Runner Safety: How to share roads, trails and tracks

In America, when moving, we’re supposed to stay to the right, right? What about when you’re running? Heed these tips for how to share roads, trails, and tracks with cars, bikes, and other humans.


Runner safety is mainly, well, common sense. But some rules of etiquette must be taught.

On Roads

Stick to sidewalks whenever possible. When running in the shoulder or side of the road, run or walk facing traffic — so you can see what’s ahead. Pedestrians might have the right-of-way, but always yield to cars and bikes. After all, they’re bigger, faster, and stronger than you. When in doubt, stop your workout to avoid any collision. When running in the dark, wear reflective gear and light beacons for visibility.

On Trails

Stay on the right. Pass on the left, but not before telling the hiker or runner that you’re going to do so. “Coming up on your left” or “passing on your left,” are good options. Keep your ears perked for bicycles and other runners coming from behind or around bends in the trail. Especially on urban trails and bike paths, you’ll have to deal with bicycles, walkers, runners, dog-walkers, and other passersby. To deal with the potential congestion, don’t run more than two abreast when running in a group.

On Tracks

Track lanes are numbered from the inside out. In other words, the lane closest to the field or middle of the oval is Lane 1. This lane is reserved for fast running. Walkers and slower runners warming up or cooling down should stick to the outside lanes: Don’t run in Lane 1 or 2 unless you’re running a speed workout or time trial. To pass a slower runner on the track, a faster runner should call out, “Track!” If you hear this, move to the right to allow the other runner to pass on the inside (your left).

In Races

Most local races invite runners and walkers of all abilities. If you are a walker or slower runner, it’s courteous to line up at the back of the starting pack. Faster runners should line up near the actual starting line to avoid congestion and collisions, not to mention having to slow down. In races, move to the right when approached from behind by faster runners. This is especially important when walkers and runners are finishing races at the same time. Often runners are so gassed at this point they have trouble calling out “On your left!” so stay to the right, and walk no more than 2 abreast, to avoid a collision.

How do you share your running routes? Have you had a collision? Let us know in the comments below or by sharing on Facebook and Twitter.

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