Jogger Prefers to Use Street
On Wednesday, July 14, at 5:45 a.m., a D.C. police officer stopped me while I was running east on Garfield Street past the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Garfield Street. Master Patrol Officer James E. Greene II used a loudspeaker to speak with me and indicate that I should stop. When I walked over to his patrol car to ask what was wrong, he told me that pedestrians must stay on the sidewalk.
I asked Officer Greene what I should do in the case of encountering streets without sidewalks. On my run through largely residential neighborhoods in the District, there are streets that do not have sidewalks (Belt Road, for instance). Officer Greene replied that he did not know and that he would be unable to make a judgment of legality unless he saw exactly what street I was talking about.
While I understand that there is probably a law on the books stating that pedestrians must remain on the sidewalk in the District of Columbia, I find it difficult to believe that an officer would follow and stop me for this infringement, especially in a largely residential area with minimal car traffic in the wee hours of the morning.
I wonder if there are not more important violations to which the officer should be attending: For instance, I have witnessed hundreds of vehicles, including patrol cars, passing through crosswalks while pedestrians are crossing or attempting to cross. On my early-morning runs, I have also seen numerous vehicles run red lights and stop signs. In fact, I frequently witness patrol cars running red lights and speeding without any indication (flashing lights and sirens) that they are doing so in the pursuit of a possible offender.
For my own safety and out of consideration for vehicular traffic, I run on the sidewalk on well-traveled roads such as Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. However, I tend to run in the road in quiet, residential areas for two main reasons: asphalt is much more forgiving on joints than concrete, and sidewalks are often less even and less open than road surfaces in residential areas. I wear a flashing red light and light-colored clothing to be visible to cars. Moreover, I often step onto the sidewalk when there is oncoming traffic on a side street.
But when there are no cars, I favor the road over the sidewalk. After years of running in the very early morning, I have found that vehicular traffic in residential areas is minimal; this is especially true of my neighborhood, Glover Park.