That’s right folks, you read the title correct, I got pulled over while running! While running down a section of Ironbound Road in Williamsburg, Virginia today, a piece of road I run on a regular basis, a Police Officer turned on his lights, pulled over, rolled down his window and…
Police Officer: Ma’am I need to speak with you.
I stopped running, smiled, crouched down so I could see him and…
Me: Hi, how are you?
PO: Do you run on this road on a regular basis?
Me: Yes sir I do, all the time, at least 3-4 times a week!
PO: And you’ve never been hit or felt like you were about to get hit?
Me: No sir, not once!
PO: Well Ma’am, this is a busy road and you probably shouldn’t run on it. Also, according to the law you need to be following traffic and running on the other side of the road.
Still smiling I gave him a very puzzled face because this was the complete opposite of anything I had ever heard for a pedestrian when it came to being in the shoulder when there is not a sidewalk.
Me: Really? Oh, I’m so sorry, I did not realize that!
PO: Yes Ma’am you need to be more careful running. Are you ok to continue?
Still smiling but giving an even more puzzled look, and thinking, really did he just say that, dude, I was already running, you’re interrupting my training!
Me: Yes sir, thank you, I am!
PO: Ok Ma’am and please, be more careful.
Me: I will sir, thank you again, have a good evening!
So as instructed I crossed the street and ran on the shoulder for a moment and for the first time ever I thought I was going to get hit by a car so I ran through the mud instead. I was so nervous that I even ran through people’s yards and picked up dog poop on my shoe somewhere along the way. Luckily I didn’t have too much further to go until I could turn onto my street and once I did I comfortably ran the way I wanted to the rest of the way home.
When I got home I immediately turned on the computer and began searching Virginia’s Pedestrian Laws. I found some very interesting information that confirmed my original thoughts. The following bullets are from the Virginia Department of Transportation
- Virginia is the only state that does not expressly require pedestrians to obey red, amber, and green vehicular traffic signals when crossing in the absence of a pedestrian control signal.
- The Code requires only drivers to obey the direction of law enforcement officers directing traffic.
Those two were just interesting to me but here’s my answer to the question at hand:
- Section 46.2-928 of the Code does not clearly explain where pedestrians must walk in the absence of sidewalks. In the absence of sidewalks pedestrians may use the shoulder when walking on the roadway, but they are not required to do so. The Code should require this, as the shoulder is not a travel lane and requiring pedestrians to use the shoulder in the absence of sidewalks (when there is a shoulder present) would minimize pedestrian and vehicle interactions. Further, when using the roadway, pedestrians are required to keep to the extreme left, regardless of whether or not they are walking along a one-way or a two-way road, rather than to “walk facing traffic.” On a one-way road, keeping to the extreme left does not provide the pedestrian with the advantage of being able to see oncoming vehicles and potentially puts him or her in the faster travel lane. The Code should follow the UVC and provide that “if on a two-way roadway, [pedestrians] shall walk only on the left side of the roadway” (emphasis added).31
With having this new knowledge of Virginia’s Pedestrian Laws, I will continue to run the way I always have. If I get pulled over again, with a smile on my face I will tell the Police Officer something like this: I really wish there were more sidewalks; especially since I’ve looked up the law, and it does not clearly explain where pedestrians must walk in the absence of sidewalks.
Hopefully that response will not get me in trouble. I really do wish we had more sidewalks though. With the obesity epidemic our country is facing, we sure could use more things to promote walking. Here are some great links that are pro-walking!
- Bike Walk Virginia
- Walk Score – Find a walkable place to live (Boston was ranked #3 – LOVE IT! “OOOH BOSTON YOU’RE MY HOME!”)
- Rails to Trails turning old railroad lines into trails, a great example is the W&OD!
- Transportation Alternatives
- Walk to School I’m glad that they now support a Walk to School Day, which is October 6th by the way. However, I used to walk, ride my bike or roller blade to & from school all the time and wish more people would do this if they are able to. It was a great experience as a child and I have many fond memories of stuff that would happen during these walks ie, meter hoping, rolling into my math final, freestyle walking, etc.
- America Walks
- Roll or Stroll to Work Day this is a fun program in Williamsburg that takes place in May. Try to find one in your area or be an advocate and start something!