Long: Share the Sidewalks

Craig Long

One of the best things about Iowa State is the large open areas that make it a pleasure to walk, run and bike across campus. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of courtesy between the people who partake in that pleasure. I don’t know how many times I have been walking or running and get simply blown past by someone on a bike.

When I run with headphones, you could say I deserve it. I, as a runner, have a responsibility to be aware of potential dangers around me. If I make one mistake, I could end up severely injured, or worse. Usually if I have my headphones in, it is relatively easy to hear a car coming up behind me with more than enough time to avoid them (I avoid running on the roads with headphones generally, except when I must cross the road). Bikes are a different story, though. They are very quiet and can move with great rapidity.

Typically, even if I don’t have headphones in and depending on the speed of the bike relative to me, I have only a fraction of a second to react. It makes it especially difficult, and although bikers think they can avoid me, I have no assurance. If I step sideways on a rock, walnut or jump to avoid a snake before I have heard the bike coming, they may not be able to anticipate that sideways movement and run me down.

Speed isn’t even always the reason for being struck down. I’ve seen people walking being run over by a slow moving bike, simply because the biker misjudged how much room they would have. You may think that being hit by a bike is a minor inconvenience, and where the bike is moving slowly or nearly has stopped by impact, it is. But in cases which the speed of the bike is elevated, an unsettling amount of force can be transferred directly to the back of an unexpected runner, sending both the runner and the bicyclist crashing to the pavement.

Take, for instance, a 140 pound bicyclist on a 30 pound bike with a 10 pound backpack on. That is a combined weight of 180 pounds. You may be lighter, but there are many other cyclists that are heavier as well. Bikes can easily travel above 30 miles per hour, so let’s figure the amount of force conveyed on a jogger moving the same direction at 6 mph (that’s 10 minute miles, I know many runners run faster, but bikers can go faster as well.) 180 lbs x 24 mph speed difference = 4320 ft-lbs of force. That is equivalent to a slightly below-average weight pickup truck resting on the point of impact. Now, imagine the force transferred by a heavier biker, or on a slower moving person.

I know that cyclists feel the same way, only their concern is with cars. Speaking with cyclists, when they are riding on the streets, there is nothing more aggravating and frightening than when a car flies by without leaving enough room for comfort. While being struck by a car certainly is a worse outcome than being struck by a bike, the fear is the exact same.

With the weather conducive to outdoor exercise, and record enrollments here on campus, there are going to be a great deal of walkers, runners, and bikers out on this beautiful campus. By giving a simple warning (“On your left!” or “Behind you!”), you can assure a safer situation for both the rider and the runner/walker. Even if I do have headphones in, I can still hear the holler behind me. I usually pick up on exactly what is said, but if I do not, I still understand that there is something behind me and can prepare and take care to give ample room to pass.

Broken bones are something that no one wants to experience, and in relation to an active (running or biking) lifestyle, there is no greater disappointment than suffering an injury. So take care to prevent any chance for injury to both parties, and don’t be afraid to bellow: everyone will be better off if you do.