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How can we make running in Philadelphia safer?

With over 1.5 million other people in this city, runners constantly have to share a limited amount of space with motorists, cyclists, trolleys, tourists and every manner of pedestrian. At the end of the day, following the rules and showing proper conduct when out on a run can create a better, safer, happier experience for everyone, runner and non-runner alike.

Running safety and running etiquette, or "code of conduct," are two topics that have been passionately discussed in the last week among the members of RUN215. Seemingly everyone has a story, whether it's getting dissed by another runner on Kelly Drive, or being nearly clobbered by a cab on Lombard Street.

Whatever the situation, the bottom line is that we are a growing community of 20,000(ish) runners trying to coexist in the 5th most populous city in America. With over 1.5 million other people in this city, we constantly have to share a limited amount of space with motorists, cyclists, trolleys, tourists and every manner of pedestrian. At the end of the day, following the rules and showing proper conduct when out on a run can create a better, safer, happier experience for everyone, runner and non-runner alike.

So where do we begin? Who has the right of way if you're running past someone walking to work? What about running through Fairmount Park while sharing the path with a pack of cyclists? Where do we stand in the hierarchy of pedestrian rights?

It turns out that there is no actual law that separates a runner from anyone else on foot. According to the Streets Department, etiquette and safety practices fall into a "common sense" category, with no written code of any kind, but only a few "suggestions" taken on by those who care enough to express them. To the city, a runner barreling down Delaware Ave on a marathon training run is equivalent to a hopelessly lost tourist spinning in circles, or the guy strolling down Walnut Street with his head buried in his phone. What we do have, are a few, simple, fairly obvious pedestrian laws:

  1. Do not jump/run into oncoming traffic.

  2. Obey traffic lights.

  3. Do not jaywalk. Use the crosswalks.

  4. Do not run on the highway.

  5. Do not run on the street if a sidewalk/walkway is provided.

  6. If a pedestrian walkway or tunnel is available, use it, because motorists have the right of way. (Admittedly, this one was new to me.)

Runners are "pedestrians," so we have priority regarding most right of way situations as long as we are following the law. Easy enough, right? Well, sure, but this assumes that everyone is being a model citizen all of the time. Just because we are at the top of the food chain doesn't mean we can tear down the street like we own it. Respect is a two way street. If your headphones are blasting and a cyclist crashes into you even though he shouted "ON YOUR LEFT," is it really his fault that you made an oblivious sudden movement directly into his path? Maybe. Maybe not.

As runners, we have a responsibility to facilitate harmony on our trails, sidewalks, and roads, but what is considered "common sense" might not be obvious to everyone. This does not make you a "bad" runner. How would you know you were doing something wrong unless somebody told you? Luckily, our awesome RUN215 members took to our message board to share what drives them crazy. Here are 12 things runners can do to be proactive, positive contributors to society:

Run on the Right, pass on the Left

Seems simple enough, but sometimes I feel like this needs clarification. The center of the sidewalk is not the right. The right is the right. If someone has to stray onto the far left of the trail to pass you, they risk a less than desirable confrontation with oncoming pedestrians, making it look like we are hogging the sidewalk. This leads me to my next point…

Don't Hog the Sidewalk

Running with a buddy or group can help you push through a tough training run, and add bit of socializing to your workout. It is actually my preferred way to run! But please, try to stay two abreast, and pick a route with paths large enough to accommodate both of you. Trust me, people will be thankful.

Stay Out of Bike Lanes

I cannot stress this enough. Cyclists already have it tough in this city. Those bike lanes are some of the only designated areas that belong to them. Let's show them some respect and keep to the sidewalk.  Also, it's illegal and obnoxious. So there's that.

Keep Your Headphone Volume Down

Music can be a really helpful tool to some runners. I've felt invincible at times when my favorite guilty pleasure comes on, but music can also be a dangerous distraction. Keep your headphone volume to a level where you can clearly hear what is happening around you. Runners with headphones can be the perfect target for someone with ill intentions to sneak up on you. Don't put yourself in a vulnerable position.

Announce Yourself

Did a cyclist give you a friendly shout letting you know he or she was coming near? Return the favor! Let people know you are around them. This doesn't need to be a war cry, but just a little heads-up that you are approaching.

Pet Owners, Use Discretion

Running with dogs rules. It's one of the most awesome bonding experiences you will ever have with your canine. But don't be that person that trips up other runners with a long dog leash on Forbidden Drive. Please make sure you have the right equipment before you head out. This seems to be a particularly sensitive issue with other runners.

Don't Litter

Runners generally don't bring a heck of a lot with us, but you wouldn't believe the amount of wrappers that are strewn all over Kelly Drive. That tiny bit of liquid left in your GU packet could be someone's broken leg.

Don't Be Aggressive

When crossing streets, just because we have the right of way, doesn't always mean we should take it. Sure, it's your right to cross when the light changes, but that 2,000-pound SUV is probably going to win the battle. Regarding other runners, don't creep up on the heels of your peers. Simply announce yourself and pass on the left (see what I did there?).

Be Vocal

Spot an ice patch on the ground? A pothole? Point it out! Fellow runners will LOVE you for this. It's a great way to rack up some seriously good running Karma points.

Keep Your Fluids to Yourself

Seriously, guys — a great way to ruin a wonderful run is to get a big wad of somebody's spit on your leg. If you absolutely MUST clear your throat, please pull over to the side and take care of it away from everyone else. Gross!

Be Present

Take inventory of your surroundings. Check around you before making any sudden movements. All types of things can go wrong on a run. Controlling impulse is key to running discipline. Show everyone that you're like Mr. Miyagi wearing Nikes.

Be Friendly

Running isn't easy. Sometimes it flat out sucks. Sometimes we look like sweaty, miserable creatures, and all we need is a little encouragement. So shoot a wave, smile, or nod to your fellow runners! We are all in this together! Plus, it just feels nice to smile.

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