Letter: Running in the Street Is Dangerous

Albany resident Jeanne Gray Loughman asks if others are as alarmed as she is about jogging in the street. We'd like to know what our readers think. You can tell us in the comments.

To the Editor,

Is the increasingly dangerous practice of runners running in the streets between moving traffic and parked cars of as great a concern to others as it is to me?  Is it legal?  99% of the runners I see have earphones plugged in – also terribly dangerous.  Many barely stop or pause at corners to check traffic before entering an intersection.  I consider myself a safe driver, but this street-running is more than distressing.  Because a runner can see the cars doesn’t mean the cars can see the runner, often even in the daytime.  Rarely do the runners wear any type of reflective vest or flashing safety lights after dusk.  If I honk politely and motion them to please move to the sidewalk for their own safety, I usually get impolite responses.  The street-running is as scary to me as the continued frighteningly low-lighting of Solano Avenue in Albany which makes pedestrians nearly invisible to drivers at night.  When crossing as a pedestrian, I now carry a flashlight with me now to alert drivers to my presence in the intersection. 

Just in the past few days, I have driven (carefully) alongside one runner (earphones in) who was made completely invisible three times within the same block of Arlington Avenue as the early morning sun hit my windshield.  Another time, in the late evening darkness, a runner running against traffic was not at all visible just a few feet from my car until my headlights caught him.  In both cases, someone could have hit these two runners, both of whom appeared to be oblivious to the danger.  Bicyclists, like drivers, watching for moving cars, parked cars pulling out, and car doors opening, surely must have the same concerns about runners in the street. 

