Safety, Safety, Safety

There was no question what I was going to blog about today.  In fact, I usually catch up my blog reading before I start writing, but not today.  Last night there was a tragedy in Dallas, and it is weighing on me.

Here's the article from the Dallas Morning News:

Dallas woman critically injured when bicycle hits her on Katy Trail

11:08 AM CDT on Friday, October 1, 2010

By TOM BENNING / The Dallas Morning News

A 28-year-old jogger was critically injured Thursday evening when she was struck by a bicyclist on the Katy Trail, police said.

The accident happened shortly before 7 p.m. in the 3100 block of Routh Street, near Cedar Springs Road and Turtle Creek Boulevard in Oak Lawn.

The woman, identified as Lauren Huddleston of Dallas, was jogging south on the trail when she abruptly turned left as the biker attempted to pass her, witnesses told police.

Police said she was wearing headphones and may not have heard the bicycle approaching.

Huddleston was taken to Baylor University Medical Center. At 11 a.m., a hospital spokeswoman said she remains in critical condition there.

The biker was also taken to Baylor with injuries that were not life-threatening.

There are two paths on the Katy Trail where the collision happened, one for pedestrians and another for everyone. It appears that Huddleston was jogging on the concrete path shared by cyclists and runners.

"There were a ton of people out," said Julie Hasselblad, who didn't see the accident but was on the trail Thursday night.

Royce Medlin, who frequently bikes on the trail, said the crash was no surprise to him, given how popular the paths have become.

"It's really important to slow down when you see a big crowd of people coming up," said Medlin, who lives in the Park Cities. "It's tough to gauge your speed on a bicycle, so I can see how there could be problems."

Other biker and joggers said recent cool weather has brought out large crowds, especially in the evenings.

As a runner who frequently runs on bike-infested paths (particularly around White Rock Lake), this just really hit home.  I have also run the Katy Trail before, though I do not train there.  But all the main paths in and around Dallas are crowded this time of year - temperatures cooling and fall race season ramping up.

Runners and walkers -
Please, please, please be aware of your surroundings.  If you insist on music, keep it at a reasonable volume, or run with only one earphone.  Do not forget to continue to look around and be aware... especially when you are turning.  And it's not only music, but walking/running in a large group where you are all chatting can be distracting too (trust me, I know, I love being a chatty Cathy while I run).  Just stay aware.  And if you know there are bikes sharing the path, stay to the edge... don't jog 3 people across the whole lane. 

And please, wear some ID.  I have heard via a jogger who was on the trail when this happened, that they couldn't find any ID on Lauren.  Put your Driver's License in your pocket.  Or better yet, buy a Road ID (I have a link on my right sidebar).  This allows you to just have basic info on the bracelet, but medical personal can pull up your history and doctors and allergies.  These things are priceless in a situation like this. 

Bikers -
Please slow down when you see a group of joggers/walkers.  I know you have as much right to the pavement and want to get your training in too, but on crowded trails, I'm just not sure it's worth the possible tragedies that could occur.  I know I have been passed by reckless cyclists before, but I must say that for the most part, they are fairly considerate and shout an appropriate "on your left".

Other safety notes not directly related to this incident -
- Common sense - check your shoe laces, make sure you are familiar with your route, let someone know where you'll be running, make sure you're running against traffic if on a street, watch out for cracks and bumps and branches.
- Make sure you are visible.  Bright colored clothing or white if it's early morning or dusk.  Reflective-wear if it's dark.
- If you can avoid it, don't run alone at night. (I carry pepper spray the few times I run solo in the dark.)
- Don't assume those around you are paying attention - including bicycles and cars and even other runners.

(On a briefly humorous note to lighten the mood just a little, when googling for runner safety tips - a tip for dealing with black bears and another for dealing with landmines came up.  Really???  Sorry, the Dallas trails aren't THAT adventurous.)