Saturday, February 26, 2011


On my run home from work Thursday afternoon, I experienced a lesson in etiquette. I'd like to say that this has never happened, but if you run the roads long enough, it's inevitable that you will be run off, cut off, and ticked off by drivers. Sometimes it's on purpose, sometimes it may be a gray hair that can't see you through the dash board. I'm trying to present this objectively and let the reader see who was in the right.

At the corner of Highland Drive and 1100 East is a busy intersection with a stop light and pedestrian crossing. I was at the end of my second mile repeat and pushing it fairly hard, with about 10 seconds to go. Basically I just had to get across the intersection. I checked the light 4-5 steps before I was to cross and it was green, but the pedestrian guy was red. There were no cars in the right turn lane to my left so I thought I was clear to cross. I kept my eye on the light, and just before I was to step into the crosswalk, I heard an engine to my left and a little purple car came flying by, and turned sharply in front of me as my foot was just about to leave the sidewalk. I'd like to say that this has never happened before, but unfortunately it has and at this same intersection. Sometimes I don't do anything, but a couple times I've reached out and smacked the side of the car as it pulled in front of me. Obviously it's close if I can smack it as it drives by. On this occasion I gave it a nice smack to let the driver know that I was there and that his behavior wasn't appreciated. He slammed on his brakes in the middle of the lane, yelled at me as I crossed (and maybe gestured something in his direction) and then kept on along 1100 East.
About 100 yards farther down 1100 East is a cross street where you can cut back up to Highland Drive. As I approached this cross street, my friend in the purple car was waiting for me. He was significantly bigger than me at 6'4" and very angry. Before I was even close he started yelling at me that he had the right of way and how dare I, blah blah. As I got closer I responded -somewhat calmly I thought- that it was a green light, I was in the process of stepping off the sidewalk and that I had the right of way. That's when he shoved me and yelled that I didn't have the right of way, the pedestrian guy was red . I stepped back, told him I'd put a real dent in his car and call the cops if he touched me again and turned to run off. He said go ahead and shoved me in the back. For a split second I thought about throwing a right cross to knock his old a** out, but thought better of it - who knows if he had taken his meds-and yelled to him that he had a lot to learn about life and common etiquette.

As I ran away fuming about the situation and thinking of the perfect things to say to him that I didn't think of at the time (we all do that, right? How many times does the perfect comeback come to you in the heat of battle?) I started thinking that maybe I really had been in the wrong. Sometimes I find myself with the attitude that the pedestrian is always right and just run along expecting everyone else to watch out for me. Maybe I shouldn't have pushed it to cross the street to finish my mile. After all, how critical were those final 10 seconds?

Anyway, just some thoughts and I'd love to get any opinions.


Anonymous said...

Check out 12.32.055 and 12.32.045(A) and 12.76.045(C)(2) here for the relevant laws.

My take on situations like this: it doesn't matter who's right or wrong if I get hit and/or run over. So I never risk it.

Anonymous said...

While you may have been in the wrong based on the x-walk signal. A driver must stop for a red light whether turning right, or not.

And shoving someone, twice! Not even sort of cool! Kudos to you for your restraint. You are a better man than I.

Lloyd said...

The Salt Lake City ordinances Anonymous cited are illustrative, but may not in fact apply, because I don't think your running venue is within Salt Lake City limits. I do think the bottom line is whether you're in the right under the law or not is often irrelevant... especially when it could be you are dead right. Discretion really is the better part of valor.

peter said...

Probably a good idea to stick to the trails, Erik.

Jake said...

This kind of thing happens all the time to me. I get frusturated and smack cars with my hand every once in a while, but recently I've been afriad that eventually I'm going to do it to a car with a driver who is twice my size! Some drivers are just jerks... better off not getting hit. I'm trying to not get frusturated by these types of situations, but it can be difficult sometimes!

Erik said...

It looks like the bottom line is that traffic laws or not, I should assume that others aren't paying attention. As Anonymous said, "it doesn't matter who's right or wrong if I get hit/run over"

With that being said, if you drive a little purple car and get too close to me, I'm throwing a rock through your window next time.

Scott said...

Erik, when ever I run on the roads, I play it safe. I don't care about my time knowing I have to stop if needed. I just stop my watch (if I am keeping track) and restart when I get going again.

I will always wave cars through, or run behind them etc. I have almost been hit way to many times and no longer assume I have the right away. Despite who is right or wrong, I would rather play it safe than be sorry.

All the more reason to stick to the trails, but then you have to deal with mtn bikers and that is a whole nother story ;)

Missy B. said...

Erik; i had a similar situation in Cottonwood about 10 years ago. a woman rolled through a stop sign, looking left as she was turning right, and i smacked her car (as you did) as she drove past me. she proceeded to follow me for approximately 2 miles, through neighborhoods, with her children in the car, and apparently "on the phone with her lawyer". i went to the local Smith's (on Bengal) where i found the canyon Sheriff, and she stated that she was "afraid for herself and her children" because i had a dog with me. she was a lunatic. the only thing that i am thankful for (and this in your case too) is that she didn't have a gun with her.

people in Utah are notoriously rude to anyone attempting to cross a street, whether in a crosswalk or not. i am not originally from Utah, and have traveled the world, and have never seen so many cars intentionally cut off pedestrians as here in this state.

to answer your question, i think you and the driver of the purple car were both in the wrong. if there is a "cross walk light", then you need to obey it. in the laws of morality, the driver of the car should yield to you.

never expect someone else to look out for you ~ you should always look out for yourself. and i would add, that you never know who might be carrying a gun in this country, so it might be wise to limit these types of interactions with unstable personalities.

Erik said...

I think I'll just get my concealed weapons permit and start running with a shoulder holster. Better yet, I'll submint a design to Nathan for a modified version of the HPL 020. It will hold gels, water and a Glock 19.

Anny said...

The pure lack of kindness and consideration these days is simply sad. I've had so many near misses running and biking. Even more sad is when, for example, you hold a door for someone and they can barely mumble out a thank you or a smile. What has happened to our society? Is life really THAT bad?! Be safe out there you all! guns on the nathan pack PLEASE!

Anny said...

But Erik, you make me laugh because I get just like that when stuff happens to me. And...I never find the right words until it's too late. ugh! I'm glad you are safe.