Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Wave Doesn't Give Motorists the Right of Way

Today I am 189.0 pounds of rolling thunder.

Hey, yah, I see you there driving down the street about to make a left turn. Hello, yes, I like that you waved at me. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the rules of the road and turn on top of a pedestrian crossing the street.

I’ve never classified myself as a runner. I don’t fall into the trap of “I run, therefore I am a runner.” In my mind’s eye I see runners as those super-slim, negative body fat athletes that adorn the pages of running and fitness magazines. Certainly the world’s slowest human does not fall into the category of super slim or negative body fat.

But that doesn’t mean the rules of the road don’t apply to we lowly humans who run, but don’t consider ourselves runners. Over the years I’ve ridden my bicycle for tens of thousands of hours on city streets so I’m pretty familiar with the fact that most motorists are blind to anyone or anything that doesn’t involve a metal cage surrounding its human driver.

I’ve often commented that my community has the two things that are most dangerous to bicyclists (and runners, by extension): Elderly drivers who can’t see you and teen drivers who don’t want to see you. You can now add in texting drivers who are too busy typing with their thumbs to see you.

I’ve been hit twice while out riding my bike, and both times the drivers were at fault. The first was a little clip of my back wheel by a driver who said he didn’t see me and proceeded to make a left turn on top of me. The second was quite a crash. The driver pulled out from a stop sign in front of my bike. With no stop sign I had the right of way, but again the driver said he didn’t see me, which was little consolation when I hit the car’s fender, flipped over my handlebars and landed smack in the middle of the windshield before bouncing onto the street.

So whenever I run or ride these days I consider myself invisible to motorists, who either can’t see me, don’t want to see me, or are too busy to see me. And while it might slow the process down a bit, it keeps me safe (sort of). To me the tradeoff you get from exercise is worth the risk taken to be out in the sunshine and fresh air.

When it comes to running or riding, cars will always win, so I try to error on the side of caution especially when I see that a driver is fixed on looking at oncoming traffic in another direction and not making sure that the intersection is clear of pedestrians coming from their blindside.

But I do have to repeat my little whine for the day. If you’re in a car making a left turn and you see a pedestrian in the walkway or about to cross the road while you’re rushing to beat traffic, a wave doesn’t give you the right of way to make that turn. Remember your driver’s education days, pedestrians always have the right of way.

To my fellow people who run, be safe out there and enjoy the day.

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