Running Legal, Running Safe: Guide to Running Outdoors

Running legal, running safe

Gym closures due to COVID-19 have forced millions of people nationwide to adjust workout routines.  Runners, torn from their treadmills and elliptical machines, have hit the streets in record numbers to stay fit.  Even as many states slowly phase gyms back into operation, many people continue to run outdoors to maintain social distancing.  As businesses re-open and folks return to work, traffic on our roads will surely increase.  To ensure the safety of “workout warriors,” runners must know the laws governing their interaction with the vehicles around them.

running legal

More and more people turned to outdoor exercise with warmer weather and gym closures.

Do You Need to Run on the Sidewalk?

The Code of Virginia has many statutes dealing with the interaction of pedestrians — of which runners form a subset — and motor vehicles. The most pertinent statute may be §46.2-928, which states

“Pedestrians shall not use the roadways for travel, except when necessary to do so because of the absence of sidewalks which are reasonably suitable and passable for their use.”

In other words, if there is a usable sidewalk, runners must use that instead of running on the road with vehicles.  But what if there is no sidewalk?  Under that scenario, §46.2-928 directs runners to “keep to the extreme left side or edge” of the roadway.  Plainly stated, runners must run as far to the left as possible facing oncoming traffic, giving drivers the best opportunity to observe the pedestrian.  If the road has shoulders – those narrow strips of pavement on the side of the travel lanes – runners may use either the left or right shoulder if no sidewalks exist, according to §46.2-928.

Crossing the Road

To safely navigate through busy roadways, runners should know and understand what §46.2-923.  This code section commands runners to cross only at intersections or marked crosswalks whenever possible. Where intersections contain no marked crosswalks, pedestrians should cross the road “by the most direct route.”  Once the runner is in a marked crosswalk, drivers must yield the right-of-way to that runner.

Additional Tips

  1. Runners should try their best to be highly visible to drivers,  especially  5 A.M early risers or those who run at dusk. Street runners should wear bright colors (orange, lime green) and invest in a reflective vest or a wearable LED light – these relatively inexpensive items may save your life.


  1. Remember to run against traffic, even if you don’t like facing headlights; it’s the law, and the car you don’t see coming behind you may not see you either.


  1. Avoid running solo – runners are more visible when they travel in packs.  However, if you must jog on your own, notify someone about your anticipated route.  That way, if something bad does occur, help will find you more quickly.


  1. Remain present while you run and avoid distractions. Listening to music or podcasts may make a run more fun, but you may not  be able to hear potential hazards.


  1. Respect vehicles even when you have the right of way. Whether the car or the runner has the right of way in a situation, a collision is likely to be far worse for the runner.


If you or a loved one are injured due to the negligence of someone else, the attorneys at Allen & Allen are here to help. Give us a call or fill out our contact form to find out if you have a claim.

Run happy. Run safe. Run legal.