Apparently, exercising can now get you arrested. Late last month, authorities ticketed author Peter Shankman for jogging in Central Park after hours. Around the same time, a video also went viral of police in Austin, Texas, arresting runner Amanda Jo Stephen for jaywalking and failing to present identification.
Here’s what you need to know to finish your next run happy and out of handcuffs.
Take your ID with you. When leaving for a run, you usually grab a few trusty items. Water? Check. Phone and earbuds? Double check. But your birth certificate or driver’s license? No way. And that needs to change. An officer issuing a pedestrian ticket can require identification, says Bob Mionske, a lawyer focused on bicycle law and the author of Road Rights. While your Road ID might help you out of a sticky situation, don't rely on it to substitute for your legal ID.
Sidewalks aren’t spitoons. Before you let your phlegm fly during mile three, remember that most U.S. states consider public spitting a minor crime. In Florida, police arrested a 29-year-old man for ridding himself of some "accumulated saliva" while he walked in his neighborhood with a friend. Laws initially created to stop the spread of TB are now legal leftovers that police can apply at their discretion.
Stay the path. Pedestrians have the right-of-way within crosswalks when the “Walk” sign is lit—but not when an emergency vehicle barrels through or the “Don’t Walk” countdown begins. In fact, New York City fined a pedestrian $197 when he stepped off the curb as the “Don’t Walk” sign flashed. Should a sidewalk exist, remember to use it. If not, take to the road's shoulder, stay as far from moving vehicles as possible, and run facing traffic.
Head in the correct direction. Sidewalks operate like roads—stay to the right, but pass on the left. Mionske says that stepping off the sidewalk and onto the road is considered jaywalking and can result in tickets, fines, or even arrest.
Keep closing times in mind. Just because you can get going at the crack of dawn or pound pavement in the dead of night doesn’t mean you’re allowed to. Most parks and schools have curfew limits, making them off-limits from about midnight to 5 a.m. You don’t necessarily have to be home before the streetlights come on, but review your local laws to avoid fines as high as $500 and other run-ins with the law.