(EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog was submitted on Sept. 21, the last day of summer in 2012.)
A sunny, summer morning is a wonderful time for a runner. Outside with the clear blue skies opening up between the canopies of bright green leafed trees, a runner can feel free to enjoy the sounds of birds, the whisper of the morning wind, even the smell of the dew on the grass.
It's these wonderful moments that runners live for, full of life and energy and excitement. Luckily for those of us in Sudbury, there are a myriad of sidewalks and paths to take advantage of on these beautiful days. And although it would seem having well maintained sidewalks would be a wonderful thing for a family oriented town, I would suggest it's also a risky proposition to walk or run on our town's sidewalks when you have to cross a street.
This summer, I returned from Afghanistan and was relishing the beauty and serenity of a quick run on our sidewalks. But more often than not, my runs would be interrupted by near misses with vehicles when I crossed the streets in town.
Take for example one morning crossing Hudson Road. I had stopped on the sidewalk at a the crosswalk, and two polite commuters stopped their vehicles for me. Nearly half way across, a van came around the bend and thinking the car stopped to turn, decided to go around and nearly hit me in the crosswalk. Thankfully, he recently had his brakes checked. I admit, maybe I should have taken more precautions. After all, as a 6-foot runner wearing a fluorescent yellow running top, I was probably too hard to see in the crosswalk on that sunny day.
Another morning I was in a crosswalk on my morning run and encountered a very distracted driver. He was looking the other way while talking on his cell phone at his ear, while steering with the hand that held his cream-cheese laden bagel. He breezed right through a stop sign, over the crosswalk and turned onto the road. He barely noticed that I literally leapt back about three feet to avoid being run over. I noticed his breakfast, how could he not notice me? I hope the meeting he was late for was important.
These examples are just two of literally dozens over this past summer and I have come to realize just how much courage was necessary to cross a street in Sudbury. I used to run 35-40 miles a week in Sudbury, now I choose to only run occassionally on the weekends here in town. I was begrudgingly willing to accept this reality until an experience with my kids and my dogs.
This past weekend on a family walk, we had to cross a street to get to one of the many wonderful trails we have here in town. We entered the crosswalk with no observable traffic and were in the middle of it when a vehicle came around the bend in the road. Rather than slow down, or better yet stop, the driver started to veer around us, maintaining her speed. She crossed a no-passing line into the oncoming lane, presuming we’d be on her side of the road by the time she passed us.
In the spirit of that great American film "Network," I was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore. As my wife, daughters and dogs sprinted across the street to avoid her, I stood firmly planted in front of the vehicles path. I've stared down Taliban fighters, I have no fear staring down a careless, even dangerous, driver. The brakes screeched the vehicle to a stop, she displayed the universal symbol of peace, and then peeled out after I continued walking to the other side of the street.
I only hope that after her road rage subsides, she'll realize that it could have ended differently. One of my daughters might have tripped and fallen, not able to get out of the way of the car. One of my young dogs might have bolted back to the other side of the road. My wife might have even dropped something on the road and crouched to pick it up. Any of those scenarios could have ended very badly for that driver, but worse for one of my family.
It takes courage to cross the street here in Sudbury, it shouldn't have to be that way.