Share the road

So there's a bit of a brouhaha in Fredericton over runners taking their exercise to the streets in the middle of winter. Seems a cab driver is worried that runners are adding a level of danger to his work.

He's got a point, you might be thinking. Why would anyone want to run on the streets in the middle of winter when there are perfectly good health clubs loaded with treadmills – and the odd indoor 200-metre university track?

Why not just run on the sidewalk?

Well we might, if they were cleared properly. Here in Toronto, it's up to homeowners to make sure the sidewalks in front of their homes are cleared after it snows – except for a few main arteries. The quality of the clearing varies from house to house - mostly from fair to treacherous, if you're in sneakers.

Even in towns and cities that still do spend your tax dollars to encourage people to get out by plowing sidewalks, the footing can be dangerous.

But snow, slush and ice aren't the only obstacles on the sidewalks. So are dogs, especially when they're on those leashes that give your pet way too much room to roam.

Runners have a responsibility when they are on the streets. They include:

  • Running in single file on the extreme left side of the road, facing traffic.
  • Making sure they're highly visible.
  • Obeying traffic lights.
  • Staying on the shoulder – if it's clear – on busier roads.

When you are on the streets, you are taking your chances – like catching the odd soaker as a car drives through a mass of slush or water. But no runner should have to face what I did a few weeks ago in Mississauga as I ran on the shoulder of a busy street with no sidewalk. As a privately-owned snowplow contractor approached, he dropped his blade sending a wave of slush and ice at me. As he passed, he lifted his blade.

Unfortunately, there are too many drivers on the road like him. I've seen them stake their claims of ownership of the road by coming at groups of runners before swerving away.

The city of Toronto has made a point of keeping two bicycle routes clear of snow and ice this winter. I'm lucky – I have easy access to them and use them for most of my runs. Safely away from traffic – and away from excruciatingly boring treadmills and short indoor tracks that can increase your risk of injury, the farther you run.

Sharing the road is less of a problem during the rest of the year. Fredericton, like many Canadian cities, offers an expansive off-road trail system. Most runners can't wait until the last of the snow and ice is gone so we can run in peace – and safety.

But until then, with a little mutual respect, please let's share the road.