100 Words On: Runners and Pedestrians Who Refuse to Use Sidewalks

“Go play on the freeway!”

While nobody would ever take that derogatory command seriously, there are plenty of joggers and pedestrians who have no problem tempting fate by literally spending their leisure time on city thoroughfares despite the presence of perfectly good sidewalks. Incredulously, many of these folks insist on doing so with pets or, even worse, babies in tow — often two abreast, donning headphones, in the black of night, while wearing dark clothing. Why?

The bottom line: Walking on the street is extremely dangerous — and usually illegal. Pedestrians who find perfectly good sidewalks unacceptable should consider a local park instead.

Photo Credit: Duncan Brown

25 comments to 100 Words On: Runners and Pedestrians Who Refuse to Use Sidewalks

  • Libby

    I completely agree with you. And another thing – what’s with people who ride their bicycles on the sidewalk when there are perfectly good bike lanes? I live in a bike-friendly town with plenty of bicycle lanes and yet people insist on riding on the sidewalk going the opposite direction of the traffic and disobeying the traffic lights. Grrrrr!!!

    • Len Penzo

      What about bikers who ride in the main traffic lanes even though there a bike lanes along the side of the street?

      It’s like everybody has to be a traffic contrarian!

      Maybe it’s time us car drivers start driving on sidewalks and bike lanes.

      • JP

        Len,
        Another viewpoint on bikers on riding on the street with available bike paths:
        I commute on my bike 2-3 days a week.
        I prefer the bike paths, because I don’t trust the automobile drivers texting and drinking coffee on their way to work.
        I ride in the street in one section of my route that has bike paths, because the bike paths are one-way only going the opposite direction that I’m going.
        I have automobile commuters yelling at me, because I’m not on that damn path.
        PS: I’m over to the side of the road, and I’m on a parkway around a lake. The automobile commuters are taking a shortcut to work along this lake parkway.
        The bikers are legal on the roads, but I do think they should stay to the side to allow for passing, unless they are travelling at posted speeds.
        Take care,
        JP

  • There are these two women that like to take walks through the neighborhood and apparently walking side by side on the sidewalk just isn’t possible, so they walk side by side on the street, just a few feet away from the sidewalk. Drives me nuts. I’ve actually resisted temptation on several occasions to stop, roll down the window, and ask for their explanation. Hopefully they continue to miss me on grumpy days, but it’s probably only a matter of time…

    I can understand bike riders wanting to use the street but I see no excuse for people on foot to ignore sidewalks when they’re right there.

    • Len Penzo

      I have the same problem in my neighborhood. The other night, I was driving home when I came upon a couple who were walking on the street pushing their baby in a stroller. Of course, they walked two abreast and had dark clothing on. Of course, they had no reflective strips, or flashlight to help drivers see them.

      Imbeciles. (I’m sorry, but I have to call a spade a spade here.)

      I, too, wanted to stop and roll down my window and ask them “What are you thinking?”

      But I decided to bite my lip and just be a good neighbor.

  • John

    In some of the cities where I’ve lived (overseas) sidewalks are routinely used for parking and there’s no other choice for where to walk.

    • Yes! I’ve seen that in Germany, where parallel parking spots were actually painted as being halfway up on the sidewalk. Sure, it helps cars get by on a narrow street, but reduces the sidewalk to single file walking.

      To be fair, I’ve only seen that on quiet narrow streets with relatively little traffic.

    • Len Penzo

      Well, in that case, there ain’t much walkers can do.

  • Lola

    Also annoying and dangerous are bike riders who insist on using the sidewalk when there’s a perfectly good bike lane available! To make a bad situation worse, they tend to ride against traffic, rather than with it like they’re supposed to. I can’t count how many bikes I’ve almost hit with my car when I’m about to pull out of a driveway or side street. Yeesh.

  • I think runners should use parks or paths. I have a problem with bicyclists using the sidewalk and pedestrians using the bike paths. Why do people think it is okay to make everyone change for them? Maybe, some people are just self centered!

