Here are a few simple rules you'll need to keep in mind when walking on sidewalks and near busy streets and roads.
If there is no sidewalk where you’re walking, walk on the side of the road where you’ll be facing oncoming traffic. That means that if cars drive on the right side of the road, as they do in North America, you should walk on the left. That way you’ll be able to see cars headed toward you, and give you a chance to dive or dodge out of the way if necessary. If you’re a cyclist, though, you still need to ride in the same direction as traffic.
Cross the Street Safely
Always look both ways before you cross the street. If you’re at an intersection with stoplights, wait until the pedestrian crossing light turns on but you still need to look both ways before you step off the curb. Unfortunately, it's very common for drivers to run through yellow and red lights. Drivers and cyclists who have a green light can still turn across the pedestrian crossing, so watch out. Wave or make eye contact with drivers who may be turning to make sure they see you. It’s their job to watch out, but if there’s a collision between you and a car, the car won’t be the one to suffer any damage. Jaywalking (not using the designated crosswalks or crossing in the middle of the street) is a ticketable traffic offense as well as a safety hazard. Just avoid it.
Walk Single File
If you aren’t on a sidewalk or in a separate lane from vehicle traffic, you should walk in a single file line. This gives the vehicle traffic the widest berth possible, so they’ll be able to avoid you more easily. This is even more important on curvy, narrow roads, where a car might only have a second or two try and avoid running over you. Although it might be more comfortable to walk side-by-side, it isn’t safe.
Be Aware of Runners and Cyclists
You’ll need to share the road with runners and cyclists in addition to cars. Cyclists should alert you to their approach by yelling “passing on your left (or right)!” Keep your ears open and move over to allow them to pass safely. Runners should signal their approach similarly. Cyclists aren’t as much of a danger as cars, but they’re moving quickly and can still run over you causing broken bones or head injuries, so watch out.
Make Sure You’re Visible
If you’re walking during the day, wear bright colors so that you’re easy to see. At night, you should still wear bright colors, but you should also wear a reflective vest. Drivers don’t usually expect walkers to be out after dark, so you need to make sure they can see you. Be extra careful around dawn or dusk, as drivers may have the rising or setting sun in their eyes.
Make it a habit to walk on one side of the path or the other – don’t move randomly from one side to the other, or weave. Try to keep your arms by your sides, as wild arm gestures can have you accidentally hitting passing runners or cyclists.
Don’t Blast Music
Listening to an audiobook or some music while you’re out on a walk is certainly a pleasant experience, but it can be unsafe. Make sure it’s quiet enough that you can still maintain a safe level of awareness about your environment. You’ll need to hear sirens, bike bells, approaching cars, and “on your left!” callouts. It’s also better for your ears.
Put Your Phone Away
Texting or playing games like Pokemon Go on your phone while you walk is dangerous, just like it is when you’re driving. If you are distracted, you won’t be as aware of your environment. You could fail to notice danger from other traffic, not see other joggers and cyclists, or trip on something. Pickpockets and other criminals will see you as an easy target. Keep your phone in your pocket while walking, or at least stop somewhere safe to use your phone before you move on.
Keep Your Dogs on a Short Leash
Whether they’re on a leash or not, it is scary and sometimes tragic to see dogs run off into traffic or get into dog fights. When you walk your dog on a long leash, those things can happen, and they can also trip cyclists or walkers. Keep your dog and the people around you safe by keeping your dog on a leash, and by making sure that the leash is short enough to keep your dog under your control.
Don’t Overdo It
Although walking is a low impact activity it’s not completely without danger. Heat exhaustion and sickness (hyperthermia), heart attacks, strokes, and dehydration can occur with overexertion, no matter how old you are. Visit our Heat Emergencies section to reveiw the symptoms of these medical emergencies and always keep a cell phone on you while walking so that you can call 911. Even if you are an experienced walker, cut your walk short if you experience heat sickness symptoms, and encourage your friends to do the same.
Watch Out for Strangers
Street safety is important. When you walk, choose a route that is well-traveled by other walkers, joggers, and cyclists. If you see anyone or anything suspicious, change course and go into a store or public building to avoid danger. Stay alert to convince any potential criminals that you won’t be an easy target.
Special thanks to Ms. Rachel Martin's class who suggested we add this content to our website!
Wear a helmet (The user agreements recommend that you use a helmet)
Don’t operate under the influence
Wear proper footwear
Single rider only
Don’t carry items that might disturb balance
Be cautious of the terrain (potholes, uneven surface, slick surface…)
Be familiar with operation of the scooter
Obey all traffic laws
Yield to pedestrians
Use bike lanes where avail (if not avail use sidewalk cautiously)
City ordinance prohibits use of mobile devices
Avoid ALL distractions (headsets, conversations…)
Don’t hitch a ride on another vehicle
What we’re seeing:
Injuries that range from very minor to critical life threatening
Majority of critical injuries are head injuries
During months Sept – Nov 2018
165 scooter related calls
Average ~2/day (1.8/day)
Transports – 126; Refusals – 39
Avg age 32
Male – 97; Female – 68
Vaccs Facts is a weekly series of COVID-19 vaccine updates published by Austin Public Health. Please reference this page for updates every Tuesday.