Mar 27, 2009

A plea to drivers everywhere

If you run on the roads like I do, you're convinced that there are too many drivers out there with this very attitude. And with the approach of spring well on its way, the weather warming up, and darkness not falling until much later than in the past few months, I’d like to take a moment and reach out to drivers on the roadways. In fact, there are times I’d REALLY like to reach out to these drivers (and wring their necks). But for now, I’ll approach it in a much more civilized fashion.

Let me begin by saying I know the roads are meant for being driven on. Our society would virtually shutdown if it weren’t for automobiles and roads for them to travel on. But let me also say that these roads are accessible to many other types of travelers, such as cyclists and runners. Yet, all too often, drivers seem unwilling to take them into consideration. Since I’m a runner, I’ll continue from that perspective. Yet, most of what I say could apply to cyclists as well.

Last night, I spent 90 minutes running out on the roads of Liberty Township, where I live. During those 90 minutes, I must have nearly gotten hit by a vehicle no less than 30 times. Honestly, I wish I was exaggerating. I found myself getting more & more upset as each person seemed to get closer & closer. I went from swearing under my breath, to swearing out loud as I threw my hands up the air, and looking back at the driver who just passed, as if to say “WTF?!? How close you plan on getting?!?” Hey folks, FYI, that sideview mirror is a lot closer than you might think! I finished my run and couldn’t believe what had just gone on. Now, I’m accustomed to the occasional driver nearly clipping me, but this last night was unbelievable. I’ve never had to avoid so many cars during one run. One guy literally swerved TOWARD me, about 150 feet before he reached me! I had to jump 6 feet over, into the embankment by the road. YO! PAY ATTENTION JACKASS! I’m embarrassed to say that he got the “Your #1 sign” from me. But chances are, he never bothered to look in his rearview mirror to see what I thought of him. Eh, whatever. But at that point in the night, I’d had enough. More than enough.

Liberty Township, as opposed to somewhere like Hyde Park, has very few long stretches of sidewalk for runners who plan to run any significant distances. Therefore, we are essentially required to share the roads with local motorists. And we’re all more than willing to do so. We don’t mind, provided we get one thing in return…that drivers have the same kind of courtesy towards runners when it comes to sharing. Now, I don’t mean all motorists are like this. The vast majority are not. Most slow down and/or slide over in their lane just to be sure they don’t strike the runner. You know the ones I love? The ones who slow down in order that they can time it with oncoming traffic so they can slide over and provide ample room to the runner coming towards them. They do this instead of zooming past at 60 mph and not moving over because “the other lane had traffic in it, so they couldn’t”. Yeah, baby! They’re the best. They get it. I love you folks! But all too often there are those who think the road belongs to them, and only them. The road is only there to get their car from here to there. So they hug the shoulder like it’s their God-given right. That somehow it’s the runner’s job to avoid being hit by the car, not the other way around.

Now I know what some of these drivers are saying. Why can’t runners just run in their safe, little subdivisions where the only thing to fear is the occasional dog that gets loose from his backyard? It shouldn’t matter where they run, just that they run. Well, that’s a good question. Let me answer it by asking those same drivers a question. Why don’t you eat plain white rice and boiled chicken for every meal, drink just water, and take a multi-vitamin to get sufficient vitamins, minerals and nutrients? Because that would be boring, and you’d go out of your mind within a few days! Same with runners. While some of us do like to run through our neighborhoods from time to time, we can’t log 50 miles a week (some log many, many more) running through a subdivision. It’s not practical, and it’s not enjoyable. But most importantly, we have every right to run out on the roads as drivers have to drive on them. It’s no different than that same white rice & chicken eater having every right to grill up a ribeye steak, bake up a giant baked potato and load it with butter, sour cream & cheese, and wash it all down with a cold beer. (Pause while I wipe the drool off my chin, because that sounds killer-good right now!) We all need variety, and we need it in most every aspect of our lives. From the food we eat, the shows we watch, the clothes we wear, and yes, the routes we run.

Now, at this point, I should say that the runner DOES have some responsibilities here that they must take seriously:

First, run INTO oncoming traffic. They can see you, you can see them.

Second, run with your head up. Trust me, your shoes look the same as they did when you left the house. Not to mention, when someone does get too close, you need to know that evasive action may be necessary…very quickly.

Third, wear easily visible clothes, especially if you’re out there when it’s dark. The darker it is, the more reflective wear and flashing LED lights you need to have on you, in order to be seen. No nighttime running ninjas, please.

Fourth, and maybe it’s just me, but I think you should show some gratitude to those who show you courtesy. Offer a small wave, or tip of the hat, to those who clearly have you in mind as they drive by. Yeah, you may do this a hundred times during your run. But if you want consideration from them, it can’t hurt to show your appreciation of said consideration. Fair is fair.

Drivers, if we follow these rules, can we get the kind of respect from you that we feel we deserve? Yes, I know it might be 5PM, and you’ve had a hard day at work, and you just want to get home, and have dinner, and enjoy some well earned relaxation. That is assuming you don’t have soccer, or baseball practice to run your kids to. Dance recitals, and girl scouts. Believe me, I know. But slowing down a bit, and clearing a little bit of room for others, isn’t going to significantly delay your arrival to wherever you are going. And just because your one-ton vehicle outweighs me by 1,840 pounds, and can reach speeds many multiples faster than the human body can achieve, it doesn’t give you the right to play target practice with runners like me out there. No, really. It doesn’t.

So as we approach spring, consider this. People are getting outside and enjoying what nature has to offer. Some walk, some run, some bike. Some do it with no formal goal in mind, they just want to get out of the house. At the other end of the spectrum, others might be training for upcoming spring races, like Cincinnati’s very own Flying Pig Marathon. Regardless of why we’re out there, on behalf of all of us pedestrians, let me ask you drivers to do us a favor.

Can you please give us a little space, so that we can safely get to where we are going, just as you are trying to get where you are going? Please?

No comments:

Post a Comment