Kathleen Wynne, the premier of Ontario, likes to run. Not just in the political sense, but literally, as in lacing up her sneakers and chugging through marathons.
She also runs through a political-party television commercial, and that’s what has me riled up this time around. Like far too many people, Wynne apparently doesn’t know which side of the road pedestrians are supposed to use.
It’s simple. When there are no sidewalks—as is the case in the commercial—you walk facing traffic. This lets you make eye contact with drivers, and also to watch what they’re doing. People tend to steer where they’re looking, and if they’re fixated on you, which often happens when someone’s walking up ahead, you can take evasive action.
If you’re walking with your back to vehicles, you have no idea what approaching drivers are doing. They could be yapping on the phone and not paying attention, for example. If there’s no paved shoulder and you’re right on the edge of the asphalt, and there’s a car coming in the opposite direction, drivers may panic and come very close to you. And if there’s a line of cars, drivers in behind may be confused if vehicles in front swing out to go around you.
In the commercial, Wynne makes everything worse when she crosses from the left side of the road—the correct side—to the right, and then starts to jog around a right-hand blind curve. A driver coming into the turn would naturally keep to the far right, to avoid oncoming drivers who may be cutting the bend too tight, and could end Premier Wynne’s running career in an instant.
Yes, it’s only a commercial, but I see enough people walking incorrectly on the rural roads around my house to know that the message just isn’t getting across to people.
Although it’s not a requirement, I even try to walk facing traffic when I’m on the sidewalk. It allows me to watch the oncoming cars that are the immediate danger, and I always look over my shoulder when crossing streets or wide driveways for cars turning from the opposite side behind me.
Those on foot may always have the right-of-way over cars, but it’s also possible to be “dead wrong.” No matter what the circumstances, when it’s car versus pedestrian, the car always wins—and even a politician can’t change that.