MAN VS. CAR… AGAIN
Perhaps the wisest thing one of my running coaches ever told me was: “The rules of physics always trump the laws of man.”
He was specifically applying this adage to the rule: Pedestrians have the right of way over cars. Of course, knowing you’re in the right offers little consolation if you get hit by a car… even one that’s totally in the wrong.
Now don’t worry. I didn’t get hit by a car. Mostly anyway.
I’ve had several near misses with cars over the years and it’s always scary as hell.
Cut to last Thursday and I finally got back outside for a short run. I took a very familiar route near a local park (Hobgood Park) that is a rather hilly 4-mile out and back. The one thing worth noting is it’s not a protected running path, but rather a sidewalk running parallel to the road. The sidewalk path does cross several main intersections (all with traffic lights) and numerous entrances/exits to subdivisions and shopping centers. In short, this is a run where you need to always keep situational awareness.
There is one spot on this route that always makes me uber-nervous (and hyper-alert). Near one of the large local churches, they have a bit of blind driveway where cars come up an incline and have a yield sign (in front of a pedestrian crosswalk) before they merge onto the road. When the church or pre-school is letting out, this blind driveway can get quite treacherous. Drivers tend to ignore the yield sign and are only looking at on-coming traffic… not considering any pedestrians, runners, cyclists that might be approaching from the other direction.
Hey drivers: LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT… remember?
Over the last 6 months, I’ve had two close calls at this exact spot due to a driver:
- Not yielding (like the sign says they need to)
- Only looking left
- Not being aware of their surroundings
And last Thursday made it a trifecta… and this was the closest call of all.
I should add, that the blind driveway is now even further obscured by overgrown evergreen trees (they even fully block the ignored yield sign).
Last Thursday, as I approached this known danger spot, my spider senses started tingling. I saw a car stopped on the pedestrian walkway intently looking left to merge (they weren’t looking in my direction at all). So I slowed to a slow walk to let the car merge onto the main road (as you should) before entering the crosswalk.
When the car finally merged, I looked left into the driveway (as far as the trees would let me see) to make sure the coast was clear for me to enter the crosswalk. It was… for a brief moment.
With the crosswalk seemingly clear and me unable to see any cars, I started to head into the crosswalk (still hyper-alert, I might add). I hadn’t taken more than two steps when I caught a flash in my peripheral vision. It was f*cking mini-van about to barrel into the intersection. The driver wasn’t slowing at all, nor was she even looking in my direction (she was looking only at oncoming traffic). She had no idea at all that a pedestrian was in the path of her vehicle.
Holy shit. I was about to get hit by a mini-van.
I pulled myself back hard as best I could with the vehicle’s front bumper missing me by inches and the front of the vehicle whizzing past me creating the scariest game of vertical limbo you never wanted to play.
Unfortunately, the driver (who still hadn’t seen me) was merging/turning right… which was angling the mini-van even more into my path. Not to mention that I was now off-balance and still had some forward momentum.
I had no choice. I had to act or I was getting sideswiped.
I thrust my hands forward hard against the mini-van in order to get some leverage to push myself away from it as it was turning into me.
WHAM! (or any Batman sound effect you choose).
On the upside; it worked. I managed to push myself back in time. More importantly, I was uninjured. But I was scared… and pissed as hell.
The lady in the car hit her brakes when she heard the sound of my hands hitting her vehicle. She finally turned her head in my direction. Now I’d like to say I handled the situation perfectly by being calm, cool and collected. Not so much.
I yelled. Loudly. Okay, very loudly. Screaming that she needs to watch out for pedestrians and look both ways before she kills someone. In my defense, I had just missed being hit by a car totally in the wrong and escaped potentially serious injury by mere inches. And I was also now hyped up on adrenaline.
Now in the lady’s defense, she wasn’t playing chicken with me, nor was she trying to hurt me. Not at all. She just wasn’t paying attention or following the proper rules of the road. She made a mistake. But at that minute, it didn’t matter because I could have paid a steep price for her mistake.
The woman saw that I wasn’t injured, but rather than apologize at all or pull over to assess the situation, she simply drove off. If a cop was watching the incident, she would have been pulled over and ticketed for failure to yield or inattentive driving.
This whole incident kind of ruined my running vibe but I now had some excess adrenaline to burn off, so I finished my run. But once I got back to my car, I did something about it.
I drove to the church and spoke to the office about the blind spot. Since the church has lots of kids running around the grounds and is only a block from a large public library, the chances of young kids (who are not always paying attention to their surroundings) stumbling into that dangerous crosswalk are just too high to ignore. It’s an accident waiting to happen.
The office manager walked over to the intersection with me and apologized profusely when he saw the overgrown trees, the obscured yield sign, and the inability for drivers to properly see the road to the right. He assured me that the grounds crew coming this weekend would cut the trees back immensely (or even remove one or two if necessary) in order to give the drivers a clear line of sight and possibly prevent an incident in the future. I was impressed by their response and desire to fix the problem. I’ll let you know if they fixed the blind spot.
So what did I take away from this scary moment? Just the need to pass along a reminder to my fellow pavement pounders.
“The rules of physics always trump the laws of man.”
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times when you run.
- If you’re running somewhere new, be extra vigilant and on the lookout for possible danger spots.
- Be on the lookout for blind driveways, alleys, and intersections. You never know when a car is coming. Remember, if you can’t see them, they can’t see you.
- Don’t trust cars to stop or turn (even if they have their signals on) just because they have a stop sign or red light.
- Don’t put yourself in the path of a car unless you are 100% certain they see you and are slowing or stopped.
- If you must run with headphones, keep the volume low enough so you can hear traffic. Or keep one earbud out so you can always hear your surroundings.
Basically, just be careful out there everyone.
Be safe…and Run on!
Any additional safety tips you have to add?