Running in the city is an extremely dangerous hobby! Today I saw my life pass before my eyes as a white SUV (going 40 miles an hour through a signalled pedestrian crosswalk) came within inches of hitting me straight on. Unfortunately, this is not the first (nor will it be the last) time this has happened to me as a city runner.
I wouldn’t call myself a serious runner. Running has always been a part of my athletic conditioning or my workout routine. As I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser) running has become more “therapy” than physical exercise during my week. With a very hectic schedule and a never ending list of responsibilities, the time I set aside for my run gives me the break I need to collect myself and physically (and emotionally) “breathe”.
I am fortunate to live in a city with the most beautiful running trails and river valley in the country. The only problem is that the nearest running trail is about a mile from my front door. That means I need to face city traffic when I go to-and-from my running retreat location. At least once a month (sometimes once a week) I have a close encounter with a motorist. The most common situations are when motorists:
- Turn right at an intersection, stop sign or when leaving an alley or driveway (they are looking left to check for oncoming traffic and don’t check what is happening on their right side as they advance the vehicle)
- Back out of a parking spot or driveway (they can’t see what may be coming in their blind spot)
- Inch forward at an intersection even though pedestrians may still be crossing (they are impatient at the light and the vehicle moves into the crosswalk)
Although these situations are a bit scary, they are pretty harmless because the vehicle is going less than ten miles an hour. I don’t listen to music when I run outdoors so I am pretty good about anticipating these situations when they occur.
Today was a completely different experience!
I was coming up to a pedestrian crosswalk where two lanes of vehicles were stopped at a red light. I saw a silver SUV stopped in the right lane and no vehicle to its left. I proceeded in front of the SUV and looked at the left lane as I continued to the other side of the crosswalk. As I entered the lane I saw a large white pickup truck barreling at me with no intentions of stopping! I jumped forward to reach the curb as I watched the truck swerve to the right (nearly hitting the silver SUV to its right). I felt the air rush past my hip as it zoomed through the red light, merging onto the busy road. The driver didn’t even slow down and raced away like the driver had just robbed a bank. I could have easily ended up as a grease mark on the road if I had crossed the intersection a fraction of a second later.
The run home from that intersection was the longest run of my life. All I could do was replay that split-second in my head … and all the possible things that could have happened. My imagination went wild as I envisioned (like a scene out of “Grand Theft Auto”):
- Getting hit head on and flying through the intersection
- Jumping up on the hood of the SUV and shattering the windshield
- My arm getting caught on the side mirror and snapping in half
I was obviously shaken by this experience … incredibly thankful and grateful that I am okay … but forever changed by these events.
A Runner’s Plea to Motorists
I wouldn’t want anyone else to ever go through what I went through today. So for that reason alone, I (on behalf of all pedestrians and runners on the city sidewalks) would like to ask all motorists on the road to consider the following when you get behind the wheel and venture out onto city streets:
- Please acknowledge that pedestrians and runners are directly affected by your actions on the road because we share sidewalks and intersections (we are no match for the power and size of your vehicle but we have the same rights as you do to a safe experience on the road).
- Please obey all red lights and stop signs (especially when these signs are there to protect pedestrians and runners).
- Please obey all speed limits in busy residential areas and school zones (these limits are in place so vehicles can quickly stop in high pedestrian traffic areas)
- Please stop at crosswalks when a pedestrian is waiting to cross.
- If you don’t see a pedestrian at a crosswalk but other cars are stopped, please follow suit and stop as well (someone may be crossing but may not be in plain view).
- Please look both ways before you turn right at any intersection or roadway (because we may be walking/running on the sidewalk to your right).
- Please go slowly when backing out of a parking spot or driveway (so we can respond and move out of the way)
In return for your consideration, I will do the following as a responsible runner on the road:
- Slow down at every intersection (especially when vehicles are in the right turning lane).
- Only cross at a crosswalk when crosswalk lights are illuminated and/or when cars are stopped.
- Look both ways before crossing the road.
- Slow down when I see backup lights illuminated.
I was planning on going out for a run tomorrow afternoon prior to today’s experience. At this point, it might be a better idea to hit the treadmill instead.
Thank you for your consideration … and let’s ALL be safe on the road!