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A Letter To Pedestrians Everywhere
Hello! We haven’t officially met, but you’ll likely recognize me from your daily outdoor explorations. I am a runner, the one you see chugging along as you wind your way through the streets. In a way, we’re both spending this time outside for the same reason: we’re reviving our minds and bodies as we drink in the fresh air and stretch our legs. But we don’t always see eye-to-eye on our methods for experiencing this shared outdoor playground, and that causes some tension between us.
I want so badly for us to get along. I see you power-walking steep hills, strolling beside your dogs and even celebrating family togetherness with your partner and children in tow. I applaud it all: the arm-pumping woman whose headphones have surrendered to the loud music thumping in her ears; the children that make me their rabbit and try to match my pace as I pass; even the toy-like dogs (I think they’re dogs) that believe they’re equivalent in size to Rottweilers as their full-bodied yapping nearly bounces them from the sidewalk. (Full disclosure: after housing Rotties for decades, my grandmother downsized to one of those dog-like creatures, and he’s the sweetest little nutcase I know.) Point is, I love seeing you outside, and I’d much rather pass hundreds of you than pass no one, because the opposite of outside is inside, and I don’t know many people that have full-fledged indoor gyms (or gym equipment period) inside their homes.
That being said, we need to talk about some of the things that are messing with our relationship. I’m sure I do things that annoy you too—but since I’m the one currently in possession of the talking stick, I’ll go first.
Can’t we please just share?
Most prominent on my list of concerns is our endless tug-of-war over sidewalk territory. Seriously, bro—you need to learn to share. I understand that you’re moving at a different pace than I am, and sometimes you’re with kids or friends or dogs or maybe even invisible unicorn pets that only you can see, and in most cases, I’m perfectly happy to hop off the curb and trot along the street until I can safely return to the path. But here’s the thing about running in the street: the sidewalk is for humans, and the street is for cars. There are few things in life that I am sure of, but I am very certain that a car can smoosh me if I get in its way. If you have the sidewalk to yourself and are wondering why I’m hesitant to jump into the street, that is the reason—especially during the mornings and evenings when traffic is heavier. Given the choice between preventing certain vehicular death and treating your spatial preferences with kid gloves…well, as much as I like you, I just really don’t give enough of a damn about your comfort to sacrifice my own safety every single time. #Sorrynotsorry
What about those tag-team walkers that give each other plenty of space while exercising together? Usually there’s one person who’s pretty good about sticking to their half of the sidewalk—they get an A+. But there’s a serious communication breakdown when it comes to their friend, who’s swinging their arms and hugging the curb as they walk in the street. At least, they start by hugging the curb; realistically what happens is they slowly stray farther into the street until a passing car’s horn jolts them out of their fitness haze and they jump closer to their sidewalk buddy. That’s fine; whatever’s happening there is completely their business. The problem arises when someone new—a faster walker, perhaps, or a runner, or even a biker—wants to pass. Where can they pass? The sidewalk’s taken, as is the theoretical bike lane, and we’ve already established that the street is for cars, trucks and delivery vans. Some of these dynamic walking duos have the presence of mind to adjust their formation when they hear or see someone approach, but I’m flummoxed by those that don’t. I recently met a pair that watched my approach as they continued chatting, a full six feet of space between them. Cars were flying by on the right, passing on the left wasn’t an option…what’s a runner to do? Seriously—what do you suggest we do? In a perfect world, you would pretend to enjoy each other’s company a little more and walk closer together for a few seconds—that way, we could both continue our workouts and stay safe, at the same time!
The Oldest Rule In The Book
There are so many other things we could discuss: the questionable use of retractable dog leashes, sidewalk-bound cyclists that seem to forget bike lanes exist, dog walkers that leave ‘presents’ for others to tread through, the Chatty McChattersons that haven’t seen each other in like days and have so much to catch up on as they stand cemented in the middle of the path…the list goes on. But I’ll stick to one final rule that dates back to prehistoric running times and is so often broken: Stay on the right, pass on the left. This is an easy one. Just pretend you’re driving: stick to your side of the road. All kinds of shared public spaces—reservoirs, boardwalks, hiking trails—have signs that remind us of this rule. And don’t get me started on the debate about whether or not I should shout, “On your left!” as I’m coming up behind you. As one of our writers recently explained, most of you smarty pants aren’t quite sure how to interpret this phrase; using it typically creates more confusion than it’s worth. So please, let’s all just agree to stick to the right side of the path. As Shia LaBeouf infamously yelled (over and over again), “Just do it!”
I don’t know about you, but each of these issues seems easy to address to me. I honestly believe that doing so would make both of our experiences exercising in shared public spaces so much more enjoyable. Don’t you agree?
In closing, I want to thank you again for all of the effort you invest in your daily rendezvous outside. Despite our differences, it’s inspiring to see you working toward a healthier, happier you. Whether we can come to an agreement on these issues or not, I’ll still always be glad to see you and will always offer a smile and a wave—that is, unless I’m focused on dodging a passing car.