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What Side Of The Road Do You Run On?

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As you head out for a run, do you even give a second thought as to what side of the road do you run on? If you’re running on a sidewalk, trail, or road, there are rules.

Are You Supposed To Run With Or Against Traffic?

For safety purposes, anyone traveling on foot should go against traffic. In the United States, this means you should walk or run on the left side of the road if you find yourself wondering why there are many good reasons.

what side of road to run on

You can see cars coming at you on the same side of the road, which is good if you are running against traffic. Keeping your eye on oncoming traffic is one way to keep yourself safe.

Especially when running or walking in dark or low light conditions, it increases your likelihood of seeing a car approaching quickly enough to react if they fail to see you.

When To Increase Your Alert

When running, be extra cautious when heading up a hill. As you run up a hill, someone coming down the hill may not see you until they actually hit the top. This leaves a period of time when you are at your most vulnerable as a runner. For a particularly dangerous hill, you may actually be safer switching to the opposite side of the road in this instance.

running on road up a hill

The same is true of a blind curve, especially on a rural road. Living in the country, I often find myself on narrow and curvy roads. Cars approaching me are frequently taking the curve wide, so they don’t have to lose speed. This leaves me, the runner, in a bad position. This holds even more true when I am running on winter roads where the roads are icy, and the road’s shoulder is difficult for footing.

As winter roads make running treacherous and runners find themselves creeping further onto the road to get better footing, you may find yourself further on the road than normal. Unfortunately, on roads like this, curves can be even more dangerous than normal. Therefore, you should be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Honestly, I actually switch up some of my favorite running routes in the winter to avoid these situations. Hills and curves coupled with winter roads can be a deadly combination.

Other Running Safety Tips

Another thing to consider is how many people are distracted driving in today’s time. Did you know that an estimated 70% of drivers report using their cellphone while driving? Sure, some of those people are using their handsfree, Bluetooth phone features built into the car. However, that simply isn’t true for everyone.

Many drivers answer a quick text, check a Facebook notification, or answer a fast email. Although most people would not admit it, a huge majority of people do things on their phone that they would be horrified to see someone else doing if they were the passenger. As a runner, these statistics are downright scary. So how can you keep yourself safe?

Although there are no foolproof ways, there are some good pieces of advice.

Wearing bright clothing automatically increases your visibility. Bright yellow, blaze orange, or hot pink are colors that help drivers to see you from a long way away. The absolute worst colors to wear for visibility are black, brown, or gray.

If you don’t own reflective gear, invest in some. Better yet, purchase some light-up running apparel. The Noxgear Tracer is hands down the best piece of safety gear a runner can invest in.

headlamp not only adds to your own visibility when running at dawn, dusk, or in the dark, it also increases the likelihood that others can see you. So throw one of these into your cart for added safety.

What About Cycling?

For those of you who are also avid cyclists, the rules are different for bicycles. When riding, the rules of the road state you need to go with the flow of traffic. That’s right. On a bicycle, you are treated like an automobile.

what side of the road do you bike on

To keep yourself safe while biking, there are some other things to consider there also. First, the same rules apply to hills and corners. If you can’t see the approaching car, they can’t see you. In these situations, use extra caution.

Always think about visibility. Wearing dark clothing does not help people to see you. Think light and bright! Make sure your bicycle is equipped with a light if you plan to head out close to (or in the) dark.

Are Inline Skates Like A Bike?

I was shocked to hear that inline skates are treated like a bicycle, like a car. That’s right. If you are rollerblading, you should be on the right side of the road, traveling with traffic.

The same visibility rules apply when you are on your skates as they apply to running, walking, and biking. Keep in mind all of these things to keep yourself safe.

Paved Recreation Trails

Having grown up in the country, I was unsure of the rules of etiquette on paved recreation trails that exist in big cities. My first time out on a paved path, I was running with my daughter’s dog. Since he is trained to run on her left, I stuck to the left. Imagine my shock when the first biker zipped by yelling, “The wrong side.”

paved recreational trails

While I contemplated what he meant, another cyclist came by. He much more kindly explained, “You’re supposed to run and bike on the right and pass on the left.” This seems to be the rule on most paved rec trails. If you are new to a recreation trail, check for signs at the trailhead where you enter the path. The rules are most likely clearly stated.

If you’re running on a rustic trail in a county park, you likely should expect things to be similar. Come to think of it; I never hear someone call out, “On your right!” when passing me, except in a crowded road race. People tend to pass on the left. I assume this is because it’s ingrained into people.

Be Smart And Safe

Next time you find yourself wondering, “Do you run with or against traffic?” remember it does depend on where you are and what kind of traffic!

As always, the best rule of thumb is to dress bright, bring lights if it is dark (or near dark), leave your headphones at home, so you are alert to your surroundings and be aware.

Run smart and safe, friends.

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