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Tips to run safely in downtown Chicago

You live in Chicago, but you don't want a gym membership to stay fit. You just want to get out and jog a few miles every day. You know that you could drive to a park or even out of the city to do it, but that adds so much time to what may just be a 20- or 30-minute run. You'd rather just get out on the sidewalks near your apartment.

Here's the problem: Traffic in the city is very congested. Running always feels dangerous when you're by the road. What can you do to stay safe? How can you protect yourself from inattentive drivers? Here are a few tips from the Road Runners Club of America:

  • Always run toward the cars, whether you're on the shoulder or the sidewalk. You need to observe them and look for hazards. Running with the cars at your back is dangerous because you have no reaction time when an overtaking driver makes a mistake. If they're ahead of you, you at least get a second or two to react.
  • Don't wear your headphones. We know. That one hurts. Most runners wear headphones and love them, especially on long runs, but it's very dangerous around heavy traffic. You need to hear everything and be as alert and distraction-free as possible. Listening to music, audiobooks or podcasts puts you at risk.
  • Don't jaywalk. Don't try to run across against the walk signal. It's sometimes tempting since you don't want to break your stride. Maybe you're tracking your pace and waiting at a traffic light ruins it. Even so, you need to stop and only cross legally, with the walk signal.
  • For early and late runs, stick to well-lit areas. If it's dark, even slightly, you blend into the shadows as a runner. Drivers may not see you. Seek out a well-lit route where there are no questions about visibility.
  • Run with others or with a dog. Groups are more visible and often safer than individuals.
  • Think carefully about what you wear. Your most comfortable running clothes may be gray or black, but does that make you harder to see? Would you be better off with bright colors and reflective clothes?
  • Bring your phone. You can use it as a light when you run in the dark; the bouncing light is very visible to drivers. You can also call for help right away if you need it.

Staying safe while running is possible, but city running will always have some inherent dangers. You could get injured, and it may be serious. If so, make sure you know what legal options you have.

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