4 Rules of the Road for Runners and Walkers

Posted By: Tony Baratta | December 11th, 2014

I have recently renewed a love affair with running.  Unfortunately, this requires braving the roads of Bucks County often times in the dark of the early morning.  My wife and her friends are dedicated walkers.  What are the rules of the road for us?

Did you know that where a sidewalk is provided and its use is practical, it is “unlawful” for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway?  Did you know that if you are running/walking on a two lane road, you should walk only on the left side of the road?  Did you know that if you are running/walking in the street, you must yield the right of way to vehicles on the road? 1 In addition, if you’ve enjoyed too many cocktails at the neighborhood Christmas party, it is unlawful to walk home on anything other than a sidewalk.2 

When on sidewalks, though, pedestrians trump vehicles.  Any driver emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance road or driveway.3  Also,  when backing up across a sidewalk, a driver must exercise even greater care than usual to ensure the safety of persons who may be walking. 

Of course pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks but pedestrians must yield to vehicles when not in crosswalks.

And, as a warning to all of those ubiquitous Penn State students who solicit drivers to put change in their coffee cans, the law is that “no person shall stand on the roadway for purpose of soliciting …contributions from the occupant of any vehicle.”

In short, sidewalks are meant for pedestrians and the roadway for cars.  Logical, right?  But any runner and walker knows these rules are completely impractical.  Sidewalks are often uneven and cracked creating many potential tripping hazards, making them even more dangerous than the roads.   So, here are my “4 Rules of the Road” to help keep you safe:

1. Run or walk against or facing oncoming traffic.  You need to see what is coming at you.  You cannot trust that a driver is going to see you.  A driver may be distracted by a cell phone or vision may be impaired by sun glare or the headlights of oncoming vehicles.  The best way to ensure that a driver will not endanger you is to see how the vehicle is approaching.

2. Don’t assume that a driver has seen you.  Stop running to allow vehicles to turn in front of you or come out of a driveway, intersection or parking space.  Make eye contact with the driver and make sure you have been seen before proceeding.  In short, pretend you are invisible until you know you’ve been seen.

3. If you run or walk in the dark, where brightly colored clothing.

4. Don’t wear headsets.  If you do, you will not be able to hear horns, cyclists or even the footsteps of someone coming up behind you.  If you are going to use the roadway, which is designed for vehicles, you must keep your eyes and ears alert for potential danger.

At BRB we have represented many terribly injured pedestrians.  Hopefully, these safety tips can help you avoid needing our help.


1 PA Vehicle Code Section 3544
2 PA Vehicle Code Section 3550
3 PA Vehicle Code Section 3547
4 PA Vehicle Code Sections 3542 and 3543
5 PA Vehicle Code Section 3545

About the Author

Anthony J. Baratta (Tony) is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 50 cases to Juries in State and Federal Courts and has litigated thousands of personal injury and medical malpractice cases in his 30-year career. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and an active board member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). Tony is also on the board for the Philadelphia VIP and performs pro bono work for the Laurel House, a non-profit for victims of domestic abuse. In addition, Tony is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys, voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers for the past 14 years, and a 2018 recipient of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Award for the Civil Trial Division.

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