A reader recently wrote our guide to Family Fitness, Catherine Holecko, with the following question:
Can you tell me about the "rules of the road" for families when you have mixed modes of exercising? Dad's walking the dog while kids are on bikes. Or a parent runs, and a child is on a bike. I run, and of course I'm supposed to be on the left side of the road going against traffic. Sometimes, my daughter accompanies me on her bicycle on quieter streets. As a cyclist, she's supposed to be on the right side of the road. She's faster on a bicycle and will get ahead of me, but then circle back around. This could be a double distraction for drivers with me on one side and her on the other. Should we be on our respective sides of the road, or should one of our modes be the "rule" that we both follow?
The guidance in this situation depends really on the difference in speed between the pair. If the bike rider is slow or the runner is fast enough that they stay together most of the time, then they should stay together on the right side of the road, traveling with traffic (in the U.S. and other parts of the world following the same traffic convention). For cyclists, riding on the left is bad bad bad due due to the tendency for people to make right turns while only looking back left for oncoming traffic just assuming it's clear for the turn in front of them.
However, when the bike rider is faster (which will be most of the time), each person should maintain their own sides of the street, traveling the correct way according to the rules. This means the person on foot should be on the left, facing traffic, and the bike rider should be on the right, going with it.
The real dilemma here is in the different speeds of rider and person on foot, and the cyclist's need to be circling back pretty regularly since they will be going faster. In this situation, the parent on foot can almost always see child rider, both coming toward mom/dad on the lefthand side and going away from her on the right side. And that places both people are where they are supposed to be for maximum safety from vehicle traffic.