Stay Safe Along Busy Streets


Warm weather usually means only one thing for athletes. More opportunities to get out and get some workouts in. Whether it’s the lakefront path, neighborhood streets or suburban roads, more and more cyclists and runners will be filling the streets as the summer progresses. With that, there are a number of things all athletes should be aware of before they get out there to keep safe.

“The volume of people can make it difficult, you wish everyone would just follow the rules of the road,” CARA‘s Training Program Manager Meg Sullivan said. “They aren’t watching for you so you have to watch for them. A lot of runners forget that and think everyone will yield to them. Always be aware and tuned in.”

Staying aware of the surroundings is the biggest issue, Sullivan said. Everything from the time of day, to the route taken, to recent events should be taken in to consideration when going out for a run. Sullivan said to use multiple senses to help protect along the run, this includes leaving the headphones at home and making eye contact with drivers at stop signs and lights to make sure there isn’t an accident. This can also be aided by planning your run for times when the sun is fully out and other people are around. Sometimes, Sullivan said, runners who go out early in the morning specifically can be at risk not only because of the poor lighting but drivers are often still tired and paying less attention at this time.

Staying on the sidewalk is important, Sullivan said, but at times runners will need to get in the street. When this happens runners should run against traffic so both drivers and runners can see each other well in advance of crossing. This is the opposite of what cyclists should do, however. All cyclists in the street should flow with traffic and follow the traffic laws, Active Transportation Alliance‘s Education Specialist Jason Jenkins said.

When it comes to cycling, predictability is of utmost importance. This is done not only by traveling in the same direction as cars and following the rules of the road, but also making sure all cars around know the cyclists plan. Jenkins said cyclists need to always use signals indicating any turns and ride in a straight line as long as possible without weaving. Weaving, or riding against traffic can cause head on collisions which Jenkins said is one of the most dangerous accidents that can happen between cars and bikes.

While head on collisions can be the most damaging, crashing into an opened door, or “dooring” are often the most common. Jenkins said they always tell cyclists to leave around four feet between them and a parked car whenever possible so that if a door is opened by a driver without checking there is still space.

While Jenkins said there isn’t any specific time to avoid cycling, he agreed with Sullivan that around dusk and dawn can be the most difficult times. Both also said it’s important to wear bright colors, reflective gear or even lights whenever possible. When it comes to planning a route, it’s clear that avoiding certain especially busy streets can be beneficial. However, Sullivan said that isn’t the only thing that should be taken in to account. Runners should always pay attention to local news, especially cases of assaults on runners in a certain area. Also, vary running routes to prevent anyone from being able to predict their routine.

Typically, people think that problems only occur when running or cycling in the city. However there are many important things suburban athletes need pay heed to. Sullivan said that while streets may be less congested in the suburbs, especially along trails, this can put runners out on their own. She said she recommends running with groups or teams. Jenkins said cyclists in the suburbs often have to deal with drivers who aren’t used to having cyclists around them and may not know how to handle them. They also have to deal with cars traveling at higher speeds than in the city.

Before going out, whether on a bike or for a run, there are things everyone should have. Both Jenkins and Sullivan said it’s important to bring along an ID and be prepared to use alternate forms of transportation. Jenkins said they advise people to bring a transit card with them in case they need to transport their bike, or a lock in case they need to leave it somewhere for the time being. CARA runners are encouraged to bring $20 with them in case they need to hop in a cab quickly for whatever reason, Sullivan said. Additionally, keeping any medical information or emergency contact information may be important.

Some of the most important safety products are often the most obvious, and most overlooked. Jenkins said they always tell riders to bring their helmet along on every ride. Even the smallest details like wearing sun screen or applying bug spray can completely change a run, Sullivan said.

Staying safe doesn’t need to prevent or even interfere with any workout. However, without the proper precautions otherwise avoidable problems can be devastating. As the weather warms up, the streets will get more crowded. No one should be sidelined on race day because of a training accident.