can use both the road and the sidewalk, but in Michigan where this story took place, there's a law against running in the road when there is a sidewalk present. If there is no sidewalk, then pedestrians have to run facing traffic. This is the law where I live as well. Since I mostly run in the road, it appears that I am a law breaking runner, although I do run facing oncoming traffic. I run past the police all the time and I've never gotten pulled over. I'm sure it's because they are on their way to ticket motorists who are talking on their cell phones.

Ok, I get the whole running on the sidewalk thing, except that where I live, the sidewalks are in questionable condition, pocked with holes and uneven surfaces. We all know that I'm accident prone. I freely admit to tripping over the curb in front of Target and face planting into the bike rack. This stunt, which bought me 5 stitches in my face and a ride to the ER in an ambulance happened a few years back when I was dashing across the parking lot to get into the store. Why I was running, I don't know. Maybe it was the day after Halloween and all the chocolate was 50% off. But it just proves my point that sidewalks are dangerous for runners.

The Runner's Guide to the Rules of the Road
And yet another reason to avoid the sidewalks...
Not only are the conditions of most sidewalks questionable, sometimes they are impassable. Most of the houses where I live were mostly built in the 1960s, in the days before people drove giant SUVs. When I'm running through my neighborhood, I often reflect on how some people's cars seem bigger than their houses. And many of the homes have one car garages, which is hard to fathom in today's world where everyone in the family seems to have a car. So there are a lot of cars parked in the driveways, across the sidewalks, bumper to bumper, which means I have nowhere to run but in the street.

If you do run in the road, always run against traffic. The cars might not see you, but at least you can see them coming. Cars don't always like that I run in the road, which is why I try to wear high visibility clothing. But I guess if a driver is looking down at their phone or putting on makeup, then it doesn't matter what I'm wearing--they can't see me. It's a risk I take every time I go out for a run or even a bike ride for that matter. And even when the drivers can see me, there have been attempts to run me off the road. While I hate to profile the drivers who tend to do that, it seems like most are elderly gentlemen driving very large sedans. Usually with a little white haired lady in the front street.

The Runner's Guide to the Rules of the Road

Everyone advises against wearing headphones while you are running. It's just common sense. Not only does listening to music make it tougher for you to hear what's going on around you (like an approaching car), it also makes you less aware. We all know I love to run with my music. Sometimes I get so into the zone--my music perfectly matches my pace--that I kind of forget where I am. If you are running in the road, that's just a recipe for disaster.

I don't know if it's a law everywhere, but where I live, cars must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. Even though it's the law, I can't even count the number of times I've almost been run down in the crosswalks by cars who blow the stop signs. It happens to me at least once a week. Sometimes I see the police sitting in the road to monitor them, but they don't do it during the morning rush. I recently had a really close call crossing the street to the hospital where I work. I was in the crosswalk when a car came flying down the street, honked at me, swerved around me, and gave me multiple views of his business finger.

No matter what, if you have a close call with a car, let it go and move on. As angry as you might be, don't give the car a punch or the driver the finger. Remember that you aren't supposed to be running in the road. Plus you don't want to be that a**hole runner and make things bad for all us runners. That runner in the story above? She ended up getting into a tussle with the police officer and spit on him. Do you think he's going to give a free pass to the next runner he catches in the road? I always wave a greeting to cars who stop to let me cross, even if I have the right of way. And yes, I always wave to the police when they drive by.

The Runner's Guide to the Rules of the Road
But he hasn't run a marathon.
Don't be Chuck Norris.
Bottom line: if you run in the road, all your spidey senses have to be engaged. Remember that story I shared a few years ago about the cyclist getting hit by the newspaper delivery man in my neighborhood? That driver was a menace. I had a lot of experience avoiding him--sometimes having to run up onto the parkway to avoid getting hit. He would drive all over the road to deliver his papers. He also drove like he was in a time trial to get his papers delivered as quickly as possible. Cyclists are more likely to be hit by cars, but we've all read stories about runners vs cars.

Be careful out there!

Did I miss anything? Sidewalk or road? With traffic or against? What do you do when you encounter an inconsiderate motorist?

I don't even know if I have 5 things here but I'm linking up with the DCTrifecta for the Friday Five! Courtney, Mar, and Cynthia host the best link up! So many great blogs to read. Check it out!



