I love to get my miles in while touring through my city, or even on the rural concessions.
With that in mind, close calls with vehicles large and small are bound to take place.
Last night during our RunNinjas group run we had a bit of an anomaly take place. We not only had an runner vs. vehicle incident once, but twice. On top of that, both confrontations turned into physical, hands-on altercations.
Not pretty, nor desirable for anyone.
The incidents resolved themselves (to some degree) without any lasting impact except for a bad taste in our collective mouths. So how can we do a better job at avoiding such nasty encounters?
As runners there are certain things that I believe are in our control - and from my 20000+ km of road running logged since 2010 I'm happy to share just a few tips and thoughts that might help someone else.
- Never assume that you can be seen - yep, I'll bet you figured my first tip would be to make yourself as visible as possible, but it's not. This is something that I've come to learn not so much from running as from motorcycling - even the most tricked out bikes, with flying fringe leather, neon accent lights, chrome covers dazzling in the sunlight and riders decked out in the most colourful of body armoured-jackets can be completely missed by car and truck drivers (affectionately known as "cages"). Add to that the distraction of windshields that have not been properly scraped and/or defrosted, the persistent and illegal use of handheld devices while driving, or perhaps kids in the backseat having a screamfest on the way to swim lessons. Whether you call it selective perception or operator inattention, the mistake is yours (as the runner) if you take for granted that a driver will see you, even if they are looking straight at you. Your best bet and mine is to believe that they do not see you at all.
- Run against the flow of traffic - I think that this is one of your best defensive maneuvers, even if you're running on the sidewalk. The advantage that this affords you is not only being able to try to make eye contact with oncoming drivers but also the opportunity to anticipate and react if a close call appears to be imminent.
- Make yourself as visible as possible - ah, finally it appears in the bronze medal position on the list. Whether it comes to reflective vests, blinking LED-armbands (worn on the arm closest to passing traffic of course) or headlamps (which provide the most noticeable point of visibility in low-light conditions), there are ways that you can increase the chances - NOT GUARANTEE - that you will be seen by drivers. I've even utilized glow-in-the-dark shoes to try to make myself stand out more during my pre-dawn workouts.
- Signal your intentions - just as you can't read a driver's mind, they can't read yours either. So if you're planning to make a turn, or even if you're crossing through an intersection and plan to carry on straight ahead, extending your arm to indicate your intended path not only is a helpful signal to the traffic around you but that added motion heightens your visibility.
- Be courteous to drivers - believe you me this goes a long way. I know that as a general rule pedestrians always have the right of way, but that's not going to be a great defense against a busted leg if you go nose-to-nose with a cage. So when running on the road I try to hug the curb as best as possible knowing that cars also try to not stray across the divider lines and may have to contend with oncoming traffic (which I can't see since they're coming from behind me). Also, when running with others I want to make sure that as traffic approaches we move into a single-file formation - just because we don't 'own the road' any more than cars and trucks do. Finally, if a driver does give you an extra-wide berth as they pass please do acknowledge that with a friendly wave - positive reinforcement is always huge and is an investment in that driver being encouraged to continue to give space to the next runner that s/he encounters.
- Minimize or eliminate your distractions - because this can be a problem that we invite upon ourselves. If your earbuds are crammed with 180 bpm dance tunes dialed up to 11 and you're be-bopping your way down the street you may be just as oblivious as the vehicles bearing down on you. Or you may not hear that emergency vehicle blaring its sirens forcing the cars ahead of you to pull off to the side of the road (as directed by law). If running to music is your thing then consider wearing just one earbud so that you continue to be aware of your audible surroundings.
Nope ... still won't see you ...
Keep alert and stay safe so that you can live to run another day!