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Road runners urged to take caution
Pedestrians urged to use sidewalks when able, avoid distractions
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Exercise and sunlight aren’t discouraged but running along roadways is, Gainesville police are reminding residents.

Gainesville Police Department spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook said law enforcement was prompted to remind runners to use sidewalks as reports of dangerously close interactions between cars and pedestrians increased.

“Recently, we’ve noticed an increase in pedestrian traffic in the downtown area,” he said. “Of course, we are an active city and we do promote active lifestyles. However we want individuals to be safe in doing so.”

It’s a typical pattern for this time of year, with long days and beautiful weather enticing outdoor recreation.

“Typically as the seasons change, of course there will be recreational activities with the summer approaching. People are using that time to get out, be more active,” Holbrook said.

But it’s important, Holbrook said, to properly share the road with drivers. And often when it comes to misconceptions as to what is and isn’t law, it’s pedestrians who are overzealous in their assumptions about rights-of-way for foot traffic.

Holbrook cited Georgia code, which establishes a clear rule for use: “Where a sidewalk is provided, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to stand or stride along and upon an adjacent roadway unless there is no motor vehicle traveling within 1,000 feet of such pedestrian on such roadway or the available sidewalk presents an imminent threat of bodily injury to such pedestrian.”

Additionally, it states that “any pedestrian upon a roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the highway.” 

Other police suggestions aren’t written in stone, but are strongly advised to reduce risk.

“Many of the pedestrians we see are utilizing their cellphones, their iPads and iPods. They have ear buds in, so they’re not necessarily listening for traffic. They’re being distracted,” Holbrook said. “That’s something we don’t encourage, especially when out on public roadways, streets and sidewalks.”

“We live in a world of technology, and in today’s age it’s important we use that technology in a safe manner. Distractions are all around us, and it’s important to not let those distractions, such as mobile devices, get in the way of your safety.”

And even a vigilant patrol officer isn’t immune to the danger: Dashcam video captured a May 15 incident in Snellville in which a police officer hit a jaywalking teen who had darted across the roadway shortly after the officer made a right turn. The officer hit the brakes, and fortunately, the teen was only bruised. But the incident served to highlight the importance of quick reaction times for drivers and observance of traffic laws for pedestrians.

For drivers, there are some limits to distraction set by law. Texting and driving is illegal, and it is also illegal to have headphones in both ears.

Holbrook noted that in one recent collision in April between a bicyclist and a train in South Hall, the rider was wearing headphones. Evan Cashin, 23-year-old Flowery Branch man, was struck on the railroad tracks in the Bell Drive area off McEver Road in Flowery Branch. Norfolk Southern is investigating the incident.

Holbrook said that accidents recently investigated by police between vehicle and pedestrian have been minor.

“We’ve been very fortunate that none of those recently have been serious in nature — no serious injury or fatality,” he said.

Ultimately he said, the purpose in bringing up the laws and safety tips are to be more effective in their injury prevention of residents.

“We’d much rather be proactive than reactive,” he said.