Walking Safely on Roads

Walking in the woodsHow to stay alive while walking on a road without a pavement and other rants...

I'm a cyclist, both roadie and mountain biking and I'm a car driver and a walker so I suppose this is more 'guidelines for surviving in the countryside' and attempting to get other people to stay alive too. I live in the countryside, in the Chilterns to be precise, I walk my dogs in the woods and along the footpaths and I cycle both on and off road.  All this is from personal experience. Most of these 'rants' are relevant for towns and cities too,  I will apologise before I begin but just have to get this off my chest.  There is a separate rant about Cycling Safely on the Road

None of this is rocket science, it's just basic common sense and a lot of it is in the Highway Code so why are there so many idiots out there with a death wish?  Think about it, humans are made from flesh, blood and bone; cars, buses, trucks and vans are a lot harder, go a lot faster and really hurt when you hit them or they hit you, as a human you are ALWAYS going to come off worse so make sure this doesn't happen.

How to stay alive while walking on the road

Walk on the wrong side of the road - by this I mean walk towards on-coming traffic rather than with the traffic and wear fluorescent colours with reflector strips are at the very least white, yes, whatever the weather and especially if it's a bright sunny day or dark.  Why?

  • you can see cars, bikes, motorbikes, trucks, whatever coming towards you and if they are coming straight at you then you can attempt to get out of their way.  Even if this involves diving into a hedgerow of nettles and brambles, you'll be stung and scratched but alive.
  • Wear really bright colours, preferably fluorescent and reflective stuff, as much as you can, you may look stupid but it's not cool to be dead.  You have to go out there with the mental attitude that every other road user is out to kill you and it's up to you to make sure that they are so aware that you are there, in their face, in their road, that they see you from a long way off and go round you safely.
  • If you are stupid enough to wear black or other dark colours because 'it's cool' then at least they can see your face, OK, this is a major drawback if you're dark skinned, then you'll just have to be uncool and wear bright colours but at least your eyes should be seen - so don't wear a cap or hood pulled down and don't walk along looking at your phone or playing with your iPod.  If you are walking 'with' the traffic and wearing dark colours you have no chance as you will blend with the road and drivers will not see you or realise you are there until they hear a 'thud'.  You will not see them either as you have your back to them.
  • Do not wear khaki, green or any colour that looks like tarmac, hedgerows or trees.  Why?  Seriously, I have to answer this one?....because you will blend beautifully with your environment and be effectively camouflaged.  You don't want to be camouflaged because other drivers will not see you, see above.
  • Turn your iPod or MP3 player OFF.  How can you hear a car coming if you have Biffy Clyro on full blast?  You are in a very unsafe environment and you need all your senses about you focussing on trying to stay alive.  Eyes - looking in the direction the traffic is coming so you know when you're in danger, Ears - hearing if anything is coming up behind you that may be on your side of the road or even if you're on a bend you may hear motorists coming in front so you can get of the way if necessary, Touch - to turn off your iPod/MP3 player/phone/whatever, Voice - to tell your friends that you are walking in a road and you need to focus, Taste - OK maybe we'll forget about that one, you should not be eating a doner kebab while staggering down an unlit country road late at night, very bad idea.
  • When walking down a country road pushing a buggy make sure you do ALL the above, no, it's not safer to push the buggy on the same side as the road as the traffic on the basis that a car will hit you first rather than the buggy, if you are facing the traffic you may have time to avoid any incidents and at least 'throw' the buggy (with the child strapped in) into the road side or hedgerow, if you get hit from behind you have no idea what's coming.  Also it's no good having loads of bright colours on a buggy if you're walking on the same side of the road as the traffic and you're wearing dark green and khaki because NO ONE will see you - Oh, yes, seen this one, yelled at the idiot Father pushing the buggy from the car window.
  • Think about cyclist, you can't hear them coming up on you from behind, OK they may not hurt as much when they hit you but if they are cycling at speed they can do you some real damage, and themselves, especially if they're clipped into the pedals, back to wearing bright clothes and walking towards the traffic.  You will jump a mile if a cyclist overtakes you and don't see them because you're on the wrong side of the road.
  • Read the Highway Code and do what it suggests.
  • Stay alive and safe