Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sharing the Sidewalk

There are certain things I accept by running outdoors and not in the gym:

1. I have to keep my iPod low enough to hear surrounding traffic.
2. I have to be aware of small children and elderly and disabled people who are less able to easily move around me.
3. I have to keep to the right of the sidewalk. Which is just good sidewalk manners regardless of whether you're walking or running or scootering.
4. Chances are, I won't be alone and will have to make adjustments to other people at some point.

This is all fine. But what about the other half of the social contract? I know that when you're walking along just trying to get from point A to point B, it seems like the runners around you might act like they own the freaking sidewalk. However, the pedestrian has less momentum. And if a runner is following all the etiquette guidelines above, the polite thing to do is move out of their way. This includes:

--Not coming at the runner with your stroller.
--Not letting your child frolic on the sidewalk willy-nilly when wheels are involved. Walking/running children can be maneuvered around. Skating and scootering ones scare me. Of course kids should be free to play, but they also need to be aware of their surroundings. Lest they become the people who I Red Rovered the other day.
--Not walking in the middle of a sidewalk with your iPod on oblivious to people around you. Because "on your left" can't be heard over Bright Eyes.
--Keeping to the right. Not playing chicken. Using the available sidewalk space instead of forcing the runner to pull all limbs in as tightly as possible and still nearly get body checked into a bush. I mean, sometimes, it's a tight fit and that's going to happen. I get that. Again, I know I don't own the space. But there are plenty of times when it happens to me when there's plenty of available room.
--And my favorite: not walking 2 or 3 abreast when a person, running or not, is coming in the other direction. I don't know why this is hard. You can resume your conversation/argument/hand holding in as few as 20 seconds. I was running on a fairly wide sidewalk the other day toward this couple who was holding hands but standing very far apart, walking very slowly. I'm not a quiet runner. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt and not shout excuse me from 10 feet away since they were facing me. But they did not move at all. Finally, they noticed me and just froze (fastest I've ever felt!!!), dropping hands and giving me just enough room to squeeze past. There's enough room for two and sometimes three people to do their sidewalk business. Too bad these people never share the sidewalk with the body checker.

I try to thank people who do end up moving to let me pass because I don't want to be the pricky runner who acts like they own the road. And I'm still working out my dog strategy. They can be hard to control, but you never know what dog is going to spook if you run past it. And let's face it -- if anyone is going to get tangled in a leash, it's me. My tendency is more to get out of the way if I can, but of these days I'm going to be baring the tire tracks of a double stroller...that was empty with the kid walking beside it.