Learning the rules of the road to keep runners and bikers safe
When I was on a walk around my neighborhood the other day I recalled the “rules of the road” for runners. The recommendation is that when you run, or walk, you should be of the left side of the road facing oncoming traffic. This is the safest method because you can see the traffic as it comes toward you, and if necessary, you can take steps to move out of the way if the car comes too close. My route around the neighborhood has several hills and sharp curves. The hills are steep enough to be classified as a "blind" hill because the driver cannot see what is on the top of the hill until it reaches the crest of the hill. The same can be said for a few of the curves because of an obstruction that blocks the view of what is on the far side of the curve. After watching some cars drive very close to the edge of the curve I could imagine a runner being struck by the car unless they were off the road. The rule of running on the right side of the road might make the runner dead right on sharp curves.
I know it is against the rules of running on a road, but thinking of possible consequences I approach my run, or walk, a little differently. When I approach a steep hill I move to the right side of the road with the assumption that a driver approaching the hill will see me and give me a little room. The driver coming up the hill would not see me until they reached the crest of the hill, and that might be too late. Then when I reach the point where I can see the uphill side, I cross over to the left side of the road so any car coming up the hill will see me. If I had stayed on the right side of the road the driver would not have seen me until he crested the hill. You might ask that age old question of, “Why did the chicken cross the road”? It is to be safe and not get run over. The point of the change is that it does not take that much effort to cross to the safer side of the road to be visible.
The same logic is applied to a sharp curve in the road. San Marcos has many ‘blind’ curves because of bushes, tree over hangs, stone walls, or fences. On a curve to the left I stay on the right side of the road until I can see the far side of the curve and any oncoming traffic. If it is clear, I can again cross to the left side of the road. For a sharp curve to the right I stay on the left side of the road to face any oncoming traffic. It is just a matter of trying to be as visible for as long as possible to traffic on the road. It is against the law to text while driving, but I still see an occasional driver with a cell phone in their hand, and there is a good chance that they may not see me in time to avoid me. It may go against the ‘rules of the road’ but it is better to be on the wrong side versus injured or dead on the right side.
As to safe running or bike riding, I still see runners and bikers wearing dark colored clothes in the evening when it is either starting to get dark, or is actually dark. If you know that your run will end up after sunset plan ahead by wearing white, or very light colored, clothes. The best option is to wear one of the many types of reflective vests or shirts. I see these reflective clothes at stores that cater to construction or highway workers at lumber and hardware stores. Most bike stores have flashing lights for sale that can be attached to the bike. A runner can wear a belt and attach the flashing light to it. I will recommend that the light be of sufficient size that can be seen from a distance. I have seen a number of small flashing lights on a bike that are almost invisible to a driver at night until their headlights pick up the rider, or runner. If the light is small, wear two or three on parts of the body. The same holds true for being visible as much as possible to traffic. That means put the light on both the front and back side of you. The same recommendation can be said for reflective clothing on a runner. Have some reflective material on both sides of the body.
One more point to mention about safety for runners. Many runners will run in the road rather than on the sidewalk. Observing sidewalks in San Marcos there are many sidewalks that have bushes leaning out onto the sidewalk. There are several sidewalks with trees in the middle of them. Others have large cracks in them that can trip a runner. In daylight hours a runner can probably avoid these hazards, but in the early evening when it gets dark, these obstacles become invisible.
Run, walk, or ride your bike with safety in mind. Know that any meeting between you and a car the chances are you will be on the losing end of that meeting. Be safe out there on the road.