One of our goals at the Huffines Institute is to encourage activity. But we also encourage common sense when you exercise. I don’t know if it is the time of the year (spring), a lack of proper guidance by society, or just youthful beliefs of invincibility, but the general lack of concern for their own basic safety that I’ve seen exhibited recently by runners, pedestrians, or bicyclists gives me pause. Perhaps I’m getting older and realize that trusting drivers of automobiles to have supernatural reflexes at all times is not a safe bet, or perhaps the events of this week – including the A&M Consol student who tried to run across a crosswalk on Harvey Mitchell and was hit by a car that was already in the intersection – have made me more reflective of how short our lives can suddenly become. Given that the victims of the two biggest tragedies of the week really had no control of what happened to them, how much more tragic is it when a victim actually has control and decides to take a risk that results in harm to him/herself and the drivers of the automobile? “Aww…” you say “these things rarely happen.” True enough – and probably that truth is reflective of the generally good driving skills of most people.
However, in the past week, I’ve observed:
• a junior high school student riding his bicycle into traffic (on the left side of the street) with ear-phones in his ears. This same student rode through an intersection without looking, barely missing a car that had already started through the intersection;
• a high school student walking on the shoulder of Harvey Mitchell toward A&M Consolidated with her back to traffic (i.e. walking on right side of road), with headphones;
• a college student on a bicycle jump a sidewalk into and across traffic on Holleman Rd. Again, had headphones on and didn’t look before charging across the street;
• a bicyclist (full-headgear, no headphones!) riding against traffic down Wellborn.
Here were four potential tragedies, all prevented by great awareness and quick reflexes on the part of drivers. But what amazing risk on the part of the exercisers because they didn’t think they needed to take elementary safety precautions. If something would have happened in any of these four situations, we would have all be upset and moaned about a ‘life taken too soon’. But in the end, while sad, all of us – once we are old enough to be turned loose on the streets without supervision - have a responsibility to act…well…’responsibly’. And as old-fashioned, boring, and un-cool as it may seem, following basic common sense rules when we are out and about exercising can actually prolong your life.
So, just in case you’ve never heard these, or need to pass them onto a friend, here are just a few things to remember when you are exercising:
1) When on the street, whether walking, running, biking, or driving, don’t ever wear headphones/earbuds. Hearing is the fastest sense you have (yes, even faster than sight), so don’t muffle one of the most important senses you have that may keep you alive!
2) When walking or running, walk on the side of the street so that you are facing traffic (assuming there is no sidewalk – and if there is a sidewalk, for goodness sake, use it!). This way, the traffic that has the highest chance of hitting you will be coming toward you and you’ll be able to see it.
3) When bicycling, use the sidewalk if you are riding at less than 5-7 mph which is usually the speed of younger (5-10 years old) riders. Much faster than that on a sidewalk makes you a danger to the pedestrians on the sidewalk.
4) When bicycling, if you are riding faster than 7 mph – which most of us do – ride ‘with the traffic’. In other words, ride on the same side of the street as traffic that is going the same direction you are (remember, no headphones). Also, obey all the traffic signs. Blowing through a stop-sign because you are on a bicycle is a great way to get an express ride to the hospital.
Just because College Station/Bryan is in a bit of a ‘bubble’ as a friend of mine used to put it, doesn’t mean that old, boring, common-sense safety rules don’t apply here. Too often, just a little thought and application of ‘old and boring’ can make the difference between a great day and a tragic day.