The answer to the question in the title is obvious, isn’t it? The car or truck or two-wheeler that sideswipes you or hits you when you are running on the roads of Mumbai or any other city in India is obviously responsible. They should have been more careful, looked out for you when you were running on the roads, made sure they could see you and ensured that they did not run into you or hit you or injure you or kill you.
Except, this is India…the land that wants to be a developed society in 24 years, but has no control over how people ride and drive throughout its length and breadth. So people break signals with alacrity, ride and drive on the wrong side of the road with abandon and couldn’t care less about pedestrians and cyclists, forget runners and walkers on the roads.
So, in a country like India, where you alone are responsible for your own safety, in every village, district, town or city, on pavements, if present, and on the roads, it makes no difference who is legally responsible when you are hit, injured or dead. Would you rather not be injured or dead, than be maimed or killed and then point fingers at those responsible to try and punish them? If you are dead, it probably doesn’t matter, because then it is no longer on you. But if you are injured, you will curse yourself for not being more careful and then spend 20-30 pointless years chasing for justice in our wannabe developed country where hardly any civil or for that matter, criminal case, sees fruition for at least the better part of two decades.
Which therefore means that you and only you are responsible, if you are injured or killed when running on the roads. And that further means that you are the one who has to take care and be alert for rogue cyclists, scooters, bikes, cars, buses and trucks, all the time.
What does that mean?
1. Run on pavements and not on roads. This is what those who don't run will tell you. And you have to say…”Yeah, right! Like there are runnable pavements in India.”
2. Run facing the traffic. I cannot imagine, why this simple fact is not obvious to 80% of runners and walkers, who insist on running or walking with their back to the traffic, their lives dependent on the whims and fancies of riders and drivers, who don't care about you, and so may not see you, or may come dangerously close, or as sometimes happens, just hit you and drive away. If you run facing the traffic, at least you know what is coming towards you and you have time to take evasive action, except of course when people drive on the wrong side and could still potentially injure you, though to their credit, these wrong-siders are usually slower and reasonably careful so as to avoid being hit by oncoming cars and trucks that are supposed to have right of way, and hence keep honking incessantly, giving you some warning that an idiot is behind or next to you.
3. Allow ambient sound through your earphones or headphones. I use my AirPods Pro because I need music while running. Even though the Noise Cancellation is on, the volume is adjusted so that I can still hear nearby sounds. You have to figure this out yourself, but your earphones or headphones should allow traffic and other ambient noise through. You have to be aware of your surroundings.
4. Be aware of your surroundings. This is not just about the sound and earphones. Unless you are on the beach, or a trail or a garden with no traffic, you have to be observant and alert and make sure you know what is happening around you at all times. This also means that you do not look at your watch or phone or other runners or walkers, or other interesting people in front of you or passing you by…and if you have to, then look around as little as possible. Also, using a smartwatch that can also call out during emergencies, helps you to leave your phone at home, which reduces the baggage you have to carry and makes it safer to run.
5. Be careful of dogs. While this piece is about cars and trucks and scooters, stray and leashed pet dogs are problems, too. They rarely bother you on the main roads, but suddenly become kings and emperors on the smaller roads, lording over their stretch of 100 metres. If you are a regular runner, they will know you and leave you alone, but if you are new or irregular, then they may come after you. The only thing you can do is not panic, slow down to a walk when you are a little distance away, not make eye contact and walk away without running until you are a safe distance from them. In places like Lonavala, where the strays hunt in packs, I carry a stick even while running and it helps, but there have been a couple of occasions, where I have run into neighboring cottages or societies and then taken the help of the security people, who always seem to know these dogs, to get past them. Leashed pet dogs are also a problem, most of them badly trained, believing it is their right to snap at you. You have to often shout at the dog walkers, who are usually not the owners, but manservants or maidservants appointed to take the dogs out for their morning or evening walks, and who don't really care what the dogs are up to, as long as they can carry on their conversations on their phones or look at WhatsApp or whatever it is they do with their phones…why the owners can't take care of their dogs themselves is another topic for future discussion.
In short, since we want to keep running, we need to take care of ourselves when running and avoid being injured or killed. We can’t run on pavements, because that is an oxymoron. All we can do is be careful, and run facing the traffic. Repeat after me…"I will run facing the traffic", which in India means, “I will run on the right side of the road”.
I did a saner version of this subject in March at atmasvasth.
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