103 comments :

  1. I also love to run with music and keep one earbud tucked into my shirt so that I can be aware of the noise around me. It is difficult when bikers such as the idiot with no helmet make things hard for the rest of us. I can't imagine screaming at someone while biking....what a jerk. I have also observed motorists who do not seem to paying attention and so I always give them a very wide path so I don't get crushed.

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    1. I actually called him a jerk, so there's that! LOL!

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  2. I haven't run with music in forever. I think I stopped when I got more into trail running. Inconsiderate drivers are not only unsafe but annoying. I mean really. How hard is it to be courteous to runners and bikers.

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    1. I wonder if those people run or bike?

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  3. I think I've also heard of runners getting hassled for not having ID on them but I rarely do. Safety-wise I think the most important "rule" is to assume that the car(s) you see do not see you and/or have no plans to yield. As a driver, I often realize how hard it is to see runners - especially at dawn/dusk.

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    1. I have that same realization when I drive in the dark. I try to be visible in the early morning hours, but like you said, I always assume they can't see me.

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  4. Your neighborhood sounds just like ours. Most people have converted their one car garages to living space, built weird additions, multiple cars everywhere, etc. Drives me nuts!! Luckily our streets are pretty wide so that helps a lot and once I get out of the neighborhood there's a sidewalk...which I kind of loathe since concrete feels so tough on your legs sometimes. But anyways...good post and great reminders for us all! -C

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    1. I think about that whole concrete vs asphalt thing, and I know concrete feels harder but I can't figure out why! I mean, they are both hard...

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  5. I usually run with music, too. I have the volume at a moderate level that I can usually hear everything around me. I think it's our law for vehicles to yield to pedestrians, but it certainly doesn't always happen that way. Like you, I always assume the drivers don't see me or won't let me cross...and I always smile & wave to them when they let me through.

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    1. When they don't let me cross I wave as well. Not as friendly tho...

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  6. There are no sidewalks in my neighborhood!Sometimes I do run with traffic just to give my legs a break from the camber, since I feel that might contribute to some of my issues, but I don't run with music and my neighborhood is relatively quiet.

    I really don't know what the NY laws are!

    How about not wearing all black in low light? There's this one couple who walks around in the late fall, in the dark, in all black. They are an accident waiting to happen.

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    1. I see those people dressed in dark colors and think the same thing!

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  7. I try to run on the sidewalk when I can, but most of them around here are in rough condition too. So in the morning Ill run in the road facing traffic, but I am super aware of cars approaching because I don't listening to music. I am also lit up like a Christmas tree with my vest and headlamp. If a car approaches I'll jump onto the sidewalk until it passes.

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    1. My husband saw a woman wearing one of those LED vests--he thought it was amazing!

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  8. HA!! I'm in the middle of online driving school for speeding! I haven't gotten to the biking/pedestrian section yet, but I'm sure it's coming soon. And - my 4 yr old son (who was on his bike w/ training wheels crossing in a crosswalk with the walk light) was almost run down by 3 adult male bikers who were riding side by side on a main road and ran a red light. I yelled "bikers have to stop for red lights too" (which I know from my triathlon training) and they yelled "What about your son?" It was outrageous...he's 4 on a bike with training wheels crossing at the appropriate time with me, who was walking. I was furious for a good couple hours afterwards.

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    1. I actually haven't finished the course, but I needed to mention it here in my post!

      Some of those cyclists can be quite aggressive! I had one on my tail (I was driving) and I was getting really irritated. Turns out it was our orthodontist...

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  9. running with headphones is just dangerous. I think as a runner you really have to assume that all drivers do not see you and you have to be proactive out there to avoid them

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    1. I know but I run with mine...it's all about balance.

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  10. Yes to all of this! I try to run on sidewalks when I can, but the concrete is just so hard on my legs-when I run on the road I wear bright colors and reflective gear.

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    1. What is it about concrete that makes it feel so much harder than asphalt? I need to explore this...I sense a future post...

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  11. There is often no sidewalk where I run and it's amazing how many drivers aren't courteous enough to move over. Sometimes I have to jump out of the way.

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    1. Sometimes they run me right off the road!

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  12. I'm much more of a park runner. The roads around my house are two lane with no shoulder and would be way too dangerous. I sometimes do my neighborhood, but it is crazy hilly.
    Great tips though! It always surprises me when people take such risks!

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    1. I try to stay off the busy roads but to get to the trails I need run in the streets in a few spots.

