Tips for Safe Rural Road Walking.

Walking the safe way? What am I, four years old? I hear you say…

As many of you know or should know, a pavement shares its border with the road. Pavements are designated footpaths solely for pedestrian use. Pedestrians have the right of way i.e traffic must give way to the pedestrian at all times, this also includes pedestrian crossings.

However, head towards the countryside and you’ll enter the world of the rural road.

Rural roads are by design notoriously narrow, twisty and blind-spot abundant. As a driver, alert levels are heightened. Why? two factors:

  1. Lack of width
  2. Oncoming vehicles

I can summarise the countryside driving experience in two words – stress inducing.

As a pedestrian, rural roads have no pavements, so as a walker navigating them safely can be at times a tricky ordeal.

Safe Rural Road Walking

These are guidelines and designed to help keep you safe.

Keep in mind: Common sense is a requirement for safe travel, sadly levels can and do vary from person-to-person.

As a regular walker of rural roads myself, I ask that you respect the environment and the vehicles. You do not own the road! if you think otherwise and feel the need to misplace your other remaining braincell, then you do you! Your family has my deepest condolences.

So, prick up your ears and let’s get started.

Listening to music

So, you want to keep motivated on that long walk. What do you do? You take away one of the two most important senses you have – hearing.

I really cannot emphasise this enough – get your brand new noise cancelling AirPods you’ve just paid an ungodly price for out of your ears. This goes for the over-ear headphone wearers too!

General mobile phone usage

A rural road walk should be enjoyed, the last thing you want to do is for your attention to deviate to a soulless (but incredibly useful) lump of plastic and precious mentals.

By all means, keep your phone on for emergencies, pedometer data and for taking pretty pictures, only.

Large groups

Large groups on rural roads can potentially create their own issues.

Large groups of walkers clogging up the road is one problem, the other – group communication. The larger the group, the greater the chance that chatter will happen.

I’m not saying you should be totally silent on your walk, just be aware and ask yourself – is this compromising safety? If yes, then do something, if no – enjoy your walk!

If there’s a rampant chatter in your group, some one-on-one diplomacy might be required.

My own walking group for example has a maximum group size of 7, including myself.

Your environment

Safe countryside walking is usually governed by two of your senses:

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing

Here, I’ll cover some lesser-known safety topics for you to look out for when you’re on your next jaunt.

Tight corners

Possibly one of my biggest walking concerns are blind/tight country roads.

Both your visual and auditory senses should be working overtime. It’s advised you assess your situation prior to corner arrival.

As you can see from the example picture above, a large portion of the road will be taken up by an oncoming vehicle.

As you can see, the corner is left turning, so, I need to be positioning myself on the right, that way the driver will/should see me a lot earlier than if I was positioned on the left. I can also see a safe spot to dip into on the corner’s apex.

Remember: Assess your situation, quickly. Be seen as early as possible. Look for safe spots to use.

The diagram below shows you an example of a tight right corner with line-of-sight, pedestrian positioning and vehicle labels.

Note: Pedestrians do have the right-of-way on country roads. However, this does not mean you have no responsibilities.

when you see a vehicle, you should always make sure the driver sees you as early as possible. Your goal then, should be to move to a safe spot where driver and pedestrian pass one another without incident.

It’s also good practice to respectfully acknowledge the driver.

Wind noise

Wind Noise or Aeolian sound is a sound the wind makes when blowing over or through solid objects.

Your ears for example are great aeolian sound generators. I’m sure you’ve heard that whooshing noise on a blustery day, well that’s aeolian sound.

For the rural road walker, this sound presents a problem that will almost render your ability to hear traffic next to useless. Obviously, this is something that we actively want to avoid if we can.

We can’t stop nature from doing its thing. So, what can we do to minimise the whoosh?

When the whooshing happens simply turn your head into the wind. A simple 90 degree (left or right) turn of your head will all but eliminate the whooshing sound!

The Achilles heel of this strategy is that it’s almost useless when you introduce rustling trees. If this is the case, you’re going to have to be on your guard and unfortunately let those natural tones have their wicked ways!

Overhanging branches

Overhanging branches are another hazard you need to be aware of. Local authorities (councils) are somewhat lax when it comes to the pruning and maintenance of over-hanging tree branches.

Falling branches can cause serious injury and death. Be especially on your guard when the wind starts to pick-up.

While incidents like this are rare, it still helps to be vigilant for those ‘just in case’ moments.

Daylight

If you’re intentionally taking a rural road walk at night, then one: you’re a fool, two: You need help and three: why?!

With the changing of the seasons comes a change in light availability. The early risers amongst you will find the (UK) Summer months of June, July and August peak sunrise for your morning wander. Similarly, June, July and August are optimal for the afternoon/evening walkers where daylight dwindles at around 9pm.

Whether you’re a morning or afternoon walker, it doesn’t take a genius to process this most basic of common-sense rules – think.

Remember

Walking rural roads safely does require some for thought. The lack of pavements, the narrow roads, oncoming vehicles and varying environmental conditions all need your careful consideration.

Fail to plan and you plan to fail.

Respect the road! Enjoy it! Be safe!

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