Etiquette and Safety on the Roads and Trails

One issue runners and walkers must deal with is how to use the limited space on trails and roads. I was faced with this matter the other day, when I was out on a great run through a lovely forest trail. There I was, daydreaming away, when suddenly I came across a group of walkers. I practically ran right over a woman who was with her friends in a large walking group. They were walking 5-abreast, and taking up the entire trail, preventing anyone from getting by. To get past them, you had to dodge the entire group and step off the trail.

Whether you’re on your own, with a friend, or in a group, you need to be aware of your surroundings – both for your safety and as a courtesy to others. Here are a few simple suggestions regarding  Road and Trail Etiquette:

1. Share the Pathway: Like cars on a road, runners and walkers should stay to the far right of a trail or shared pathway, so that those approaching can pass by easily on the left-hand side. 

2. Find a Friend:  It’s logically safer to run or walk with others than by yourself. For obvious reasons, find a friend – canine or otherwise – to share your workout with. This is especially important if it’s dark outside, if you’re in unfamiliar territory, or if you are off-road in a park or trail system.

3. Try to stay single-file, or 2-abreast at most: This will allow you to adjust your position easily, should you encounter an oncoming cyclist, fellow runner, walker or in-line skater. 

4. On the road, run against traffic: This way you can observe approaching vehicles, and easily move further out of the way if necessary. 

5. Alert your group:  Those at the front of the group need to be aware of oncoming obstacles, so they can clearly alert everyone else as needed.  Simply shout “Runner!” or “Cyclist!” and make the appropriate move to allow safe passage.

6. Alert others in front of you before you make a move to pass them:  Failing to give proper warning could startle them and cause an accident.  Shout “On your left” as you pass, so they know to stay to the right.

7. Respect the flow of traffic: By staying out of bicycle and vehicle lanes, letting others pass you easily, and keeping an eye out for pedestrians and small children.

8. Ensure you are visible when it’s dark:  Wear reflective clothing and vests, and use reflective tape – or even a clip-on flashing light- available at most running stores and pet stores.

9. Leave word of your route: Write down or let someone know where you plan to run or walk, and how long you expect to be gone. It’s a good idea to inform your family and friends of your favorite places to exercise, so they have some idea where you might be. And stick to familiar routes, especially when you’re out on the roads in the dark.

10. Carry identification: Carry identification or write your name, phone number, and blood type on a small piece of paper and place it in a running shoe key holder attached to the top of your shoes. Always carry a quarter in case you need to make a phone call.

11. Avoid flashy jewelry:  It’s best not to attract the attention of would-be thieves. 

12. Be careful with that ipod: Many runners and walkers use headphones, which may prevent you from hearing traffic, obstacles or other people. If you love to run or walk to music, stay safe and keep the volume down so you can hear your surroundings.  Also, stick to trails and off-road areas, where you are safe from traffic.

13. Use common sense and be respectful: When you are on your own, stay safe and take obvious personal precautions.  If you’re in a group, be respectful of those around you; sometimes we ignore others because we’re chatting and having fun. While exercise should be fun, you don’t want to infringe on the enjoyment of others.

Thank you for being safe and considerate!

Lynn Kanuka
SportMedBC Run/Walk Coordinator

© SportMedBC 2006. For more information, please contact


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