They All Want Their Share Of The Road

Posted: June 03, 1990

The big car made a sharp, quick left into the King of Prussia driveway that early April afternoon, missing Corinne Tuckey-Larus, who was running on the sidewalk, by inches.

"Watch where you're driving," the young physician yelled to the driver, who would have struck her if another runner had not pulled her to safety.

"Watch where you're running," the driver screamed back.

As sure as winter turns to spring, waves of runners, bicyclists and walkers take to the river drives of the city and the winding back roads of the suburbs on warm mornings and evenings in search of scenic peace and healthful exercise.

But journeys intended as idyllic escapes - not to mention the routine walks and bike rides to school or work - all too often deteriorate into close calls, confrontations and shouting matches with drivers who see those on two feet or two wheels as human obstacles on already overcrowded streets and roadways.

Outbursts of anger between runners and motorists in the congested Philadelphia region are not a new or particularly engaging phenomenon to the local police. As Tuckey-Larus found out where she called to complain, there is virtually nothing they can do.

Tuckey-Larus, 28, a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Lankenau Hospital, was fortunate to have had only a verbal clash with a driver. Her two sisters, Desiree Tuckey, 23, and Monique Nester, 25, were struck and badly injured on Feb. 10 while running near their parents' home in Montgomery County. The driver was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and is awaiting trial.

"It comes down to a basic conflict for space," said Lower Merion Police Superintendent Henry E. Hasson.

Officers in the affluent township on the edge of Philadelphia field a steady flow of complaints from motorists who narrowly avoided accidents and runners and cyclists who almost got hit. "Most of them are unprintable," he said.

There are plenty of safe drivers, considerate runners and careful cyclists, Hasson said. But there also are motorists who are inattentive and speed, joggers who wear headphones and cannot hear traffic, and "people who have not been on a bicycle since their adolescence, since grade school."

"A lot of people who ride bicycles don't know that motor vehicle laws apply to them, and they do," Hasson said. "They must stop for stop signs and traffic lights."

Pennsylvania code requires walkers and runners to face traffic and cyclists to ride with traffic, he said, but these rules often are ignored.

Tuckey-Larus said she and her sisters, who all ran on the track team at Methacton High School, have followed every safety rule - and have been hit anyway.

She was bumped in the thigh in March by a driver who turned on a red light and did not see her.

Her two sisters still are recovering from the February accident when they were hit from behind near Evansburg State Park on the edge of Worcester Township, she said.

She said she wears bright clothing and often carries a whistle to blow at cars she thinks might be coming toward her in a threatening way.

"Still, it's not ideal," she said. "Nothing's ideal."

As the population grows, there are more drivers, more runners, more cyclists - and a growing toll of injuries and deaths.

* William Trainor, 44, a police officer in Lacey Township, N.J., was killed in Ocean County on May 9 when he was hit by a car as he jogged along Lacey Road after working the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift.

* Howard Cohen, 42, of Devon, was critically injured May 8 while riding his bicycle along Paoli Pike in Willistown Township, Chester County. Police said they were unsure whether Cohen was hit by a truck or lost control when the truck passed him.

* William G. Vogel, 46, a high school track coach in Haddon Township, died Dec. 21 after he was hit by a car while jogging in Washington Township. An avid runner, he had competed in many races in the area.

* Ronald Haggart, 32, of Levittown, was killed April 2 when the bicycle he was riding along a Bucks County road was struck by a car. Police said Haggart was riding east on Bristol Pike in Bristol Township about 11:20 p.m. when he was struck near Janet Avenue.

"It's pretty rough out there," said Ed Bean, a runner who owns The Runner's Edge, a sportswear shop in Paoli. "I actually witnessed a runner get hit on Bethlehem Pike in Montgomery County about six months ago."

While no one keeps precise statistics, Bean said he was convinced that there were more runners because sales of running gear have been up and race entries have climbed for the last few years.

"One of the reasons we enjoy running is because we can go out our door and start the sport right away," Bean said. "If we had to drive five or 10 miles to a track to run, it would take the fun out of it."

"I've seen the problem," said Roy Hanshaw, director of public affairs for the Keystone Automobile Club, who also is the commissioner of public safety in Springfield Township, Montgomery County.

"Bicycles and joggers are a problem for motorists," he said. "We hear

from motorists who ask why the bikers can't use bike paths."

George W. Fasic, executive director of the Chester County Planning

Commission, said the problem was as simple as outdated roads and too few running and biking areas.

"But I don't understand the jogger who wants to run and breathe the carbon monoxide," he said. "It's not the most healthy air."

"Unless there is a fatality, they are undaunted," said Delaware County planner Isaac K. Takyi. "They are just going to do it anyway."

"Most of my near-misses have been on my bicycle," said John Swaren, 32, the manager of an engineering consulting firm in Malvern who also trains a group of 18 top-rated women triathletes known as Team XX-Caliber.

"It's not the drivers' fault," Swaren said. "It's the way the roads are laid out. They are old cowpaths with no shoulders."

Swaren, an avid cyclist, said several friends he has ridden with over the years have been killed in collisions with cars.

"Half the drivers out there just don't know what they're doing," said Steven L. Harad, 22, a former bicycle racer who now operates Steve's Bike & Fitness in Norristown. "There are too many car phones, and there is too much one-handed driving."

According to Harad, national statistics show that there are more accidents on bicycles than on motorcycles, but that fatal bicycle accidents have decreased because more cyclists are wearing helmets.

"Valley Forge Park has become a place where people go," he said. "But it's gotten so congested that it's safer to ride on the roads. We get more bike crashes from the park than we do from the roads."

Cyclists are running into joggers or other cyclists, he said.

"Tell those people who jog and ride bicycles that they have to obey the traffic laws, too," said a Chester County police officer who has investigated a number of accidents involving bicyclists and runners.

"These roads are narrow and they don't have shoulders," he said. "When you have a 20-foot-wide road and two tractor-trailers are passing in opposite directions, there's no room left."

Nancy Tuckey, the mother of the three sisters who have been hit, has come up with her own strategy for protecting her daughters from motorists.

She becomes a motorist.

"I absolutely refuse to let them run on the streets again without my being there," she said. "I'm there behind them with my car in low gear and my hazard lights flashing."

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