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I live in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. It is a very active community and we have bike lanes on most of the main thoroughfares. When I run or just drive through town I notice quite a few runners will run in the bike lane (the painted lane on the right side of the road with the bicycle images) instead of the sidewalk that runs parallel to the road. Aren't bike lanes for bikes and sidewalks for people? Why would someone choose to run on the road where cars zip by just a few feet from you and the bikers must ride around you instead of the much safer sidewalk that is right next to the bike lane. This practice seems even more crazier when it is on the buiser roads. I have actually even seen runners with their dogs or parents with strollers in the bike lane too. Isn't it much safer and easier to run around a pedestrian than to be in the same lane as the bikers and cars? Maybe I am missing something but why do people choose to run in the bike lane instead of the sidewalk?
For me personally, I tend to run in the street as opposed to the sidewalk because of the difference surfaces. Running on pavement can be more forgiving on your legs and knees than running on sidewalks. Subtle difference in hardness I’m sure, but let’s face it; runners are weird. I try not to run in the bike lane, but it’s nice to use as a buffer from vehicle traffic while running in the shoulder. As for the dogs and the strollers.. I have no idea.. Ha
Technically, at least in California, it is not legal for pedestrians (including runners) to use a bike lane if there is a sidewalk available. Per the the CA Vehicle Code:
"21966. No pedestrian shall proceed along a bicycle path or lane where there is an adjacent adequate pedestrian facility."
That said, I've never seen the rule enforced, especially in residential areas.
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As crazy as it may seem, over the long run it is much better on your joints. The slightly softer blacktop is far less deleterious to your joints than concrete. That said, I wouldn't advise anyone do it due to the obvious danger involved (though I didn't know it was illegal, as crl pointed out). Funny, riding a bike on a sidewalk is illegal, as is running in a bike lane. Go figure.
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I'm at risk of exposing myself as a nerdy Engineer, but here goes. Concrete is the absolute worst thing you could run on. Basically it is just rocks held together with glue (cement) so you are essentially running on rock. Strange as it may sound, asphalt can actually be considered a fluid. It's a very hard fluid, but it actually moves and does have a little give to it. It's why roads will get wheel tracks in them over time in an asphalt road but not a concrete road.
There is strong opinion/research that surface doesn't matter. According to Dr. Daniel E. Lieberman (noted barefoot running researcher at Harvard):
What about surface hardness? Our ancestors didn’t run on pavement.
A common perception is that running on hard surfaces causes injuries, but runners typically adjust leg stiffness so they experience the similar impact forces on soft and hard surfaces. Further, forefoot and some midfoot strikers hit the ground in a way that generates almost no collision forces even on hard surfaces like steel. You can run barefoot and heel strike on a soft beach or lawn, but most natural surfaces are much harder and rougher. With proper forefoot or midfoot strike form, running on hard, rough surfaces can be comfortable and safe.
(See the first and sixth questions at http://www.barefootrunning.fas.harvard.edu/6FAQ.html)
Yes, asphalt is softer - try to drive a nail into concrete, then into asphalt. Actually, do that the other way around. You'll probably bend the nail trying to drive it into concrete. But there's no evidence that running on concrete causes injuries. I've done a fair percentage of my running on sidewalks for many years. My running injuries can easily be counted on the fingers of one hand (don't even need the thumb) and they've all been minor.
I think the relative hardness of asphalt versus concrete is not the reason, as there is very little perceptable difference. Just as road cyclists would rather ride along a road (bike path or no) instaed of a multi-user trail, runners would rather run on the road instead of the sidewalk. Why? Less obstructions. Consider a sidewalk: pedestrians, people coming out of stores (urban area), cars pulling out of driveways and parking lots, the change in the sidewalk for said driveways, your relative speed compared to other sidewalk users and being seen by drivers pulling across the sidewalk. Running along the street, in a abike path or not, has a lot fewer of these obstacles/challenges and you tend to be much more visible to cars.
Thanks for the info from Lieberman. I hadn't seen that specific info.
I read the summary of a study a few years ago that I found fascinating. I wish I could find it aqain - but I've looked and looked and I can't.
The study asked subjects to jump off of a platform onto different colored mats. They told the subjects the different mats were of differing firmness - some were soft and others were hard. And they measured (somehow) the forces going through the legs upon landing and looked at how the people landed when landing on these different colored mats. That catch (which they obviously didn't tell the subjects) was that in reality the mats were all the same firmness. When someone jumped onto a mat they THOUGHT was soft they had higher forces/impact go through their legs than when they THOUGHT they were landing on a firm mat. When they thought there wasn't much cushioning their entire body adapted to absorb the impact.
I'm not saying people necessarily land differently on concrete vs asphalt. My guess is people don't perceive the concrete/asphalt diff as being that significant. I am saying (based on the study) that our brain has our body do different things based on what we think is in our environment. (This can be the basis for why some believe barefoot running is advantageous - our brain forces us to deal with the fact there is nothing on the foot.)
But just because there is a scientific and provable difference in firmness between concrete and asphalt doesn't necessarily mean that difference has a causal effect re: injury rates.
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Lieberman's research seems to be the scientific foundation for a lot of the discussion about the benefits of barefoot running and comparisons to shod running. I think I have seen the study you're referring to, but I don't know where either. I do remember that basic idea though. I find a lot of info and references on "The Science of Sport" web site. http://www.sportsscientists.com/2008/01/featured-series-on-science-of-sport.html
Here is the definitive answer (all other's ideas and opinions are subordinate to mine, or just plain wrong ): Because it is faster, smoother, and softer. Sidewalks have tree humps, ingress and egress downslopes, grannies pushing their walkers, and mommies pushing their babies. Bike lanes have bikes coming up behind you that can maneuver around you. When there isn't a bike lane, I run in the street facing traffic; and I live in California and have never seen a cop even blink an eye at me running in the street.
Uneven slabs are what keep me off most sidewalks. The times I have tripped and fallen have been because of slabs sticking up. OTOH, there are streets that are much too busy and I will (carefully) run on sidewalks then.