This time of year I feel like my blog feed is always full of posts with helpful tips about how to run safely in the winter. These tips are things like wear reflective gear, run with a friend, and run against the flow of traffic. These are, of course, great and helpful tips especially if you are new to running or new to running in the dark. However, this article popped up on my facebook news feed this week and after my brush with a car it made me think about the rules of sharing the road.
This article is mainly geared towards cyclist, but I think the points are also applicable to runners as we frequently share the road with cars or at the very least cross the roads they drive on. I live in Seattle which I would consider to be a very active, bike and pedestrian “friendly” city (by friendly I mean that there are a good amount of bike lanes and running paths for people to use) but even here I would say that it is far from being safe. In addition to my recent crash, I’ve had close calls with cars while running, and I’ve heard about both runners and cyclist in the city who have been hit with some frequency.
I’m not saying that cyclist and runners don’t sometimes do things that put them in danger. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a cyclist run a red light, make and illegal turn, or not wear a helmet (which seriously is so dumb, I don’t even have words for it) I could buy a lot of running shoes. Runners and pedestrians are guilty of this as well, although to a much lesser extent as the sidewalk is, for the most part, a safe place to run.
Though the fact remains that in most incidents that I’ve heard of, the blame falls mostly on the driver who is just not paying attention. The worst part is that the penalties for hitting pedestrians or cyclist are almost nonexistent. In my accident the driver was given a ticket for failure to yield the right of way which is about $100 and probably had to replace his windshield which was smashed by body hitting it…that’s it.
I could have easily been injured much more severely or killed and the only consequence for him was $100 ticket and an easy car fix, most of which was probably covered by insurance. Consequences like that are sure to encourage drivers to pay better attention when sharing the road. If someone dies as the result of a car on car incident the responsible driver can face charges of vehicular manslaughter or even attempted vehicular manslaughter if there isn’t a fatality. But if it’s a pedestrian or cyclist this isn’t the case? How does this make any sense at all?
The problem is that everyone is in too much of a rush. Is arriving to your meeting a few minutes late really worth someone’s life? Since my accident I’ve really noticed how when I feel rushed I drive less safely and pay less attention than I would otherwise. But if I slow down, take a breath, and realize that being on time isn’t worth the risk to my safety or the safety of others I become much more aware and patient.
I think there are many solutions to this issue. One, there need to be harsher punishments for hitting a pedestrian or cyclist. Bike vs Car or Pedestrian vs Car is not an equal fight, the pedestrian or cyclist is in far greater danger of injury or death and the consequences should reflect this. I’m not saying people should go to jail, at least not in all situations but having to take driving classes, pay higher fines, or community service would be a good start.
Two, like I said about people need to just slow down and stop being in such a rush. We all have places to be and tons of stuff to do, but you know what really slows you down? An accident! Guaranteed to make you late for wherever you are trying to get. Slow down, take a breath, and realize that the 1-2 minutes you might make up are not going to make or break your day.
Three, cyclists and pedestrians need to obey the laws of the road. This means crossing at cross walks, when the light gives you the walk signal not in the middle of the road because you’re too lazy to walk 100 yards to the crosswalk. It means stopping at stop signs and red lights for cyclist. And for goodness sakes it means putting a helmet on your head at all times and actually buckling the strap.
Roads are busy and getting busier but if everyone makes an effort to be safer lives can be saved.