  • Betsy22

    Does your neighborhood have continuous sidewalks? I’ve run in a couple of residential neighborhoods where the sidewalk coverage was really patchy – if there is a good network of sidewalks available, then I would definitely take that route, but if there’s only 1 or 2 blocks of sidewalks for a good distance of running, then I just might not bother, especially if the sidewalks sections are uneven and completely torn up by tree routes. (I do wear a reflective vest in the early morning hours though)

    • Len Penzo

      Yes, my neighborhood has miles of uninterrupted pristine sidewalks that can accommodate two — and sometimes three — people abreast.

      If the sidewalks are a hazard, then I would understand, but that’s usually not the case where I live.

  • Because sidewalks are made of concrete, horrible for distance running. Roads are usually an asphalt mix, and easier on the knees. Not saying it’s right, just saying that probably why.

  • I’d love to know your thoughts on bikers or cyclists (whatever you call them). If you’re wearing a jersey, I understand not riding on the sidewalk but if you’re wearing a t-shirt, you need to hop on the sidewalk.

    • Len Penzo

      You lost me; are you saying it’s acceptable to ride a bike on the sidewalk when wearing a t-shirt?

      • Derek

        I think Blinkin is making a distinction between “pro”/”pro amateurs” and “amateurs” in that amateurs would wear t-shirts while riding (on the sidewalk, apparently where they should be), whereas pros wear cycling jerseys and ride on the road. Truly amateur cyclists are usually stuck in a catch 22, in that they don’t have the skills to ride on the road, but they shouldn’t be riding on the sidewalk. Around here where things are spread out, it’s truly quite dangerous for amateurs and kids to ride on the street but also dangerous for themselves and peds to ride on the sidewalk. We have a great bike path loop around the city but that obviously can’t reach everywhere. I know people have strong feelings about this and I usually much prefer the street, but I don’t blame kids and people who don’t ride much to prefer the sidewalk over cars buzzing by at 35mph a few feet away.

    • Lisa Under the Redwoods

      Here, if you are over the age of 12, it is illegal to ride a bike on sidewalks.

  • Here (UK) seeing runners on the street is rare (we have generous pavements); I am a runner and sometimes tun to and from work – always on the pavement. Cyclists, however, are a different matter – nothing worse than a cyclist without light and dressed in black, when it is getting dark. Worse, they somehow think that because of their low carbon blueprint they have the upper moral ground. Irritating!

  • I also feel the same way with bikers who don’t make use of wide and perfectly clear road shoulders.

    These types of actions aren’t just dangerous for the pedestrians, they are dangerous for drivers who now have to cross lanes to go arond you.

  • Amanda

    So this isn’t only an Illinois thing?

    I’ve been complaining to my family for years about this. I live in a very small town where there aren’t always sidewalks. However, beginning at a young age, it is drilled into our heads to stick to sidewalks whenever possible, wear reflective clothing, watch for traffic, etc. By the time many are old enough to actually walk outside approaching evening, they have forgotten all of that.

    I regularly slow down for people who are walking after dark, wearing dark clothing, in the middle of the road rather than off to the side or on the sidewalk. GAH. One old man used to walk every morning when I was leaving for work just before dawn. He ignored the sidewalk where the streetlights shown, preferring the shadowy areas under the trees and wore a dark track suit and headphones. I’m shocked no sleepy driver ever mowed him down.

    Then there are the teens who walk in big groups and don’t even bother going off to one side when headlights cast long shadows in front of them. I’ve driven practically in the ditch to avoid the dopes while my husband likes to crawl along right behind them and simply lay on the horn while making shooing motions until they are all fully off the road.

  • Stuart

    Bikes exceed the “bike lane” when it’s full of glass, ill suited for traffic conditions, or dangerous due to right-turning cars cutting us off or other uncivil engineering. In general, bikes adapt to traffic laws written for cars — sometimes exceeding the letter of the law. If they exceed the spirit of the law, Darwin will likely take care of them.

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