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  13. We don't have a garage. We have two small(ish) cars, an Accord and a Civic, which we park in our driveway, pulled up onto our property. I get really annoyed when I am on a run---I run on the sidewalk almost always---and there is a car parked on the public walkway, half hanging out of their driveways. The rules don't apply to them, I guess. Very annoying.

    I know all the crack, dips, and splits in my neighborhood. I keep my eyes forward and slightly down and don't have any problem. When I am forced to run in the street, I do run facing traffic.

    I love my music, but like Kimberly above, I don't play it loudly and can hear the traffic, even cars behind me. I usually turn around and look at them so they know I am aware.

    In my area, I estimate about 80% of the drivers do not stop for people waiting in the crosswalks, even though they law states they must. I wave, too, if they let me cross. I also wave and call out "Thank you!" if they don't. No bird-chucking, though. Not nice.

    Yesterday just before I turned into the school parking lot to go to work, a student veered off the main road into the driveway without even slowing down. I was stopped so was okay, but a guy walking was about to cross the driveway. She nearly mowed him down. He did have head phones one but was paying attention so he stopped in time Frightening moment. People are so incredibly careless.

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    1. What is it about people driving while wearing headphones? I always thought that was illegal. Sounds like I need to explore this...

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  14. As bad as the sidewalks are here, the roads are worse. And the drivers are worse than the roads. I stick to the sidewalks when I can then hate running in the road because the drivers are aggressive, distracted, and think their time is more important than mine.

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  15. I HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE running on sidewalks. Your being too kind as too how bad they are to run on. I always run in the road when possible towards traffic with no headphones on but music playing through my iphone.

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    1. I was trying to be kind...ours are in terrible conditions in most places.

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  16. While its the law that cars are supposed to stop for pedestrians, it really irks me when drivers refuse to stop. Or if they start honking because they have to wait for a pedestrian. It amazes me that some people would rather put their need to be impatient over a person's safety.

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    1. Because it's just so important to get there in a hurry even if it means running someone over!

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  17. So do you wear headphones when you run in the street?

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  18. 99% of the time I run on the sidewalk. If I am in the road I do my best to run facing traffic. With a few exceptions where I feel like it's more dangerous to do so.

    But ooh man, as a cyclist that guy going the wrong way kills me. I get so much shit from drivers on & off the bike about all the havoc we supposedly create. But it's guys like him that are the problem. NOT me when I'm riding 23mph in a 25mph zone & taking up my two feet on the edge of the road. UGH. Rant over.

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    1. Bicyclists have as much right to be on the road as cars. End of story.

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  19. I try to stick to pathways or sidewalks. When I run at my sisters in the country I have to run on the road, so I'm a lot more cautious about making sure I have a earbud out and run against traffic. Most of the time I'll go into the ditch when a car is coming towards me just to make sure I"m safe.

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    1. I've gone up onto the parkway more than once!

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  20. If I am in the country, I obey the rules... ish. Sometimes I just go down the middle and then go to the side when I know which way people are coming (for the roads that don't have lines). But that is mostly when I am at our lakehouse in ga.
    I am pretty excited about the new divided lanes for the lake front path. I know the girl that got hit and almost killed that re-sparked all of the legislation, so it is really meaningful for me.

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    1. I can't wait to run down there and test out the new lanes!

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  21. On point! Sidewalks can be more dangerous than the road. I run towards traffic, bike with traffic. I run early morning, so I try to have reflective gear and/or small hand held flash light for oncoming traffic. I've run in the dark in my town so long I know where all the faulty sidewalks and potholes are! Yes, we're taking our lives in our own hands every time we hit the road, but what are you gonna do?? Gotta run! ;-) Stay safe out there!

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    1. You can die from being sedentary on your couch all day, so there's that...

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  22. I always run with music but it's never too lou that I can't hear my surroundings!

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  23. Sigh, this is why I stick the the trails. But a little girl did get run over (she has a broken bone) on my local trail this week. Nothing is safe :(

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    1. Did she get run over by a cyclist? That's so sad.

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  24. Wow I didn't know some places had a rule that if there was sidewalk, you had to run on it! I think I would not be able to run in my neighborhood if that was the case because I would surely trip and fall! I know running neighborhood loops is boring, but the good part about that for me is that there isn't a whole lot of traffic in my neighborhood. In the morning, it is quite possible for me to go the entire run without encountering a car.

