I represent what is left of a vanishing race, and that is the pedestrian.... That I am still able to be here, I owe to a keen eye and a nimble pair of legs. But I know they'll get me someday. ~Will Rogers
Rarely if ever do my wife and I vehemently disagree. And even more rare is the heated argument between the two of us. The only time a casual observer might event consider the slightest bit of discord between us is during those times when pedestrian and motor vehicle meet in the public thoroughfare.
The average person would think a running enthusiast and coach would take the side of the walker ambling from point A to point B through the center of a city street.
Absolutely not. I marvel at the foolishness of people who disregard common sense and common courtesy. A marked and signal-controlled crosswalk, not 20 yards farther down the street at the intersection, has been placed there by traffic engineers with compassion and vision. It drives me even more to fury when the same pedestrians cross during the rush hours, or at twilight while wearing subdued outerwear.
I'm not going to go out of my way to strike you, foolish pedestrian, nor will I blow my horn in an effort to startle you out of your reverie. But please don't expect me to be exceedingly kind, either.
What caused Suzanne and I to truly exchange harsh words after a Sunday morning run and brunch at the beach, however, was a family crossing smack dab in the middle of the county highway. With heavy early-afternoon beach trafic traveling both directions. With a baby stroller. I rolled up upon the gentleman with the stroller, but I was no closer to him than the large, honking van rolling up upon his back side.
Suzanne and I were both angry; she at my apparent lack of compassion, me at the gentleman's willful endangerment of his child. I explained that legally, ethically and morally the guy was in the wrong; I would not willingly go out of my way to inflict harm, but in the unlikely event (with perfect weather and visibility, this would be highly unlikely) of a pedestrian strike the worst I would most likely incur is an overwhelming sense of emotional guilt.
"What if it were you and the grandchildren?"
"There's no way I would ever - ever - walk the kids across the street without being in a croswalk. Period."
Normally, I would have not written or discussed this particular topic. But I left home earlier than usual this morning, only to find I would need to take a detour to work. An hour later I read the report of a runner struck and killed by an 18-wheel semi-truck. As always, the details were very limited. The road where the accident occurred is not known for being well-lit; I've driven it at 5:30 in the morning in months past.
Perhaps the runner was not paying attention. Perhaps the trucker wasn't looking out for the other guy, didn't expect anyone to be out for their jog at 5:30 a.m. It's a sad state for all parties. A ton of internal combustion engine and related parts, traveling 40 miles per hour (64 feet/second) has force (128,000 foot-pounds) which far outweighs a 170-pound man traveling 7 miles an hour (11.2 feet/second, 1904 foot-pounds). Even if the pedestrian was in the right, and did all the right things, and was entitled to the right of way, when it comes to close encounters of the vehicular kind, the vehicle always wins.
It's easy to start looking at potential causes, like music player use, lack of lights or reflective clothing, and a lack of situational awareness, just to name a few which easily come to mind. Did the runner decide to take a sudden turn across the street without taking a look behind him, or try to cross an intersection where the "big red hand of death" was displayed? It's difficult to say.
Have I done a lot of things while running which would fall under the realm of self-endangerment; jaywalked, or ran across a street without using the crosswalk? Yes. In the overwhelming majority of cases the nearest vehicle hasn't necessarily been all that near.
I hope that Will Rogers was wrong; that we're not all going to be eventually the victim of a motor vehicle encounter. A keen eye and a nimble pair of legs can only get us so far. Make certain to do the things which will allow you to see and be seen, hear and be heard on the roads. Because if it's all left up to chance, we all know the numbers are not in the runner's favor.