Jeanne Gray Loughman

SteveWu January 13, 2014 at 01:02 PM
DMV summarized pedestrian law here: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/vc/tocd11c5.htm Basically, it is legal to run in the street. Cars must watch out. Runners can't use the bike lane if the sidewalk is adequate, which is up to the personal judgement of the runner.
dorthy manser January 13, 2014 at 01:33 PM
Sounds about right, Steve, but note who has the right of way: 21954. (a) Every pedestrian upon a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway so near as to constitute an immediate hazard. Basically, the law asks that all of us use good judgement, which makes sense to me.
Alan Eckert January 13, 2014 at 01:40 PM
I was surprised by a street runner when driving down Marin shortly before 6am today. She had zero reflective gear and no lights. I was also on a bend to the right, which means she appeared a lot more suddenly than if we were on a straight or left-turning portion. If I were on a bike, I probably would have run right into her. <<>> I have also encountered street runners while on my bike in San Francisco along the Embarcadero and North Point (Fisherman's Wharf). There is one woman that I see regularly, but she is a slower runner and steps to the curb well in advance of oncoming bikers. She is the exception, though. I have seen many people running in both directions (with and against traffic) in the green stripe bike lane on Embarcadero. My bike bell isn't any good if there is a bus or large truck in the next lane. Man times I have been forced to stop or yell at the person who couldn't even see me as I'm riding very slowly behind them. <<>> Around Albany, though, the best thing that can be done is to get the sidewalks fixed first. A walkable pathway will make it safer, especially when it is dark. Running on the street on Solano is just a bad idea with all that traffic moving n and out. <<>> Thank you for that link SteveWu. I found this tidbit: "21966. No pedestrian shall proceed along a bicycle path or lane where there is an adjacent adequate pedestrian facility."
Jeanne Gray Loughman January 13, 2014 at 02:33 PM
It seems ironic that folks out running for good health would take such risks by being in the street.
SteveWu January 13, 2014 at 04:12 PM
It is not all the responsibility of the runner. Drivers should try not to drive in conditions where they have trouble seeing. I do not drive at dawn and dusk, and I try not to drive on Marin during dark rush hour, when I cannot see due to oncoming headlights. As we get older, it is harder to handle bad lighting conditions. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2007/June/Blinded-by-the-night " diminished night vision is one of the most common problems of the aging eye. Rare is the person who, starting around age 40, doesn't dread driving at night". 40, yes 40. It is not a problem of old people. It is a problem of middle aged people.
Dave January 13, 2014 at 04:38 PM
Jeanne, First, there is no such thing as a polite honk, a horn is an emergency warning device that is designed to gain the attention of other drivers in insulated cars over road noise. Secondly, per the link provided above, those runners you are honking at have a right to be in the street. Should I take to politely honking at elder drivers while motioning them to park for their own safety? Of course not, just as you should probably not be making up your own rules for who is allowed on the street. Perhaps we can all take a minute to be more considerate (drivers, runners, cyclists) and slow down. I am willing to presume that a 1 minute delay in getting to where ever you are headed (be it in a car, on foot, or astride a bicycle) is less important than potentially killing or maiming a fellow human being.
dorthy manser January 13, 2014 at 04:44 PM
Much better advice would be for people not to run, ever, in the street, night or day. It is very much the responsibility of the runner not to do things that put them at risk of being run over. At any rate, it's pretty rare for people to jog in the street, probably because it's pretty stupid.
dorthy manser January 13, 2014 at 04:48 PM
Dave, what part of "...21966. No pedestrian shall proceed along a bicycle path or lane where there is an adjacent adequate pedestrian facility." isn't clear? At any rate, this isn't about the law, it's about common sense. Streets in a dense urban environment are not a good place to run, day or night. Duh.
Kirsten Schwartz January 13, 2014 at 10:26 PM
Oh, SteveWu: "Drivers should try not to drive in conditions where they have trouble seeing. I do not drive at dawn and dusk, and I try not to drive on Marin during dark rush hour, when I cannot see due to oncoming headlights." SteveWu, you have just revealed yourself as someone who DOES NOT HAVE TO WORK FOR A LIVING. Goodness. And yes, too many people in the street, not paying attention. When I run outside, I dodge into the street from time to time, but looking out for cars and bikes. Bikes off sidewalks, runners on, please.
Dave January 13, 2014 at 10:43 PM
Dorothy, I don't want to be rude- but the part of 21966 that I did not understand is that we are talking about running in the street, not a bike lane. The law, as referenced above appears to explicitly state that a runner is allowed to use the street so long as they are not in a bike lane. That said, please feel free to clarify if you meant something else and I am mis-reading your post above.
dorthy manser January 13, 2014 at 11:26 PM
Sorry Dave, but I think I misinterpreted the text as meaning that pedestrians shouldn't be in a bicycle lane, or the street, if they can use the sidewalk. Then again, I can't really see why runners should be discouraged from running where bicycles go, but allowed to run where cars go. Whatever the law says, however, I think it is stupid for joggers to run in the street. Fair enough?
Jeanne Gray Loughman January 14, 2014 at 11:39 AM
As even the most careful driver knows, it doesn’t take much for something to go very wrong in a split second – a deer runs into the street and you swerve; a bike enters the roadway without warning; a person dashes across a busy street in mid-block to avoid taking a few extra steps to the increased safety of the crosswalk; someone crossing or riding – or running – slips and falls in the street or drops something; a runner wearing earphones doesn’t hear that (yes) polite toot on the horn warning them of possible danger; someone opens a car door without looking; a parked car backs out without looking carefully enough, or without seeing someone or something reasonably unexpected (like a runner) that isn’t clearly in their line of vision; someone crosses on a red light rather than waiting a little longer to more safely cross on a green light; a dumb driver does something dumb. With all these things that can so easily go wrong, runners put themselves and others at even higher risk by choosing to jog in or alongside traffic lanes. Let’s hope we don’t end up with the six o’clock news reporting a tragedy from another “makeshift memorial” by the side of the road. I just hope people will reconsider and do the safer (and legal, as appears is applicable) thing for everyone’s sake.
