Smile Politely

Proposing a pact between runners and drivers

Dear Champaign-Urbana drivers,

As a runner (sometimes, a jogger), I suffer from a road entitlement complex. Sure, the roads are designed for cars and bicycles and other things that go vroom, but I believe that I have a legitimate claim to my own little sliver of asphalt and concrete. Hauling my sweaty ass around under the relentless Midwestern summer sun counts for something, right?

As an impetuous only child with a caustic temper, I may or may not have verbally exploded at a few inconsiderate or dangerous drivers. My family is a bit concerned that someone is going to shoot me for releasing a verbal tirade, so I should probably learn to curb my running temper tantrums and behave like a civilized individual.

That said, I am not a huge fan of the idea of becoming road kill. There is simply no excuse for careless drivers who put runners and our cycling brethren in danger with negligent automobile wielding.

I, thus, propose a sort of pact between drivers and runners to make our respective commutes more pleasant and less rage-inducing.

  1. First, please try to look both ways when approaching an intersection. With so many one-way streets, it is easy to fall into the trap of looking in just one direction. It is very frustrating to reach an intersection before a car, only to have the driver look in the other direction and pull out right in front of you. I try to run behind, rather than in front of, cars, but sometimes, it is awkward to maneuver this way. I realize that it is sometimes necessary to pull into the crosswalk to look for on-coming traffic, but at least glance in both directions to avoid plowing down a runner.
  2. If you see a female runner, don’t honk and catcall out your window as you whiz past. I know that she may be the paragon of female beauty with a sweat-soaked t-shirt and tomato-red face, but please, do try to restrain yourself.
  3. If you see a male runner, consider honking and catcalling out your window. I am under the impression that most guys enjoy that kind of attention.
  4. Most importantly, please make an effort to actually stop at stop signs. Every runner has a story about a driver who ignored a stop sign and nearly mowed him/her over. I realize that stopping all four wheels is rather convenient, but it is truly the safe and legal way to approach those omnipresent octagonal, red signs with white lettering whose meanings have seemingly fallen into semantic obscurity. Note: If you cut me off at a four-way stop, I will probably send a slew of deleterious F-bombs in your direction.

In return for your gracious adherence to these basic tenets of road courtesy, I promise to take an active role in my and your safety by doing the following:

  1. I will make an effort to make myself safely visible by wearing brightly colored clothing during the day and some kind of reflective material at night.
  2. Generally, I keep to the sidewalks, but if I must run in the road, I will run on the side, against the flow of traffic. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it allows the runner to take an active role in watching for and avoiding potential accidents.
  3. I will make sure to look both ways for cars when approaching an intersection. I will also avoid darting out in front of on-coming traffic.

Everyone is different, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of road courtesies. That said, I’m pretty sure that runners and drivers alike prefer safety to injury and uninterrupted commutes to automobile accidents.

Thanks in advance for being considerate to not just me, but to other C-U runners as well. And the next time you’re out on the roads, look for a sweaty Asian in red Nike tempo track shorts. I will do my best to wave and smile my appreciation for your accommodating driving… unless I’m passed out on the side of the road, in which case, please call 9-1-1 and splash my lifeless form with water.

Your friendly neighborhood runner,


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