Baristanet recently received such a query from a recent transplant to Montclair. He wrote:
Why don’t people use sidewalks in some parts of Montclair? On a typical day, I will see a few dog walkers, perambulators, and joggers cruising down Midland Avenue. None of them will be using the sidewalk.
This doesn’t bug me all that much when it’s one person. But tonight, there was the six o’clock jog. This is a somewhat odd phenomenon where about two dozen people are jogging, running, or walking north on Midland Avenue, spread out over about over a quarter mile. Many, but not all, are wearing blinking LEDs, reflective vests, and the like, but they’re ALL in the street, not on the sidewalk. Sometimes the joggers are three and four abreast, taking up almost half of the width of the avenue.
Consequently, I have to drive down the middle of the street, and then edge between oncoming (northbound) traffic and the danger-loving runners. I am seriously concerned that someone will hit one of these people. I’m even more concerned that it might be me!
The group of harriers to which he refers meets at Fleet Feet on Thursdays night for a group run. Many in the group belong to the Essex Running Club, but some are beginners or people looking to return to running as a way to keep in shape. They usually head out on Midland to Edgemont Park and back.
Runners generally don’t run on the sidewalks for three reasons: 1. Most of the sidewalks in Baristaville are in disrepair and dangerous to walk on, let alone run on. 2. Concrete is hard on the joints. 3. If you’re running in a group, it’s difficult for everyone to squeeze onto a narrow sidewalk.
That being said, the author of the email does point out some valid safety concerns. I asked John Fabbro, owner of Fleet Feet, to provide me with some safety tips for runners. He and one of his assistants, Gail Komm, who runs a half-marathon training program at Fleet Feet, suggest the following:
Dress to be seen with reflective gear and lights. Wear reflective materials and bright colors such as white, yellow, orange and florescent greens and pinks so drivers can see you easily early morning, at dusk, and at night. Most running shoes now have reflective materials built into them; however, you can increase your visibility by wearing specially designed running pants, shorts, and/or jackets. To make you even more noticeable and to see the ground, carry a flashlight, or wear knuckle lights and/or headlamp. Flashing lights can also be used to make you noticeable. Having 360° visibility is optimal. If you wear lights, have one for the front and back of your body, or consider a reflective vest. Reflective vests range in style, comfort and price. Other reflective accessories are available such as arm and ankle bands.
Safety in Numbers. If possible, exercise with a friend or organized run group/club. With two or more people, be considerate if running in the streets. Run single file while cars are passing and try to avoid running more than 2 abreast or what a wide shoulder will allow.
Plan your route and tell someone where you will be. Before heading out, inform a friend or household mate of your route and approximate time you are expected to be gone. Maybe even leave a map. There are various online sites with mapping features such as mapmyrun.com or gmaps.com pedometer. If you have a Garmin GPS watch, upload your data to their free online site and print a map of your route.
Carry a cell phone and identification at all times. A cell phone is valuable to have should you need to contact police immediately, have an emergency, or simply cannot finish your run. A variety of accessories are available to easily and comfortably carry cell phones while running such as a Spybelt or Fuel Belt pouch. Sport armbands are great for iPhones and Droids. If you do not like wearing pouches or armbands, consider purchasing a running top or bottom with a zip pocket. In addition to a cell phone, it’s highly recommend wearing ID with key information of name, phone number and emergency medical information. This can be in the form of a driver’s license, Road ID (company dedicated to making shoe and bracelet ID’s) or placed in a shoe pocket (which often can fit a key, too).
Know your role as a pedestrian/runner. Understand there are others on the road that may not be visible to you and conversely, they may not be able to see you. Use caution in crosswalks, especially when crossing streets. Stop at lights and curbs to look both ways, ensuring there is no oncoming traffic, cyclists or runners darting out in front of you. Don’t assume drivers can see you even if you are geared up in reflective gear; however, motorists should not presume the crosswalk is empty. We should all take responsibility when it comes to sharing the roads and be conscientious of each other. Obeying all traffic laws. Run against traffic so you can see oncoming cars. Avoid parked cars, bushes, and buses along the road, in addition to busy roads and those with no shoulders or sidewalks along the side. Familiarize yourself with right-of-way laws. According to New Jersey State law, motorists who see pedestrian(s) in marked crosswalks MUST stop: www.nj.gov/oag/hts/pedestrian.html. And remember, just because you are familiar with who has the right-of-way, do not assume the motorists are.
Don’t wear headphones. Listening to music not only distracts your attention, it also decreases your ability to hear oncoming traffic or sounds which signify potential danger. Save the headphones for the gym.
Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. Stay alert, looking around to steer clear of suspicious people. Follow your gut instinct. If you think you’re being followed, change direction and head toward a safe place. Keep your key readily available to get into your house quickly. Avoid unpopulated areas, poorly lit or deserted streets, and overgrown trails. Change your route periodically so someone else does not become familiar with your exercise habits, and be familiar with which businesses (if any) are open where you can go for help in case of an emergency. Don’t wear jewelry or items that may pose you as a target for robbery. If you need to carry money, a great place to keep it hidden is in your shoe underneath the sock liner.
Love to run or want to start? We’ve got a $25 gift certificate courtesy of Fleet Street for one lucky reader. Tell us what you need to buy in comments and we’ll pick one reader at random.