On your left: A handy guide to outdoor activity etiquette
It’s still summer for a little while longer, but that hasn’t stopped people from ramping up their outdoor activities. You may notice an increase in the amount of bicycle and foot traffic on the sidewalks and in the parks this time of year. Folks may be training for a fall event, getting back into the school routine, or simply looking to take advantage of those declining temperatures as the days shorten. I’ve got a few ideas for sharing the road (or trails or sidewalks) for motorists and movers as well. HINT: It’s not just shouting “on your left” as you pass! Please review this handy dandy guide to outdoor activity etiquette.
Let’s get the formalities out of the way. Here are three rules of the road that can help make your outdoor activity ventures MORE fun and safe.
Bicycles are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk! They are considered a vehicle (at least in NC) and should ride as close to the right side of the street WITH the traffic if there is no bike lane. If there is a bike lane, sweet! Still, stay in your lane. When I see bicycles on the sidewalk I become unhinged. Why should I jump into the street to avoid an oncoming bicycle who is A.) not supposed to be on the sidewalk and B.) who is traveling illegally against traffic? I am risking my life so that this cyclist can break two rules? Yikes.
Runners and walkers should travel on sidewalks, AGAINST the traffic. Opt to use sidewalks whenever you can, but if you must run on the road, slow up and look around. I never cross in front of or behind a car until I have confirmed eye contact with the driver. Once I'm SURE they see me, I will move around them. This may mean slowing down the pace a little at intersections and road crossings, but hey, showing up to the finish line alive and healthy should be the goal of any training plan, right?
Tell people when/where you’re heading out and how long you think you will be gone-especially if you don’t typically carry your cell phone with you. This is not a state or federal law obviouslt, but it is an easy accountability step that can help you feel more secure and confident. Not only that, but it gives you a little support crew that will know when and where to look for you should something happen.
Now, what follows are some things I would really like you (our readers) to think about and strongly consider. You may not get a ticket for violating these guidelines, but they are still important enough to mention.
Pets belong on leashes. PERIODT. Y’all, you KNOW I love animals. I have a dog and a cat and I love other people’s pets and take selfies with them. I follow a lot of pet and animal accounts on instagram and pet videos make me cry on the daily. BUT if I see you and your dog frolicking on the greenway, in the park, or on the sidewalk without a leash, I will stop and ask you to leash your animal for safety purposes. Ask about me. Anyone who runs with me (especially on the greenways in Raleigh) has seen me do this.
I don’t hate dogs. I’m not afraid of them either. It is simply unsafe FOR YOUR PETS to be loosey-goosey in these public outdoor areas. There are many scenarios that could catch even the most perfectly poised pets (and their owners) off-guard and create a hazard. It’s not even the danger to other humans on the greenway as much as it is for the safety of the dog itself. When your animal is physically tethered to you, you have a greater degree of control. Ever tried to chase a dog on a leash? No, of course not, because you don’t have to.
Now, I get a lot of flap from indignant dog owners on this one. I do not care how great of a relationship you have with your dog, how well trained it is, or how well it listens to your commands. I can guarantee that your preferred outdoor activity spot has signs that indicate off-leash pets are prohibited. This is not a selectively-enforced policy to punish bad dogs. It is to protect all dogs (or cats or rabbits—which I’ve also seen on leashes on the greenway) from the inherent dangers of a public outdoor space.
One way to think about the argument that someone’s dog is “too well behaved” to follow leash rules is to think about other moving violations. If you get pulled over for speeding, would you argue that you shouldn’t get a ticket because you’re really good at driving fast? No. This would be ridiculous. The officer who pulled you over does not care how skilled you are at not having a collision while driving over the speed limit. They care that you put yourself and others in danger by breaking the law. Leash rules are the same way. They do not exist to punish dogs who misbehave. They are there to reinforce safety and order in these public spaces.
Fitness is IN and there are more people than ever before enjoying an active lifestyle outdoors. These folks come in all different shapes, sizes, speeds, etc. Some walk or run, others rollerblade, ride a bicycle or a big wheel. Sometimes there are big groups, sometimes solo adventurers. You never know whom or what you will see out there, but you can be sure you WILL encounter something. This is a big one. If we expect to encounter one another, motorists and movers alike, we can stay safe!
please get on my level. It is easy to let “autopilot” take over as we commute to and from work. It takes a conscious effort to train our awareness to detect non-vehicle sized objects on roadways, but it is worth it. None of us EVER wants to end someone’s workout by putting them in the hospital. This may sound dramatic, but it is true.
I run every day, mostly on sidewalks and greenways during DAYLIGHT hours, but you would be shocked at the number of people that “don’t see me” because I’m not shaped like an SUV. The other day, I put my hands (rather forcefully) on the hood of a woman’s car to get her to stop accelerating into a right-hand turn and realize I was still in the road. It’s sort of hilarious to imagine; I know I startled her, but at the same time, this is my life! She did not see me because she wasn’t looking to see me. Even running over me at a slow speed would have resulted in significant injuries. PAY ATTENTION!
You can help by keeping your eyes and EARS open. I love running with music blasting through my headphones, but those headphones are affecting my ability to hear the world around me. I bailed off the side of the road the other day because I didn’t hear a bicycle coming behind me and was caught unaware. Luckily there were no oncoming vehicles, but still, it was a sign for me to ditch the tunes and get connected to my environment. Turn music down or try something new and different and leave the headphones at home during peak activity times such as after work and weekend morning hours.
Take it a step further and foster good vibes by saying hello to everyone you encounter. Tell them they are looking strong or to have a good morning. Truly sharing the road is a two-way street, and mindful consideration is our mode of transportation.
As we embark on this new season and the promise of more pleasant outdoor temperatures, stay alert and pay attention. No matter how you use the road, take the time to notice all that is happening around you. It will help keep you and your loved ones safe.
Get out THERE and SAFELY enjoy the road, the park, or the greenway to the fullest! Thanks for coming to my TED Talk and Happy Adventures!