Road rage

The town I live in is rather small.  We have a Co-op, a Spar, a butcher, a baker, a small handyman store, a couple of pubs and several takeaways.  In the grand scheme of things it is not a massive town.  It’s plenty big enough for Dan and I and our day-to-day needs, but if we need to buy something other than bread or milk we tend to make our way to the nearby, larger town of Wellingborough, where there is a little more choice.

The circumference of our town is three miles.  I know this because I often use it as one of my easy runs on a Monday evening.  No need to think, just follow the path all the way round until I arrive back at my house again.  If I want to run further than three miles though (which I often do) at some point I will need to run along a stretch of road which does not have a footpath alongside it.

This doesn’t faze me too much.  Most of my running tops are quite bright, if I ever have to run a stretch of road at night, I am sure to wear my headtorch and usually a reflective jacket as well.  I never wear headphones whilst on the road so am aware when cars are heading towards me and where possible, I run along the grass verge until the upcoming car has passed and I can safely continue along the road.

One of my regular six mile routes heads out of town along a faster-moving road for just less than a mile before turning off onto a narrow country road and eventually winding back round into the bottom end of my town again.

I would never run the route at 8:30am or 5:15pm as during working hours, this route becomes much busier.  Several people either walk or cycle from the village the road leads to up to the town I live in as there is a large enterprise park on the outskirts of my town.  The council must have established that the road was too busy for the workers to travel along safely during peak hours as earlier this year they decided to add a footpath alongside the edge of the road.  Excellent…

…except that the footpath has eaten up into the space available on the road and that along the majority of the road the path has been identified by adding shingle to the verge.

Awful shingle path between Raunds and RingsteadThe shingle is pretty deep – I’m not sure what it is laid on but it is incredibly uneven.  Bikes now choose to ride along the ‘footpath’ each day, causing great ruts in the path and making it unsafe for other bikes to travel along in places.  The footpath has therefore become very uneven and I wouldn’t want to travel along it with a small child, an elderly person, and I don’t want to use it as a runner.  One slight wobble and you would find yourself in the path of an oncoming fast-moving car, the driver having been under the impression that you were safely travelling on the footpath to the side of the road.

Awful shingle path between Raunds and Ringstead

Not only is the footpath incredibly rutted, but the hedge alongside it seems to no longer be maintained.  I guess someone at the council feels that there is no need, now that the brambles aren’t growing over onto the road and in the way of motorists.Awful shingle path between Raunds and Ringstead - Brambles jutting out onto the pathAwful shingle path between Raunds and Ringstead - Brambles jutting out onto the pathThe brambles make it rather difficult to use the path in places and along some stretches, the kerb seems to be a large amount higher than a regular kerb is for no apparent reason, whereas in other places, it is at the same level as the road.

Awful shingle path between Raunds and Ringstead - Brambles jutting out onto the path

When you almost reach the village at the other end, the path stops with no alternative for several metres, before joining onto an existing path that has clearly been there for quite some time and is in desperate need of replacing.

Awful pavement between Raunds and RingsteadA tractor carrying straw must have been along since running the route on Tuesday as several of the holes and cracks were filled with straw when I went to take photos of the pavement this morning so it is hard to tell from a photograph just how holey it is!  The pavement also leans from the verge into the road, so as you run along it you are always leaning towards the traffic.

Last Tuesday my planned run was six miles.  The route I just mentioned is a perfect six miles starting from my house, so I waited until the work traffic had passed and headed out for a run in the middle of the afternoon.  I headed out at 12:47pm according to my Garmin.  On days that I have run this route during the past Summer I tend to run along the road until a car is headed towards me, at which point if it is safe to do so I jump up onto the shingle path.  Often, it is not safe for me to do so at the time (jutting out brambles, other people, a higher kerb…), in which case I tend to remain on the road and let the oncoming car overtake me instead.  The road has two-way traffic, is fairly straight, with good visibility along the entire length.  During the middle of the day there isn’t a great deal of traffic along this road.

During Tuesday’s run, as I was about to reach the village at the other end of the stretch of road another car approached rather quickly.  I was at the point where there was no pavement for me to run on.  The car in front slammed it’s brakes on as a car was also coming in the other direction on the opposite side of the road so he was unable to overtake me.  I continued running towards the car on the road, reaching the pavement which is in need of updating before I reached the car.  Rather than jump up onto the pavement risking a fall I continued along the road.  The car had already stopped by this point.

I received a lot of abuse through the car window for not running on the pavement so that he could continue his journey possibly three seconds sooner.  There were a lot of arm gestures and loud shouting from inside the car which was directed at me.  The windows were closed, but I like to think I’m fairly proficient at lip reading.  The gentleman repeatedly and aggressively gestured at the pavement, prompting me to also gesture at the shockingly-maintained pavement and shout back.  Although I knew that he probably couldn’t hear me it made me feel a little better.

Luckily, he didn’t get out of his car.  Clearly in too much of a rush on his journey and he sped off up the hill in a rage instead.  I do use the pavement where it is safe to do so, however I didn’t want to twist my ankle or fall out into the road on this occasion.  It left me feeling rather wound up and annoyed though, and I continued my run feeling rather shaky.  I would never dream of shouting at someone running who was out running along the road, and would assume that there had been a good reason for them doing so in the first place.

