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Health & Exercise Forum

Enjoy Outdoor Activities this Summer: Walk, Run, Bike Safely

Jun 13, 2016

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumLike many of you, I have always enjoyed the outdoors...walking, running, biking, hiking etc. However, recently, I have been more concerned about my safety, (getting older and more cautious) when doing these activities on the side of the road. Over the years, I have encountered several close calls while walking, running or biking on the road, especially while running into traffic and drivers quickly pull out to go right on red. Add to that, current drivers are being distracted by electronic devices.

Almost 15 percent of all motor vehicle injuries to people happened to those not in cars but while walking, running or biking on the side of the road. In fact, runners and walkers incurred over 70,000 injuries and 4,000 fatalities from accidents from motor vehicles according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These statistics continue to increase as the number of distractions to drivers increases (phone calls, texts, etc). Consequently, walkers, runners and cyclists must be more aware than ever to prevent injury or death from motor vehicles.

Five high risk factors for walkers, runners and cyclists:

  • After dark
  • At rush hour in high traffic
  • Walk or run “with” in the same direction as traffic (or against traffic if biking)
  • More than one other person exercising with you
  • Headphones

 “Runner’s World” offers the following recommendations:

Notify Someone: Be sure to communicate...leave a note at home about where you plan to go and how long you plan to be out. In an emergency you can be located.

Protection: If your route is in a high crime area, avoid dawn and dusk, carry self-defense spray, exercise with a partner, leave jewelry at home and vary your route and routine.

Identification: Carry proper ID, a cell phone and emergency contacts.

Be alert: Don’t assume a driver sees you. Instead, assume that the driver can’t see you.

Bike path etiquette: Walkers and runners should stay on the right side of the path and pass on the left. Be courteous when walking with a partner to leave the left lane of the path open for runners and bikers. Cyclists should use the left lane to pass and alert walkers and runners when passing.

Face traffic: Except for cyclists, walking and running “into” oncoming traffic is best. It’s easier to see, and react to, oncoming cars. And cars will see you more clearly too.

Share the road: If traffic gets heavy, or the road narrows, be prepared to move onto the sidewalk or shoulder of the road. When walking or running into traffic, stay as far left as possible. When biking, favor the far right side of the road.

Be Visible: Wear high-visibility, brightly colored clothing. When out at dawn or sunset, reflective materials are a must. A lightweight reflective vest is a great option. Use a headlamp or handheld light so you can see where you're going, and drivers can see you. The light should be a bright LED or blinking red as drivers see blinking red as a hazard.

Use your ears to be safe: Avoid using iPods or wearing headphones—you need to be able to hear approaching vehicles. If you do use headphones, do so with the volume low with just one earbud in.

Caution on the hills or curves: When they crest hills, drivers' vision can suddenly be impaired by factors like sun glare or backdrops.

Beware of high-risk areas: Be extra cautious in areas like entrances to parking lots, bars, and restaurants where there may be heavy traffic.

Watch for early birds and night owls: At odd hours be extra careful. Early in the morning and very late at night, people may be overtired and not as attentive.

Be Courteous: At a stop sign or light, wait for the driver to wave you through—then acknowledge with your own polite wave. That acknowledgement will make the driver feel more inclined to do it again for the next walker or runner. Use hand signals (as you would on a bicycle) to show which way you plan to turn.


  • Stay on the right and obey traffic rules.
  • Wear a helmet
  • Use hand signals when turning
  • Wear visible clothing and have reflectors on your bike
  • Carry a tire patch and first aid kit
  • Maintain your bike
  • Watch for pedestrians, parked cars, loose gravel, cracks and potholes.

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in the Scranton Times-Tribune.  

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.