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    1. I didn't either! The things I learn..

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  25. I've had my share of close-calls but mostly on my rural country roads. People fly down them like they are the interstate. The county doesn't always keep the grass cut so when I bale off onto the shoulder of the road I may be in knee deep Bahia grass and sometimes I encounter ant beds I couldn't see or even broken bottles until I get on top of them.. fun fun!
    Needless to say I run in the roads as much as possible! Great tips Wendy!

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  26. I'm so thankful we have lots of pathways where I only have to concern myself with other runners and cyclists. Thought we have many one-way streets I need to cross and I nearly get hit once a week because drivers only concern themselves with traffic and not pedestrians.

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    1. I wonder if those drivers ever walk across a street?

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  27. YES, When I run on the streets, I always run facing traffic and I canNOT believe how many people text while driving! What can't wait until they park? I will never understand that. I'd say around here the most dangerous move as a runner is to run through the crosswalk when it IS your turn BUT when drivers can make right turns because they do NOT look. They just turn. I swear I've become so much more aware as a driver after becoming a runner. Great post!

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    1. Me too! I can't believe how drivers are oblivious to pedestrians.

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  28. This is exactly why I prefer running in parks or on trails. I avoid the road like the plague....

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    1. Sometimes we don't have a choice--I have to take the roads to get to the trails.

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  29. Ugh, this is why I don't like my new 'hood. I used to have sidewalks everywhere. Now I'm out in the 'burbs and we have no sidewalks! It's crazy. Always on my toes.

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    1. We have sidewalks but they may as well be non-existent!

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  30. I've always run facing traffic, I like to see what's coming my way.

    So here's a tip: If you are running in the bike lane (or on the shoulder) and a cyclist is coming towards you, move to the INSIDE. Do not motion the cyclist to go to the inside, that puts them either against a curb or the shoulder which may or may not have glass on it. It's easier for a runner to hop up on a curb and get out of the way. It also keeps the runner further away from traffic.

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    1. I always change lanes when a cyclist is coming at me.

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  31. OMG we are on the same page today!!! Let me tell you, I always run facing traffic and usually with my headphones on but I hesitate to run on sidewalks. There's one road in particular that has a lot of traffic and a horrible sidewalk so I always run in the road. I cannot tell you how many dirty looks or honks I get. So dumb!! Love all of this and next time we should do a link up :-) LOL

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  32. I usually run on sidewalks because LA drivers are crazy and I don't want to get killed. And my music is on and loud.... That being said, I've had a few trips and faceplants on the sidewalk...not pretty.

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    1. I'm very familiar with the sidewalk...

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  33. Ugh, this is all so true! I've had my share of near hits. Yesterday a car actually stopped driving, no crosswalk around, to let me cross the road. There is hope in humanity! So, what to do about people walking uncontrollable dogs on the same sidewalk? What's your approach to passing them?

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    1. There are some nice drivers out there! Dog owners? Not so much.

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  34. Great tips! I love music, so I run with open ear headphones to still hear what's happening around me. They're great! I also try to head into a park as soon as I can to avoid road traffic.

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    1. Open ear headphones? Tell me more!!!

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  35. My town doesn't have sidewalks everywhere so I do have to run in the road sometimes - honestly I prefer it. I always run against the traffic. I like my music too when I run - I usually run with just one earbud in.

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    1. I can't run with one earbud in. I feel totally out of balance!

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  36. I'm overly cautious and paranoid so when I run on the road, I need to see the oncoming traffic. If there's a sidewalk, I'd run on the sidewalk. Our coach would stress out the importance of safety during our morning group runs - to obey the pedestrian signals and run single file when on the road.

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    1. I won't lie. I don't run on the sidewalks very often. Only if the streets are cambered or if it's a busy road.

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  37. I almost got hit BY a policeman recently. He did a rolling stop and didn't even see me! I have the same problems with crosswalks, but also with people who are turning right onto a street so they only look to the left for cars and not to the right for pedestrians.

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  38. I have bit it on the sidewalk and the Lakefront path. You and I are cut from the same cloth. I hate bikers who go in the wrong direction. It scares me! Have a good, safe weekend!

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    1. Yep, we are #solesisters! Good luck at the Shuffle!

