I run five miles every day through the streets of a major metropolitan city. I find that much of my time is spent dodging automobile traffic, and waiting for the lights to change. How can I remain safe from an accident, while at the same time maintaining my running pace and good form? Should I avoid city running all together? - Downtown Trodder
When our ancient ancestors ruled the world, they relied on running as a means for bringing food and information back to their loved ones. It was not uncommon to see a runner flying through the fields and plains of Asia, Africa and Europe; rarely hindered by impenetrable obstacles as they deftly navigated the nearly straight and direct course from point A to point B.
Today, the modern pedestrian has no such luxury, and to make matters worse, the "impenetrable obstacles" of the present often take the form of heavy self powered vehicles, designed to transport sedentary creatures through a mind numbing maze of paved pathways as a means towards gathering cheeseburgers and returning video disks to "Movie Rental Stores".
Oh, the horror.
Faced with these moving masses, the modern runner must compensate his or her forward locomotion so as not to merge, in a critically bad way, with these vehicles. This "merging" is sometimes called "a collision" and when the comparatively large mass of an automobile collides with the soft and spongy mass of a human being, the results are not fun to mop up after.
Automobile traffic is going to be your greatest nemesis on the road, and you will need to remain alert and cautious to avoid the previously mentioned "merging" process.
The good news is that the law is on your side, and in most civilized countries of the world, a driver of an automobile who bumps, crashes, "slams into" or "runs over" a runner, is likely to be chastised by the legal system in a very stern manner.
But a law against reckless driving is not going to matter much if you are scraping yourself up off the asphalt. The true solution is to trust the laws of physics (which include a little rule about objects of a larger mass hitting an object of a smaller mass).
You remain safe by running against the flow of traffic (on the left side of the street if your country drives on the right). You should attempt to make eye contact with the driver (it does not hurt to make goofy faces, just to ensure that they really notice you).
The use of hand signals is helpful to direct drivers away from you as you pass an intersection or cross a street. Automobile drivers are pre-conditioned to accept non verbal hand gestures from officially clad police officers, and you will find that the simple "point and wave" approach will garner their obedience (in most instances).
Try not to run during "rush hours" when automobile drivers are scurrying to and from work. Try to run during daylight hours, wearing clothing that is easy to see (our Antarctic friends would do well to wear something dark to contrast with the white snow, and those running in the jungles of South America might want to consider wearing bright hunters orange).
Your training routine will not suffer significantly by running in place for several minutes, as your cardiac work level will be maintained. City running is not to be avoided, but caution is key. Impatient drivers will always seek to "out run" you with their vehicles, with the simple-minded mindset of "just let me get past you". It is your job to avoid the "nut cakes" and remember that you do have the legal right of way... but despite the legal ramifications of "collision laws", you need to be alert and cautious as you share the road with exhaust belching vehicles.
Run long and taper.