Friday, January 1, 2010

Jogger in Phoenix Hit by Car

On Tuesday night, around 7pm a jogger was hit while running with his wife.You can read the article HERE.   The article says that jogging in a bike lane is against the law in all cases where a sidewalk is present.  I did not know about this law and wanted to find the source.  After many attempts I finally found the state pedestrian laws for Arizona.  28-796 B says  "If sidewalks are not provided, a pedestrian walking along and on a highway shall walk when practicable only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic that may approach from the opposite direction."

So the law has nothing to do with a bike lane.  If there is a sidewalk, a pedestrian should be on the sidewalk.  Period.  I personally don’t like to run on the sidewalk because cement is less giving than asphalt.  Not only is the physical surface harder, it can have cracks, uneven surfaces and curbs and my pace is slower as I navigate the obstacles.  The obstacles could cause an injury, although an injury from being hit by a car is much worse.   I have often found that the sidewalks are darker than the streets.  The sidewalks are often set back far from the streets and street lights, when there are some, do not light up the sidewalk enough.  Plus there are often plants and bushes making it even darker and harder to see the uneven surfaces.   One could argue that a headlamp would resolve seeing the sidewalk and hazards.

In Arizona, in the event of a pedestrian and auto accident and a sidewalk is available, the pedestrian may not have as much recourse since they were breaking the law.   If you read the Runners World article a couple months ago about Jenny Crain, a runner training for the Olympic trials, you’ll know that although the driver is being sued, because the crosswalk light for her wasn’t green, the amount of money to be awarded will be greatly reduced.  

Not only do I feel horrible for the runner but I feel sorry for the driver of the vehicles that hit him.  For any accident, the driver must have a huge burden to carry after an accident.  If alcohol or drugs were involved I still feel bad for I do have less compassion for them.  I would be devastated if I ever caused injury to someone.

Three nights ago, before I had heard of the accident, John and I were out running, in the bike lane (a sidewalk was available) and I was very aware that we were wearing completely dark clothes.  I even mentioned it to him that we were not visible.  I have a Brooks night vest that I sometimes wear but don't wear it frequently. And although for most (but not all ) of the route we are against traffic, there are often times car take turns too close or don’t see us running along.    

Taking action and changing behavior, I made sure I ran against traffic and although I still ran in the street I was very aware of the cars and even thought it was light when I started my run, I wore my Brooks Night vest because I knew that it would be dark soon.  The bottom line is, whether I choose to run on the road or the sidewalk, if its dark out, I better consider safety and wear reflective clothing. I vow to dress smarter for evening and early morning runs in 2010.

Do you know the laws of the road for your state?  
Do you run on the streets or sidewalks?  
If you were a street runner and knew you were breaking the law, would you continue to run on the streets?  
Do you make sure you are visible at night?


LookingUpAgain said...

Wow. The article says he was taken in in critical condition. Were there any follow up articles on his condition?

I'm always scared of being hit while I'm out running. My neighborhood and the surrounding areas do not have sidewalks. The only surface options are the street or the ditch. It's cheaper to build a neighborhood with no sidewalks around here. When I bought my new shoes last week, I also purchased reflective arm bands. All of the cold-weather running gear I own is a convenient shade of black so they give me some reflection. I also carry a flashlight and shine it at oncoming traffic.

I will need to look into those pedestrian laws.

Be safe!

Carol said...

Let's face it, most communities are not thinking about runners when they design their streets. And those that do have bike paths are often risky to run on since the bike often catches the runner by surprise. If I'm running on a bike path, I try to make sure I keep moving forward in a straight line in case a bike is sneaking up behind me.

Having said that, we run in the road 99.999% of the time. Because the camber of the road is an issue, you'll often find us in the middle of the road. Of course, drivers don't understand this and just think we're nuts. But like you, we are very cautious and stick to roads that have very low traffic. On busier roads we'll stay on the shoulder.

Having worked in casuality claims for a major insurance company, I KNOW for a fact most drivers are paying attention to a number of things, the least of which is their driving. So I assume every vehicle is aiming for me.

If running in the road were illegal (and maybe it is for all I know), I'd do it anyway. Running is too important to go down without a fight!!

Anonymous said...

thanks for your post. Sadly the jogger did not make it. We are all so saddened by his loss.