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Do I Have to Run on the Sidewalk?

I usually run in the road, even when there’s a sidewalk along my route. I like to run on asphalt because it feels better on my legs than the concrete sidewalks in my neighborhood, but is it illegal to run on the road if there’s a sidewalk?

Legal or illegal? (Photo: decisiveimages/Thinkstock)

Your question is tricky to answer. Each state sets its own pedestrian codes, and cities can further modify those codes as they see fit. North Carolina and Washington forbid walking on the roadway when there is a sidewalk available, for example, but California does not. You’ll have to check your state and/or city’s vehicle code to see what’s legal on your run route.

That said, the law almost universally states that when a pedestrian is in the road, he must be as far to the left-hand side of the pavement as possible. In other words, you must be facing traffic. But even that law isn’t set in stone. In California, for instance, you can run on the right-hand side of the road if there’s no safe means of crossing the road to run on the left side.

Which brings us to our final point. “There’s always going to be some discretion left to law enforcement,” says Mark Vallianatos, an instructor on Urban and Environmental Policy at Occidental College, and committee member of Los Angeles Walks, a non-profit dedicated to making the car-centric city more pedestrian friendly. Ultimately, it’ll be the person behind the badge who decides if your road-running practices are legit or offensive.

Would you run on the road if there were a sidewalk available?

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Lead Photo: decisiveimages/Thinkstock