Was I in the right or wrong?
Have you ever received abuse from a motorist before?

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12 thoughts on “Road rage

  1. I think there’s no clear right or wrong in that situation – it’s really difficult from both the point of view of the motorist and the runner. What’s inexcusable is the person in the car’s reaction: there’s absolutely no call for that kind of abuse. I’m glad you shouted back, because when that happens to me I never say anything and just start crying as soon as they’re out of view.

    I get all sorts of things yelled at me, whether it’s because people don’t like my outfit/appearance or because car drivers assume they don’t have to signal when they’re turning and then act as if it’s my fault for assuming they’re going straight on and crossing the road. It was even worse as a cyclist and the aggresion of most motorists was what forced me to stop using a road bike. People in general are just horrible and inconsiderate these days – honestly I’d be a total misanthropist if it wasn’t for meeting so many lovely ladies through blogging.
    Jess recently posted…Stamfordham 10K and Tynedale 10 Mile Jelly Road RaceMy Profile

    1. One of my big hates is car drivers not signalling when there are no other cars on the road. Pedestrians and cyclists need to know where you intend on going too! I agree, so many people are really inconsiderate these days. Everybody is in such a hurry to get to their destination, they have no thoughts for anybody else out there on the road at all.

  2. I definitely think you were right to stand your ground – there are pavements like that near me that are labelled as ‘shared use’ for bikes and pedestrians, but they’re pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to walk on comfortably, let alone cycle or run! It’s never worth the risk. Thing is, motorists don’t really take more than a passing glance – they see a strip of grey, assume it’s fine, and then get angry when people are in the road. Sigh! Is it worth contacting the council? I can only imagine what would happen if a buggy or a wheelchair needed to head along that way.

    1. I fully intended on contacting the council when I arrived home from my run but thought it best to calm down first! Last week was rather busy at work but I shall write a calmer email out this evening.
      I presume it is down to cost that they are making all of these ‘pavements’ of shingle, rather than tarmac. They seem to be cropping up all over at the moment, and really don’t suit as shared use for bikes and pedestrians.

  3. As a driver I get very nervous when there are runners or cyclists in the road, and personally I would never run off pavements – there is always a driver on their phone or something. But that doesn’t excuse foul language and rudeness. Write to your council! It looks so dangerous. Although councils have so many cuts, we have potholes everywhere and they never cut the bushes so they cover road signs.
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Oahu- running gear spending spree!My Profile

    1. There are so many drivers out on the roads at the minute using their phones it seems. I’ve even seen drivers sending text messages and using Facebook! Surely that can wait until you reach your destination?!
      I run off pavements only when I judge it safe to do so and ensure that I am very alert whilst running on the roads. If I was to think that a car had not seen me I would leap up onto the bank and stop my run briefly.

  4. Ahhhh you see this is a hard one and I’m kinda with you on this even though I can see both sides. I know your area well and I do understand just how tight the paths can be and I wouldn’t have done anything different to you Mary.
    When I lived in your neck of the woods I used to road run a lot because it was the only way to cover longer distance and there was one or two close moments, but I was always lit up and during quiet times.
    The sad thing is even where I live now people drive like absolute plonkers and I can lose 2 minutes+ just waiting at a Zebra crossing when It’s my right to cross! I lost count how many times drivers drove over the crossing when I was on it, so even as a driver myself..I do get very wound up.
    Katie G recently posted…WIAW : Red Velvet Truffles, Beetroot Bars and Oat’sMy Profile

  5. I’m angry just reading this. I would say you were in the right for what you were doing. You were running towards the traffic, you were being courteous when you were able to do so and you were being safe. You’re clearly a very sensible runner and the guy was clearly a knob…sorry, the guy was clearly impatient and unable to wait the few seconds so he could pass. I mean jeeze, some people need to chill the hell out. I would say that you would have been in the wrong had you not been visible or been on a super busy A road. Like Maria said, write to your council?
    I had someone yell at me too. I didn’t have anywhere to go as the road didn’t have a pavement at all but it was a very short stretch of road, probably half a mile, but the guy just went ballistic. Drivers think they own the roads. And there’s absolutely no reason to be aggressive or abusive. It’s just about patience.
    Anna @AnnaTheApple recently posted…Not panickingMy Profile

    1. Yes, I intend on writing an email to the council this evening. (I had to calm down first!)
      It’s so frustrating just how impatient drivers can be. Most of the time, their journey has not even been delayed by as much as a minute. Sorry to hear that you have been yelled at as well. It can turn into a very scary situation, and I dread to think what an angry driver’s driving style becomes as they surge off following a mad rant.

  6. It’s the beauty of having one of lowest council taxes, poorly maintained roads, paths and lack of street lighting.

    I’ve not encountered this as a runner but it’s why I stopped cycling. I was always so scared of the impatient drivers. I’m having to re think my running routes now it’s getting darker. I used run around the Embankment but there’s not any lighting (but overhanging brambles).

    1. Yes, the back end of the Embankment becomes rather dark. You can pick up some decent running headtorches for about £15. I can’t believe how dark it is by 7:30pm now already. :(
      If you are after some new routes, I run all the time around Wellingborough and usually have my Garmin on, so they will be on my Strava. https://www.strava.com/athletes/4288797 I’m a proper Garmin/Strava stalker for new route ideas!

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