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  39. My husband cannot stand running on sidewalks! I kind of prefer them because cars scare me. But it is scary being a runner with drivers being distracted by their phones as you pointed out. They also don't like to look to the right when they are at a stop sign planning to turn right. That's scary too because they aren't looking for you. Ugh. Why do we torture ourselves???

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  40. Great post!! I mostly run on the sidewalks until I can get to a path or trail. Definitely have fallen (on the sidewalk and the trail). Most drivers do not look right for pedestrians. I get eye contact for I cross - I had a runner friend who was hit by a driver who didn't see her. And then there was the young guy last fall who was killed by a driver that didn't see him because the sun was so bright during sunset. So sad... We all have to be careful out there and assume that no one sees us!!!

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    1. It just seems like everyone's in a hurry these days!

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  41. I get eye contact with the driver BEFORE I cross - bad typo above!! Love this and yes, we should have a discussion about why asphalt is "better" for you than concrete sidewalks! I feel that way, but is it a myth or truth... hummm...

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    1. For sure! I'm going to do some research on the subject. Inquiring minds want to know!

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  42. these are some of the reasons i try to avoid road as much as possible..and stick with trails and such.

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  43. I agree it is the best time of year for endurance athletes. I just want to be outside all the time! I usually give rude drivers the finger :)

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    1. Aaayyy! There's too many crazies around here--I would be afraid to do that!

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  44. I feel frustrated when I encounter an inconsiderate motorist but don't do anything to provoke someone. I hate unsafe drivers though, I mean seriously, give me some room , please

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    1. I always think that, especially when a car won't stop for me to cross the street--why is it so hard for people to be courteous?

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  45. My hubby and I have been nearly run off the sidewalk by cyclists. We have the right to the sidewalk as pedestrians but somehow we are in a chicken fight with them. Like who is going to move over. Well naturally we scoot to the side to let them pass. Frustrating. We have had a few close calls with cars crossing over the line and getting too close to the sidewalk. Texting on their phones! It's a good idea to be able to see the cars coming at you rather than behind you. We've been trying to run away from all traffic but when you live in the city it's not easy. Take care Wendy ❤️

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    1. Here cyclists aren't allowed on the sidewalk! But that doesn't stop them from riding there. The other thing I see is people "walking" their dogs while riding their bikes. When did that become a thing?

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    2. Hubby says they're not allowed either. My bad. And yes! We see people on bikes walking their dogs. Smh.

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  46. Great article! You are right, me must be the responsible ones because the drivers are not! I have the most trouble with people backing out of their driveways, they just don't look! UGGGG

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    1. I had all kinds of incidents this morning both while running and on my bike. I think writing this made me more sensitized to all the assholery that is out there! LOL!

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  47. I usually run on trails or sidewalks, but then have to battle the cyclists on the trails (sidewalks when they are tourists hehe).

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    1. The cyclists (and sometimes I am one) can be scary--they go so fast and don't always warn you when they are coming.

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  48. I do run with music but my headphones don't cancel out background noise so low and i can hear just fine, unless it is a Prius.
    I do run in the road, but a lot of my roads are fairly wide, shouldn't be an issue for cars, but i still encounter rude motorist all the time. I just don't get why people have such a hard time just going on by when there is plenty of rooom.
    The hold on to your teeth cracks me up! I do have limited sidewalks around here but hey hurt my kneees, I seem to get less sore when I stay off the concrete.

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    1. I need to do some research on why concrete is so much harder to run on than asphalt!

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  49. I seriously believe I can tell what drivers are runners/walkers/bikers by how much room they give when the drive around you - lots of space. The others so close it is scary!!!

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  50. I run against traffic and bike with traffic. I don't mind running on the sidewalks but I do avoid them if they have crappy conditions. It also irritates me when the yard owners shrubbery is crowding the sidewalk!

    It always irks me when others say things like "Why are you riding your bike on the road when their is XXXX trail for that?" Trails are often either not paved and not that great for riding your road bike on, way too short for a 50++ mile ride, or way too busy. I hate riding my bike at Busse Woods because there are so many people there when the weather is nice that aren't paying attention or kids are running all over the path.

    And like I tell other cyclists, it doesn't matter if you were right or wrong, getting hit by a car won't hurt any less. You always lose.

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    1. I feel the same way about Busse Woods and Deer Grove. If I ride there, I try to get there early before the kids and dogs are there. Sometimes I'll just ride on the roads.

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