Where the sidewalk ends

Illustration by Brianna Gunter

Like many students seeking a more interesting running route than the treadmills in the Packer Gym (which, by the way, could really use some TVs or motivational posters in front of them), I turn to the Loop. With its scenic views and length of nearly two miles, the Loop, aka Metzger Drive, seems at a glance to be the ideal place to go for a run, bike ride or at times even a leisurely walk with friends.

Still, the lack of sidewalks in most areas and other safety concerns make it far from ideal. Just the other week, I was rounding the corner near the Forcina parking garage (Lot 12) when I suddenly was forced to jump out of the way of an oncoming car. I had been running very close to the curb in an attempt to avoid such a situation, but it happened nonetheless.

The speed limit around the Loop is only 25 miles per hour, but most drivers I’ve seen appear to ignore this—  particularly when no Campus Police vehicles are in clear sight. Even so, trees and buildings make it difficult even for drivers going the speed limit to spot runners around bends until they are practically right on top of them.

As many of us frequent Loop runners are all too painfully aware, sidewalks only run along less than half of Metzger Drive. The rest of the route is filled with very uneven terrain, rocky areas and weird combinations of thick grass and dirt that are unsuitable for running. At one spot near the Science Complex, one has to either dash up a grassy mound and jump off a small stone wall, or run straight out into the road where there is literally no shoulder.

The option of running in the road is always there, of course, but here there is the risk of being mowed down by passing vehicles like I almost was. I understand that installing more sidewalks would result in more construction costs, but is saving money really worth skimping on basic safety?

There are various signs that have been posted along the Loop in recent years that urge runners to stay on the side facing traffic for safety purposes, but most people with common sense already know to do this. And because of the various conditions I listed earlier, running facing traffic doesn’t necessarily make you safer. Yes, it is still a good thing that these signs are posted, but a far better investment would just be to install more sidewalks. In the meantime, drivers, please be a little more mindful of those of us on our feet.