Right-of-Way and You

Welcome to the first article in a new series I’m calling “Monday Minis”. Every Monday I’ll be presenting a topic in 200 words or fewer, a bite-sized way to get your running fix. Love it or hate it, be sure to leave me some feedback on this new format.

And now, on with the show.

Today’s Monday Mini topic: Right-of-Way.

It’s a topic we all know, but rarely think about. Today, I’d ask you to reexamine your relationship with this important aspect of running safety.

How many times have you been out on a run when you approach an T-intersection? You’re headed straight through.

“I’ve got the right of way”, you think.

Confident that drivers will respect that you head into the intersection when, Vrooom, you’re nearly clipped by some thoughtless driver taking the turn anyway.

“Right-of-way is something you give, not something you take.”

Or maybe you’re in the intersection when someone decides to turn on red, or to run the light?

Believe me, we’ve all been there. It sucks. It’s dangerous. And it’s frustrating.

If it happens often enough, you start to ignore the rules of the road. Hey, if other people can ignore right-of-way, why not you, right? It’s that sort of thinking that leads to accidents and, as a runner, you will always lose.

As frustrating as it is to be the one always following the rules, breathe deep and remember that it’s better to be alive than right. For your safety, the cardinal rule of running near roads is that right-of-way is something you give, not something you take.

Tell me about your experience with right-of-way. Have you ever been injured because of a failure to yield? Nearly injured? Leave me a comment.

  8 Responses to Right-of-Way and You
  1. Jon Riley

    I get what your saying but drivers need to be more careful to. Theres no excuse for driving like a jerk.

    • Tim Woodbury

      I agree, Jon. Unfortunately, you can’t control other people so you have to be responsible for your own safety first. Call it defensive running. ;)

  2. There was a motto widely used in the fire service that I remember and used often, “Everybody Goes Home”. Yes, it sucks to step off the road into the weeds, slow your pace or even stop disrupting your rhythm. I have been yelled at, honked at and even challenged to a fist fight once despite giving as much room as I could to vehicles. And I am guilty of passing out my fair share of one finger salutes in return when I felt warranted and lost my cool. But in the end, nobody can look out for you better than you. We can’t rely on drivers to act with our best interest at heart. Too many see it as a matter of us occupying their territory. Unfortunate but true. Just as I tried to be a good ambassador for motorcyclists when I rode (not tailgating, speeding, passing between cars) I try my best as a runner too.

    • Tim Woodbury

      Well put, James. Well put.

  3. Well, it happened again. While out running with two buddies this week we had a dude buzz past us too close for comfort. We were running against traffic, near the curb, three wide when he refused to budge over any as we passed. A couple of us gave a hand signal to move over (not the bird) and simply continued on our way. We hear the squeal of tires and see him turning around. He rushed back past us and pulled his vehicle right in front of us blocking our way as well as traffic (residential street). He proceeded to yell that it was against the law to run in the road. As a couple more cars had to stop because of him and since we largely ignored him, he sped off in a huff spinning his tires. I hope that jerk had a good day with that attitude.

    • Tim Woodbury

      I’m sorry to hear it, James. I used to see that level of road rage directed at bicyclists in Seattle, but never at a group of runners. You definitely did the right thing by ignoring him. You can’t reason with people when they’re in a rage like that.

  4. Bellingham is fairly runner friendly. Most cars will stop even if you’re not in a crosswalk. But I never take it for granted. I’ll usually stop and let them motion me across.

    • Tim Woodbury

      I’m not surprised by that. I think it’s a Washington thing, stopping for runners in anticipation of their being in the crosswalk. You’re right though, you never can tell. You’re smart to play it safe, Dee Dee.

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