Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Pedestrians and other animals

I heard recently of a pilot scheme in one of London’s bigger parks which would introduce ‘jogging lanes’ alongside the existing cycle lanes which criss-cross the greenery.  The suggestion was met with derision, outcry, mockery, confusion, exasperation and other forms of half-arsed middle-class protest about things which don’t really matter. Cue sarcastic letter to the Editor of the Times, a few column inches in cycling and running publications, and eventually things quietening down irrelevant of the eventual outcome.

But why would anyone think this was a sensible use of the precious taxpayer pennies, when there are perfectly good wars and public sector bonuses we could spending them on? Why can’t runners just share pavements and footpaths with the rest of the bipedal population?

I’ll tell you why. Because no brain activity has ever been recorded in any pedestrian in the moments before, during or immediately after they are passed by a runner. Pedestrians become jibbering wrecks, incapable of processing any decision-making thought processes at the time of interacting with a runner.

They see us coming, and they panic.

Should they step aside, and if so, which side? Should they try to speed up to avoid the looming bottleneck, or slow down, or stop entirely? Maybe they should do nothing at all and steadfastly continue on their trajectory of doom (yes, this is definitely the best bet), because the runner, as a second-class citizen, won’t mind being forced into the road to tango with oncoming traffic.  Or how about a snide and hilarious comment to accompany the encounter, just to let me know how annoying it is that you had to move half an inch to accommodate another human being? That would be brilliant, thanks.

Worse still, they don’t see me coming – I’m stuck behind them, trying to overtake. I politely say ‘excuse me’, and they scream in surprise, run around in circles, or completely ignore me. My pace is reduced to zero, and after having been forced into the road again, I sprint off into the distance, eager to thoroughly demonstrate the difference between a lazy pedestrian and a ground-pounding runner.  This makes me tired and grumpy. I go back to punch the pedestrian in the face, but he’s still spinning in circles so I leave him to it.

Beware; runners. 
Large groups produce even more unusual behaviour. Their brain waves not only shut down unilaterally, but also force the group to lock on to one another like a shoal of fish, moving, as one, in the most inconvenient direction imaginable.  Sometimes this forces a large group to continue occupying every inch of available space, making overtaking impossible without a tight squeeze or a rendition of the bus-lane tango.

Even people who weren’t previously together are spontaneously unified in their mission to make me stop or slow down. Are they being controlled by the dark forces of some anti-running supervillain? If they are then he’s doing a bloody good job. On special occasions the messages get crossed, and the well-meaning individuals will leap in opposite directions to get out of the way, creating no net difference in their human barrier but providing a charmingly symmetrical example of the good-intentioned-but-poorly-executed double leap. Unless this is another supervillain trick, in which case he’s even more dastardly than I first thought.

Then there are the dogs. I think it’s probably lovely to take a dog for a long rambling walk in the countryside, where you can let him off the lead and think beautiful thoughts about nature and clouds and the special relationship between a man and his hound. But is your dog reliable and well-mannered? Or is she actually really lovely when you get to know her, but sometimes gets a little bit bitey around new people, particularly new people moving at speed? The bitey one? Thought so. The problem with the rambling walk in the countryside is that there are other people in the countryside, and unless your dog is extremely well-connected, many of them are likely to be unfamiliar. This will come as a shock, I know. Sorry.

My local running club out for a quick jog/snack
 So when your dog runs headlong at me; a slobbering, barking, 2 ½ tonne juggernaut that looks like a cross between a pitbull and a Mk2 Challenger Tank, maybe you could take half a second to consider investing in a lead, before, perhaps, calling her off? Oh, she doesn’t come when you call? I see. That must be because you’re such a responsible dog owner and she’s such a sweetie that you didn’t think training was important. Oh well. Never mind, I don’t use my lower legs very much anyway.

What I’m getting at here is that I am a road user, a footpath user and a real live human being. I’m not a nuisance in hi-viz seeking to deliberately inconvenience you, delay your journey or deprive your dog of a tasty ankle-bone treat. I'm just a guy out for a run. 

Jogging lanes? Yes please.

Happy running


2011 to date - miles: 316.41, parkruns: 4, races: 2, miles biked: 12.85


  1. Not seen too many dogs off their leads on the pavement if I'm honest. I'm no runner, but I can't imagine you speedier folk getting much London marathon training at the flood barrier fields in tonbridge for example. That is if you've got through the ballot this year. I hear the stroke association may have places if anyone's looking.

    My dog sees runners as a challenge. Given he thinks everyone is his friend and the worst he'll do is lick you a bit, I'm sort of ok with seeing who wins!

  2. Kylie 'Arsetastic' Rodier6 April 2011 at 21:39

    Word, Dave.

    Seriously, groups are the worst. Oh, you have to walk entirely in one line horizontally across the footpath? Really. Really now. I'm taking up half a person of space, because I can do that when I'm running. It helps to pass by pedestrians like you. Olay, you're not moving. Breaking this line for the entire half-second it will take for me to pass you is too much social catastrophe for you to handle, clearly. Oh, sorry, was my bumping the entirety of your left side as I remained on the footpath avoiding impending death in the face of that doubledecker bus entirely unreasonable? Here's 20p and my middle finger: call someone who cares. That's something we runners like to call 'consequences', pedestrian. Let's all be considerate, now.

    Dude, runners know road rage like no other road user.

  3. The Stroke Association *still* has London Marathon places? It's next weekend!

    True, rare to see a dog off the lead on a pavement. I tend to have my most exciting encounters with those of the canine persuasion on footpaths, open fields, beaches, that time I took a quick jog through Battersea Dogs' Home...

  4. Then I'm with you on the jogging lanes. You know, until they get dog gyms in every town.

  5. I with you on jogging lanes, hopefully they can align them with cliff edges so one could practice tombstoning instead of complaining about the perils of sharing the world with other animals. :p
    Also I think it's pronounced yogging-the j is silent.