Kathryn Javandel January 14, 2014 at 01:41 PM
There are many things which are legal but dangerous. I tend to view running in the street as being equivalent to sky-diving or scuba diving with regard to exposure to risk of serious injury or death.
SteveWu January 14, 2014 at 02:45 PM
@Kirsten. You are mistaken. I do work for a living. Full time. I have worked for decades. I have made career choices and sacrifices to avoid bad commutes, and I have never regretted them.
Dave January 14, 2014 at 05:17 PM
Dorothy- fair enough and I appreciate the correction. I think the fundamental point we disagree on is that one person's idea of common sense should trump the law. You may not think it is common sense to run in an urban area, and another person may think it is down right dangerous to drive in an urban area. Or for that manner, I may think it is dangerous for the elderly or people with glasses to drive. In my opinion, it is never a good idea to go down the path of unilaterally deciding what others can (or should) do. The law is what separates us from anarchy where the biggest person with the biggest club gets to make the rules. That said, I walk, run, ride, push a stroller, walk a dog, and yes, drive in Albany and again think we can all benefit from slowing down and showing some respect and concern for those around us. At the end of day, regardless of whether the runner or driver is at fault, a real person is going to be very badly hurt in a collision.
dorthy manser January 14, 2014 at 06:07 PM
Well certainly no one could object to slowing down a bit and showing respect. Never-the-less, joggers don't really need to run in the street, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to appreciate that doing so is dangerous and irresponsible. Just because something is legal doesn't make it smart. Of course, that's just my opinion. Nobody is unilaterally making rules for anyone here, Dave. I'm exercising my right to call out what I find objectionable and irresponsible. The joggers are free to do the same. But if a jogger wearing dark clothes at night running in the street gets hit by a car, they aren't going to get much sympathy from me. Frankly, it reminds me of the pedestrians who willfully avoid looking at approaching cars as they cross the cross-walk because, I guess, they shouldn't have to, because, dammit, they have Rights. And cars are Bad. They do indeed have every right to do so, and cars are kind of bad, but that doesn't make it smart.
Dave January 14, 2014 at 11:32 PM
Dorothy- I agree with your right to call out (in this setting) what you find to be objectionable and appreciate the discourse. However, in my opinion, this is a very different exchange of ideas than the original poster honking at people and motioning them to get off the street.
Jeanne Gray Loughman January 15, 2014 at 01:40 PM
As the "original poster," I see that my words were actually, "honk politely and motion them to please move to the sidewalk for their own safety," which is quite different from the comment above. I think I will contact the Albany Traffic and Safety Commission for their input.
dorthy manser January 15, 2014 at 01:45 PM
Ah, I see Dave. I agree, honking, unless it's to warn the jogger or biker of an imminent threat, isn't such a good idea, and I don't do it.
Dave January 15, 2014 at 02:18 PM
Jeanne, To a point I made earlier in this thread; I don't think there is such a thing as a "polite" honk. While your intent may be polite, the person being honked at has no way of interpreting your intent. I may be missing a fine semantic point, but I stand by my description of what you say are doing. That said, I am always open to being wrong so please feel free to expand upon your point that what you are doing is "quite different from the comment above."
SteveWu January 16, 2014 at 03:59 PM
More cogent advice from the dmv: http://apps.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/hrn_hlts_es.htm Don't Use Your Horn To honk at pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists unless necessary to avoid a collision. Don't User Your Horn If a driver or bicyclist is going slowly, and you want him or her to drive faster or get out of your way. Dont User Your Horn: To alert other drivers that they made a mistake. Your honking may cause them to make more mistakes or to become angry and retaliate. .
SteveWu January 16, 2014 at 04:01 PM
V C Section 27001 Use of Horns Use of Horns 27001. (a) The driver of a motor vehicle when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation shall give audible warning with his horn. (b) The horn shall not otherwise be used, except as a theft alarm system which operates as specified in Article 13 (commencing with Section 28085) of this chapter.
dorthy manser January 16, 2014 at 05:38 PM
(c) In the event that the cyclists is an annoying prat wearing spandex coated in advertisements who thinks that riding hands-free on a busy street is cool, honk away.
Brian Parsley January 16, 2014 at 06:21 PM
Steve would that include those honking to support occupy the farm?
dorthy manser January 16, 2014 at 06:55 PM
No, Brian, because in that case the honking is an act of valiant civil disobedience. Same thing with pooping where you garden.
SteveWu January 16, 2014 at 07:07 PM
Ha ha Dorthy! (d) In the even you are on Solano, please walk in the street to avoid cars that crash across the sidewalk through the front windows of Solano businesses every month. (e) always run on the left side of the car so the don't hit you when they veer right to start their uturn (f) do not slow down when running through an intersection, the car behind won't either (g) in the even the car is being driven by an annoying prat with a phone in one hand, and a phone headset in the other, politely give them the appropriate signal
dorthy manser January 16, 2014 at 07:33 PM
I think we can agree that anyone with a cell phone in their hand when driving should be forced to jog to work.
dorthy manser January 16, 2014 at 07:48 PM
(e) when crossing the street while walking across the street, do not look up from your cell phone. What you are doing is important, and you have a right not to pay attention to cars, who shouldn't exist in the first place. (f) crossing at crosswalks is optional (see (e)). (g) Once your are on two wheels, all traffic laws are optional. Your virtue will serve as invisible shield for you and your children. (h) If you decide that a road is particularly fun, it is now your road - use as much or little of it as you want. (i) bike lights at night are optional (see (g).
Dave January 16, 2014 at 11:43 PM
Dorthy and SteveWu-Well played!
dorthy manser January 17, 2014 at 06:06 AM
I solute my worthy opponent : )


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