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It is very easy to get caught up in the exhilaration of a run or a bike ride, and to forget the dangers we face while sharing the road with cars. We were reminded of this again through a recent report about a runner being hit on the streets of Farmington, Utah. Apparently, the 30-year-old female, out on an early morning run, crossed into the roadway to avoid sprinklers on the sidewalk, and was hit by a car. To make matters worse, she suffered a broken jaw and was unable to give her name or contact information to the responders. She was running with traffic and was wearing an iPod that could have prevented her from hearing the oncoming traffic behind her.

The police on the scene, while not assesing blame at this point, did issue some reasonable suggestions to pedestrians/runners/bikers on the road:

  • Carry identification
  • A lways wear reflective gear so you’re visible to drivers
  • Take your time when crossing the road. Don’t assume drivers can see you
  • Make sure you jog towards traffic so you can see oncoming cars

Officer Quinley [the investigating officer] said, "When I jog, I jog towards traffic so i can see oncoming traffic and it appeared she was jogging with traffic so she wouldn’t have been able to see cars in front of her."

The tip for the direction of travel is different for cyclists. As I have noticed more and more bikers hitting the road, I have seen a growing number, although still an exception, of bikers who insist on riding against traffic. In fact, an enthusiastic young rider told me he picked up road cycling, and felt it safer to ride against traffic on the road. I quickly dissuaded him from following that trap, by pointing out a Utah case that clearly found such practice to be not only unsafe, but illegal for bikers.

The current statute relating to bicycle duties and prohibition is found at Utah Code Ann. Sec. 41-6a-1105 and requires a person riding a bicycle to ride as near as practicable to the right-hand edge of the roadway, except in certain situations. It reads as follows:

41-6a-1105. Operation of bicycle or moped on and use of roadway — Duties, prohibitions.
(1) A person operating a bicycle or a moped on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as near as practicable to the right-hand edge of the roadway except when:
(a) overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
(b) preparing to make a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;
(c) traveling straight through an intersection that has a right-turn only lane that is in conflict with the straight through movement; or
(d) reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand edge of the roadway including:
(i) fixed or moving objects;
(ii) parked or moving vehicles;
(iii) bicycles;
(iv) pedestrians;
(v) animals;
(vi) surface hazards; or
(vii) a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
(2) A person operating a bicycle or moped on a highway shall operate in the designated direction of traffic.
(3) (a) A person riding a bicycle or moped on a roadway may not ride more than two abreast with another person except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
(b) If allowed under Subsection (3)(a), a person riding two abreast with another person may not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and shall ride within a single lane.
(4) If a usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a roadway, a bicycle rider may be directed by a traffic-control device to use the path and not the roadway.

Unless on a segregated bike path, set apart from the road and not just within the painted lines for a bike lane on the roadway, the biker must travel in the direction of traffic.

Runners are not subject to the same law. They should, nevertheless, determine the safest path to run, whether with or against traffic. They should also take steps to increase their visibility to vehicles, increase their chances to see and avoid vehicles and other dangers on the road, and should wear identification, in order to allow responders to indentify them and their loved ones, in the unfortunate event of an accident. Finally, you should think twice about using headphones to listen to music while running or cycling on the road. If you are in an area where you encounter cars, it’s important to be able to hearing approaching traffic. You need all your senses to maintain your personal safety while exercising.

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