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4 reasons why we recommend running on sidewalks

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As runners, we are vulnerable people as we head out to log some miles. We sweat and have to worry about hydrating properly and replacing electrolytes. As much as we love running in warm weather, we have to worry about the sun and sunburn. In the winter, we need to dress appropriately so we’re not too cold but not too hot.

But really, we’re most vulnerable when as our feet hit the pavement or sidewalk because then it’s just us against cars and trucks. We need to be aware of traffic because frequently drivers are oblivious to us, even though we might be dressed in the brightest, most flourescent clothing available. How many of us have had a near collision with a driver who looks left while turning right and doesn’t see us as we approach the intersection?

Which leads us to this discussion about where to run. Should you run on the sidewalk or in the streets?

We like to err on the side of safety and strongly recommend that everyone run on sidewalks if they’re available. Here are 5 reasons why.

Cars don’t drive on sidewalks

Safety is the primary reason we recommend sidewalks over streets for running. Sidewalks generally have curbs that provide a buffer in case a vehicle comes careening toward you as you run. If you’re running in the street, you inevitably have to get around parked cars by running into the lane of travel. When a sidewalk is on the side of those parked cars, why not err on the side of safety?

No difference in hardness

Many runners who eschew sidewalks in favor of asphalt argue that the latter is not as hard as concrete. However, this post on slowtwitch.com makes the argument, quite persuasively, that there’s virtually no difference in the hardness between concrete and asphalt.

The difference between concrete and asphalt is a bit like the difference between a standard HDTV and higher resolution TV, where the limiting factor becomes the eye’s ability to observe the difference. The difference can be measured, but the difference is not significant in the greater context of the situation.

You can run in either direction

When you run in the street, you are supposed to run against traffic. That is, you need to be on the left side of the road, with vehicles should be coming toward you. This way, you can easily see them, and they can see you. If you’re running on the right side of the road, you can’t see the traffic coming behind you.┬áRunning on the sidewalks makes all of this a moot point, right? Assuming there’s a sidewalk on either side of the road, you don’t have to worry about running against traffic.

Sidewalks lead to pathways

Applied Race Management Solutions is based in Elizabethtown, where officials recently completed a walking path from downtown to the Amtrak train station. It’s part of a larger plan to build walking paths through town. The goal is connect one end of town to the other so people can run, walk or bike safely and without having to worry about traffic (except for the places where the path crosses streets). For those of us who live in town, we run on the sidewalks until we get to the path, which takes us to Masonic Village and its network of walking paths. So in less than a mile, we can be on the path and avoiding nearly all traffic for a 7-mile run.

Of course, there are times when you can’t avoid running in the street or the roads.┬áPlease be safe and use common sense:

  • Run on the left side of the road, against traffic.
  • If you’re running with group, run single file.
  • Be alert to vehicles turning.
  • Don’t assume drivers see you.