I do a lot of road running. I like it; it lets me get out and explore my neighborhood (or close by neighborhoods), it lets me run in places where I feel like I can get support (i.e. water, bathrooms, call for help) if I need it, and it provides an interesting urban environment to take in as I go. I find all kinds of new and cool things while I’m running; museums, shops, coffee stops. I really enjoy getting to know the places around me as a runner, and it removes obstacles between meand my run because I can just walk outside my door and go if I want to.
However, there is one thing about road running that can sometimes put me on edge: the drivers. I admit that I live in Massachusetts; a state notorious for its lack of etiquette behind the wheel. That said, there’s just a few pretty logical little rules that I truly wish drivers would keep in mind when they encounter runners on the road.
I get it. Sometimes, the shoulder is narrow. Sometimes, you’re driving on a really cramped two-lane street. I, too, am a driver and have experienced these things. But for heaven’s sake, if you spot a runner coming towards you, do your best to give them a wide breadth (obviously not at the sake of safety or obeying the rules of the road). There is no reason to try and get as close to the runner as possible while you zip by. Such behavior is pretty much guaranteed to scare the pants off of the poor runner. I try to be as courteous as I can be when I’m running on a busy road (and, honestly, I try not to run on busy roads); but there’s only so much I can do when a driver decides that they absolutely must be skimming the curb even when they have plenty of space on the other side. Try to stay aware of this while driving. If you can give the runner space without endangering yourself or others; give the runner space! Trust me, we don’t want to be in your way, we will try our best not to be.
I really don’t know what people are thinking when they do this but here’s the deal: it is not cool to honk at a runner for no reason as you drive past. Is this some form of cat-calling? Is this some kind of weird show of support or solidarity? Or is this the driver’s way of ridiculing and playing a practical joke on the runner? I have no idea. All I can tell you is that it annoys me, it startles me, and it breaks my focus. It’s a safety hazard because it makes me think there’s something I haven’t noticed that I need to notice coming up fast (after all, why else would the car make such an alarming and sudden sound?). Please, for the love of runners, don’t do this. Say a semi-silent cheer of awesomeness if you must, or give a thumbs up as you drive past. That’s enough support. Trust me.
In Massachusetts, pedestrians have the right of way at marked crosswalks. That means that if a pedestrian is waiting to cross (and certainly if they are in the middle of the road!), it is your legal obligation to allow them to do so. Now I’m not going to lie and say that I have always done this every single time I’ve been a driver passing an intersection, but it’s definitely something to stay aware of. You definitely do not want to speed up in an attempt to “make it” before the runner, or cause the runner to try and dodge out of your way as you go by (true story; I wish I could say this was an isolated incident). Be courteous to the runners out there; they want to live through their run.
Almost as bad is trying to “let” runners pass against a light at a traffic-controlled intersection. Most of the time, intersections that have walk/don’t walk signs are intersections that need them. Complicated traffic patterns mean that even though you are going to let the runner go doesn’t mean the runner isn’t at risk from another vehicle who doesn’t know that you are vagrantly disobeying local traffic laws. Honestly? I never walk against the light when I’m out running even when a driver waves me by. The last thing I need is a traffic incident to land me in the hospital for however long. I’ve got races to run, people. I don’t have time to be injured because I couldn’t wait the extra sixty seconds for the light to be favorable to me.
On behalf of runners everywhere, I personally thank you considerate drivers for your dutiful attention to these noteworthy items. Small acts of consideration can definitely go a long way towards making my run more pleasurable.