Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Scary News

So I know I'm somewhat unique among runners in my safety-consciousness, but hearing this news broke my heart.  Last week (about 6 hours after we flew to MSP), there was a bad accident on the running trail that is about a quarter mile from our house involving a runner.  I run home from this trail every single Wednesday after camp, many Fridays, and do many other runs during the week on it as well. 

At first, all we heard was that a jogger had died after an accident.  The trail is only 3.5 miles from top to bottom (so 7 if you run back to your starting point), and the greatest features of the trail are that you only cross 2 streets, both north of our exit (so in the top mile of the trail), and that much of the trail is divided into separate paths for pedestrians and those with wheels under them (and the running trail is asphalt instead of concrete, which is nicer on your knees).  However, when you get to a bridge over a road, sometimes the separate paths combine. 

Anyway, when we heard it was an accident, hubby and I both guessed that a runner had been hit by a car at the busier of the 2 streets you cross, the one closer to our house.  We were so wrong: 
Katy Trail Jogger Dies after Accident

Published : Monday, 04 Oct 2010, 3:56 PM CDT
DALLAS - The woman who was hit by a bicycle last week while she was jogging on the Katy Trail in Dallas has died.
According to police reports, 28-year-old Lauren Huddleston abruptly turned left just as a woman on a bike tried to pass her.
Witnesses told police Huddleston had been wearing headphones and likely didn't hear the bicyclist. The two collided near Cedar Springs Road and Turtle Creek Boulevard.
Huddleston suffered a severe head injury. She died Sunday night.
The woman on the bicycle was not seriously injured and police said she will likely not face any charges.
Huddleston's family members said they are not angry about the accident.
"We can talk all we want about physical changes that could be made to a trail or area that those people share. But there will never be a substitute for somebody's best judgment and awareness of safety issues," said Charles Townsend, Huddleston's brother.
Huddleston grew up in the Dallas area and graduated from Highland Park High School in 2000. She later graduated from the University of Texas.
She liked to exercise and jogged the Katy Trail weekly, family members said.
Becoming an organ donor was something Huddleston's family said she wanted. She even brought it to their attention when her grandmother passed away a few months ago.
A memorial service for her will be held Thursday at First United Methodist Church in Dallas.
Who would have thought that could kill you?  The thing is, since there are no cars, you run on the right side of the trail at all times, and the pedestrian trail is on the east side of the trail.  So if you're running south, you run with the bike trail on your right.  So when you get to a bridge, to be on the right side of the single mixed-use trail, you have to cross in front of any oncoming bicyclists, and then after the bridge cross back to get on the pedestrian trail.  I've never seen this be an issue. 

But clearly the problem here was the headphones (the biker's speed was also likely an issue, and I don't think anyone should bike fast on a trail used by pedestrians, children and pets, but all you can control is yourself, and for the runner the only safer things she could have done were to have signaled her movement and not worn headphones).  I almost never wear them when I run for several reasons -- largely perhaps because I run mostly with friends (so we talk and run), but also because I run on streets and it makes me nervous not to hear a car approaching.  But the only 2 occasions where I might wear an ipod are (1) during a closed course race with no spectators (like a local running club's 5 mile race) (I'd never wear them in a marathon b/c too many people need to (or want to) communicate with you and it's sad for the spectators cheering not to think you're listening to them), or (2) on this trail -- because there's no risk of being hit by a car.  I'm good about keeping the volume very low when I use an ipod on this trail, so low I can't hear the song well, but I always hear people approach behind me, or things people say -- I can overhear conversations of people I pass, so I know I'd hear a biker say "on your left."  But wow, even for people who run with loud music, you'd just never expect that this could happen. 

It's incredibly sad.  Carina's list of running safety tips:
  • Always run facing traffic when you run in the street
  • Never wear headphones
  • Consider a code-word if you run with another person (ours is a number you can use in conversation, and indicates that something or someone is out of place and/or potentially dangerous, so open your eyes)
  • Always be aware of your surroundings
  • Never wear all black clothing
  • Use those hand/arm signals we learned in driver's ed when there are others and you're making a turn or coming to a stop (I will put up my arm when stopping and tend to more point to the direction I'm turning, but same idea, anyone approaching will know I'm about to do something other than keep running straight ahead)

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