Didn’t Your Mom Teach You To Look Both Ways?


One of the first things I learned about living in Chicago was to be very careful running past alleys.  I have actually never lived anywhere that had alleys but this city has them everywhere.  Our apartment backs up to an alley and for weeks I would hear cars honking as they went past our apartment and I couldn’t figure out why drivers here were so obnoxious.  Then I learned that these were the respectful drivers who honk as they approach the intersection so that walkers, or us runners know they are approaching.  Now I have a much better appreciation for those honks.

I am amazed by how many drivers are in such a rush to get to wherever they are going that they just fly through the alley without slowing down or giving a respectful honk.  When I was in drivers education I remember our teacher mentioning that if you speed down the interstate you will only save about 5-10 minutes on your total trip.  That’s on a long distance drive!  Imagine how little time you are actually saving by flying down an alley, or rolling through a stop sign.  Generally when I see these drivers on the road we inevitably meet up at the next stop light.

These same drivers also tend to think that runners don’t come out when it snows or rains.  This winter was rough in Chicago and I did a lot of cold weather running and at times even ran through snow storms.  I remember slowing down as I approached a particular alley just as a car flew through and out onto the road without even looking at the sidewalk or oncoming traffic.  When the driver realized how close they had been to me they actually stopped their car and put it in park.  It was a pretty scary experience.


Yesterday when my husband and I were running we approached a large intersection as a car came up to the red light.  The driver rolled through the crosswalk as we approached (and we had the right of way…you know the little white guy on the crosswalk light was saying we could go through).  As we were about to step out onto the crosswalk, the driver looked at the oncoming traffic and seeing that it was clear he began to turn, only to realize at the last second that he hadn’t bothered to look for pedestrians in the other direction.  He stopped and looked embarrassed, and to be honest he should.

I am not saying that this is a one way street.  There are some pretty obnoxious runners out there and I am pretty sure I have been one of them at times.

It is important for us runners to obey the rules of the road too.  If you get to a crosswalk and you have the red light, obey it.  Don’t try to quick dart past traffic to continue on your run.  I know we all have goals for our paces but forget your pace and protect yourself and everyone else on the road.

Be a defensive runner.  Just as I assume that other drivers are going to make mistakes when I am driving, I do the same on my runs.  If you approach an alley or intersection slow down and look before you cross.  Assume that there is a car coming and that they are not going to be looking for you.  Even when you have the right of way at an intersection, assume that the driver is not going to yield and make sure you slow your pace down.

Seriously, these things are everywhere!

Seriously, these things are everywhere!

Drivers, runners and cyclists should all look both ways before crossing.  Our moms taught us this lesson years ago and it really can save a life.  It only takes a second to do.  It won’t ruin your run, but it can save your life.

Finally, be a smart runner.  If there is a sidewalk available use it for your run.  When we were in Florida a few weeks ago we saw a runner using a narrow shoulder on a very busy road to do his run.  I was stunned because there was a brand new, beautiful sidewalk system right next to him that was empty and at his service.

Make sure you also run against the traffic and never with your back to the cars.  Part of being a defensive runner means that you need to know where the traffic is at all times.  If you can’t see them, you can’t trust them.

I will also add don’t run through parking lots.  These places are scary enough to drive through without getting hit.  No one is looking for a runner to come sailing by and it is hard for you to see who is pulling out.  Steer clear of parking lots!

And when you are driving remember to share the road with your fellow runners, walkers and cyclists.  Give a little honk to let them know you are approaching (from the alley not on the road).  Give them a bit of space as you pass on the road and perhaps a friendly wave.

Happy safe running!

19 thoughts on “Didn’t Your Mom Teach You To Look Both Ways?

  1. Very good tips! I’ve had cars TRY to run me off the road. But what might be worse, I almost got run over by a school bus once because the driver wasn’t paying attention and he didn’t look both ways before pulling out. I slammed on his bus, he got the point.

  2. So true! Some drivers seem to forget about us pedestrians. After a couple of close calls I now try to make eye contact with any driver before I step onto a crossing. It makes me really appreciate the tranquility of trails.

    • I agree. I actually find it scarier to run in smaller towns because I think a runner looks so foreign to them that they either drift their cars towards me or completely are oblivious to my presence. Trails are the best!

  3. Nice post! It’s very informative to new runners and even old runners like myself. I also have to remind myself while I’m running to watch for traffic. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in music or thoughts while running and forget the dangers. Thanks for the reminders. Also even on sidewalks in our city, be careful because they cross over people’s driveways and they may not see you crossing. I had a terrible scare on that and was almost hit. I didn’t run for a while after that. Thanks again!

  4. Very true! I fear sometimes that because we are all so distracted in our day-to-day lives anymore that when people are behind the wheel, there mind and thoughts are anywhere but the road ahead. On many occasions I’ve almost been hit and inevitability, they are mad at you when it wasn’t your fault! 😉

  5. Part of being a good runner is not pressing the cross walk button when traffic is already stopped at the red light, or there isn’t a car in sight.
    When you do this those guys at the red light see you cross, the walk light goes on and the red light stays on for another minute as they watch you jog down the sidewalk.
    Use the walk button sparingly.

  6. Sounds like the South of France. Very few cars stop for zebra crossing and zoom past when you’re half away across. They pull out without looking from stationary to the motorway. Indicators. Forget them, they’re just fancy lights on a car. I nearly got knocked over crossing a zebra by a lady who was texting this week! I have to be a defensive runner and cycler. Sometimes though I step out and make them stop! They know for next time!

  7. Great post on safety!! You hear about awful stories about runners getting hit by cars- most of these accidents completely preventable! LOVE that cars honk in the alleys! I don’t have alleys where I live, so I had never heard of that- so nice! One rule that my dad always taught me (from when I was a little kid), was to always stand behind the stoplight pole when you’re waiting to cross. You never know if a car will go out of control, and you have a better shot if you’re behind a massive stoplight pole…

  8. This is such a good reminder. I remember in high school when I ran and so many drivers were too busy texting to see our CROWD of runners crossing in front of them. It’s so important for runners to learn the rules of the road too, just like drivers must learn the rules of the runners! Great post- My blog shares a few lessons I’ve learned from running too! Would love for you to check it out 🙂 Happy Wednesday!

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