Runner: On the Right!

November 11, 2011

There seems to be no more fitting way to start this blog in earnest than with its eponymous post. I want to talk about etiquette. Specifically, verbal queues as they apply to runners, bikers, and other pedestrians. These are rules that should be followed for safety, efficiency, and because it’s just the right thing to do. As many common courtesies wane from society, and as the number of bike lanes and casual walkers are on the rise, we runners can sometimes be left feeling like the middle child in the un-motorized brood.

Warn Before PassingSome cities have declared it “unlawful” to be a pedestrian in a bike lane; some states have only provided cyclists with “preferential” treatment on that coveted piece of pavement. I would like to put aside the legal arguments for now and just discuss this on a personal level. Of course, if there is a law, I encourage following it. As a warning, know that this diatribe is a gross overstatement and does not apply to every biker or runner. Exaggeration is made only to highlight my points. Additionally, if you feel offended by any of them, you are probably an offender yourself. So read carefully!

The first problem with the municipal indulgence of bikers is that it engenders an exaggerated sense of entitlement. Bikers will claim that being in their sacred lane is unsafe for runners. And I would agree. But that’s not why bikers don’t want to share their utopian carve-out of the pavement. They just don’t want to share. I do actually think it is more dangerous to run “up a speed” with bikes than “down a speed” with all forms of pedestrian traffic. In fact, this is one reason why bikers want a lane of their own to begin with- because biking in the same space as cars seems more dangerous to them. But let us runners take care of ourselves, and spare us your fake concern.

The safety of cyclists and runners alike would be better served, in a bike lane or anywhere else, with a more strict observance to established courtesies. A simple, “on your left,” whenever passing someone on a bike or on foot is plenty sufficient. Without it, an unknowing runner moving ever so slightly to the left could cause a passing biker great angst or physical danger having to swerve. The only times I have been close to colliding with a biker on a trail–ironically, never in a bike lane–was when I was unaware of its imminent proximity approaching me.

There are a numbers of bikers who do provide audible warning before passing, but the numbers are way too low. And in a world where tensions run very high on this issue, we should be focusing on staying unified against the big, bad angry motorist… or perhaps even bigger issues like, say, war, disease, poverty, etc. But I digress.

I also enjoy the “me time” aspect of running. There are times during a run when I like to feel like a golfer or tennis player and want no distractions around me. So for that reason, please give me a little lead time on your pass so I can avoid flailing or loss of focus. It’s just the right thing to do, for our safety and our fun! And if it’s me you are passing, I promise to give a friendly thank you in return. That is, if I haven’t already passed you back.



  1. Why is this an “eponymous” post; I looked it up in the dictionary and still don’t get the connection? Do runners and bikers proceed in the same direction, with traffic? As an ex-biker (now that I’m more into tennis and treadmill for my exercise) I did not like anyone shouting at me or blowing a car horn, I’m sure that would upset my balance (statistics say people my age can expect to fall so I’m not looking forward to confirn statistics).
    But why can’t bikers and runners be friends, we’re all good people, right?

    • Eponymous because I named the post after the blog itself.

      I do believe long held conventional wisdom was to ride against traffic so as to see oncoming vehicles. But there isn’t much that is conventional nowadays anyway, right? So with the advent of bike lanes, it seems that bikers are now more likely to be traveling with traffic. And as a runner, I don’t necessarily appreciate horns either, and a loud yell can of course be startling. It is important though, no matter what your age, for everyone to have their wits about them while riding or running, and to be aware of what is, or may be, nearby.

      But it is the opinion of this runner/blogger that greater safety and all-around harmony can be achieved if more effort is made by bikers and runners alike to make some kind of gentle, but audible announcement when passing. Then there will come a day when bikers and runners can get along.

  2. A reminder to runners. RUN AGAINST TRAFFIC. Especially in bike lanes. I saw a cyclist and runner collision this morning. It was very sad. Both people were hurt. “On your left” is not safe enough.

    A bicycle is considered a vehicle, so it is subject to the same laws as cars and trucks. Cyclists ride with traffic. You are not a vehicle. You are a runner. You are also in a highly vulnerable position if you’re running near cars, trucks, and bicycles.

    So the best way to prevent an untimely meeting with one of these vehicles is to be able to see them. That means running on the side of the road or on the sidewalk and running while facing traffic. This allows both the runner and cyclist the ability to acknowledge each other and communicate intentions.

    Please promote this through out your communities to keep us all safe and share the road together.

    • Tom, thanks for your comment! I have thought deeply about this issue as well and it is an important topic to be mindful of anytime we are out on the streets or sidewalks. But traffic is not the only place this happens. In fact, the inspiration for this topic came to me while running a paved trail, off limits to vehicular traffic. In that case, bikers and runners do travel on the same side. There have been unfortunate accidents there too, despite everyone’s efforts to avoid them. Bottom line for me is to just really try to be aware of as much as possible, when biking, running, or walking. Make the audible calls and be conscious that if you are out there, others likely are as well.

      • I agree with you. I don’t tjink cyclists riding at a faster than caual pace should be on a paved trail. Here in AZ it is illegal for ANY bike to be ridden on the sidewalk/path if bike lane is present. Kust as it is illegal for runners to be in the bike lane if a sidewalk/path is present.

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