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020 Sidewalks - Looking Right 2008-12-17

looking right

Each day I travel between seven and twelve miles on our city’s streets and sidewalks. I travel by foot or bicycle.

In the winter my dog Jake accompanies me on most walks and runs. I plan on three active sessions with him each day. These sessions are important to both of our well being, but at times are dangerous.

When I run alone I prefer to run with traffic. I feel that vehicles see me better, especially the dreaded right turner. When I run with my dog I run against the traffic so that I am between the vehicles and Jake. He is proportionally less nervous the further he is from traffic, so I at least try to separate him from vehicles. My dog always travels on my left side.

As we run facing or against the traffic, at every intersection there is danger. The right turner who only looks to the left has scared us more than once. Yesterday, we were running along a busy thoroughfare, crossing a side street, when a large black sedan sped down a hill toward the intersection. We were in the middle of the cars path and the driver was still looking to their left. They were not intending on stopping at the stop sign, or even slowing down it seems, they were just going to turn right. When the occupants finally noticed us, in the direct path of their hood ornament, they blew their horn at us, scaring poor Jake and I.

Realizing the drivers frustration at having to stop at the stop sign I tried to muster a friendly wave and calm my dog. Under our breath were other ideas. The driver did yell sorry as they made their right turn.

Perhaps I should have waited for the car to clear the intersection before we crossed. When you are running you make split decisions all the time on traffic. Should you go in front of or behind someone. Generally I go in front of them if they are not yet to the intersection and behind them if they are already there - even if I might have the right of way.

Drivers have other responsibilities. Stop at stop signs and then look both ways before proceeding onward, even for the right turn. Drivers have to look to the right. If the driver is in the intersection blocking the crosswalk they should back out of the intersection.

And the state, county, city, or municipality also have responsibilities. They must educate drivers in their licensing and safety programs. They must also instruct drivers with signage such as "Look both ways" or "Pedestrian Crossing". Help drivers by using traffic guides such as painting stripes across the road to indicate where vehicles are supposed to stop.

As our society learns to walk more, it is important that the rolling steel boxes learn to look right before going through an intersection. Too bad they can’t be trained as easily as my dog.


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