The Everyman: A Disturbing Trend On America’s Roads

Cars, runners, and cyclists need to work together more to stay safe, writes Jason Devaney. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Jason Devaney shares some advice on how to stay safe on the roads.

For the second time in recent months, a runner that lives near me was hit and killed by a car.

Jaime Rowley was a 31-year-old single mother of two girls when her life was taken away on March 12 in Ashburn, Va. In January, 34-year-old Meg Menzies was struck by a drunk driver and killed in Richmond, Va.

And this is just where I live.

Maybe it’s because I’ve become more aware, or maybe it really is a disturbing trend that’s getting worse, but there seems to be a lot of incidents like this happening lately.

I nearly had one myself last weekend.

Near the end of my Saturday bike ride, I was cruising along the right side of the road when I spotted a car looking to turn from the opposite side of the road in the direction I was going. Assuming the driver would see me, I kept pedaling. And then the car began to pull out into the lane. Fortunately it wasn’t going terribly fast, and the extra-wide road allowed me to quickly move over a few more feet.

I turned to my left and glared at the driver, raising my right arm as if to say, “Really? Did you really not see me?”

After a few seconds, the woman driving—who seemed apologetic enough—started to drive away. As the car passed, the passenger, who I assume was her husband, rolled down his window and said this to me: “Things happen, relax.” He followed that by cursing me out (think f-bomb) for riding in the road.

“Things happen?” Almost hitting someone on their bike classifies as “things happen” these days?

The anger in me has since subsided. That emotion has been replaced by sadness. It’s sad that drivers still do not recognize cyclists as being part of the road. It’s sad that nearly taking someone out with a car seems to be taken so lightly. And it’s sad that this keeps happening. Are people really not aware of the rules of the road?

RELATED: 7 Safety Tips For Running In The Dark

Drivers are not always at fault in these situations, either. Sometimes runners don’t look before stepping off a curb and run into the path of a passing car. Or they run/bike across the street in a crosswalk, except the “Do Not Cross” sign is illuminated. We can all be better about preventing these incidents from occurring. Here are some tips I came up with:

For Drivers

— Cyclists are part of road traffic. Treat them like another car. They have every right to be there.

— Always look before making a turn. And I don’t just mean checking your mirrors when changing lanes. Look over your shoulder before turning the wheel because there could be a cyclist in the next lane. And when you’re about to turn right on red, you need to stop first. And then check for any runners or cyclists crossing the road. There’s an intersection off the bike/running trail near me that is notorious for this. Even when we have the right to cross, cars speed from the off-ramp and take right turns. A rider in my Wednesday night group had a close call last summer.

— Stop signs are there for a reason. Stop, look around, and then go.

— Realize that runners and cyclists don’t enjoy running or riding in traffic as much as you think we do. Trust me when I say we would rather do our sports in a car-free environment. But that’s just not possible.

RELATED: Safety Tips For Runners

For Cyclists And Runners

— Whether or not you have a right to be where you are, always be aware. Perhaps I should have slowed down last Saturday when I saw that car trying to turn. That would have irked me but at least the threat of being hit would have diminished.

— Please obey traffic laws. If you’re on your bike and see a red light up ahead, stop. Don’t roll through it just because you have enough time to cross the intersection before a car comes. Even if you get across safely, it makes us look like we’re above the law. Cars don’t do that, so why should we? If you’re running and are waiting to cross the street, please wait until the sign says it’s safe to cross.

— Turn down your music. I can’t tell you how many times I see runners — and cyclists — with music blaring through their earbuds. If I’m on my bike and I yell, “On your left!” while passing them, they don’t even hear me. What if I was a car? They wouldn’t hear that, either. I personally don’t run with music unless I’m on a treadmill. If you choose to run with headphones in, keep the volume low enough so you can hear what’s happening around you. This is super important.

— Bring an ID and a phone with you. What if something happens and people don’t know who you are? A firefighter friend of mine responded to the accident involving the runner in Ashburn I mentioned above. He is a triathlete and was involved in a serious bike crash in 2012. His takeaways from the March 12 accident were to always bring an ID and a phone with you. And if your phone has a passcode lock, download the free Road ID app. It displays your emergency contacts on the lock screen so if anything happens, someone can easily call your loved ones. I did that after my run-in with the car.

I’m begging you: Let’s all be more careful and more aware so we can enjoy our sports in a safe way.

Have a safety tip? Tweet me @jason_devaney1.

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