Runners v walkers - who has right of way?

Runners vs walkers: who owns the pavement in the battle of the pedestrians?

Posted by for Workouts

Ever been shoved to the side by an aggro runner looking at their Garmin? Or run into a phone zombie strolling across your path without so much as a glance in your direction? Runners and walkers have been rubbing each other up the wrong way for years – but who’s in the right? 

“Bloody WALKERS!” I yelled as I slammed the door after my morning run the other day. The whole way round my 10km route, I’d run into couples walking two-abreast, parents walking SUV-sized prams and people glued to their screens who just stepped in front of runners, cyclists, cars and buses without a care in the world. 

But my rage wasn’t shared with my pal, who only ever walks. “Why shouldn’t people enjoy a weekend wander?” they retorted, equally exasperated by the entitled runners and joggers who think that the Regent’s Canal is the final stretch of the London Marathon.

Runners and walkers have been at it for years but lockdown, Covid and the increasing interest in spending time outdoors to avoid picking up Omicron down the gym has meant that more of us than ever are moving in parks, on towpaths and around greens. And not all of us have got our pedestrian etiquette sorted. So, in the war of the pavement, who wins? We got two bitter opponents to battle it out.

The walker – Siam Goorwich

Look, I’m not saying that all runners are selfish bastards who are so pumped up by a relentless playlist of up-tempo bangers and their uncontrollable need to beat their PB that they’ll happily bowl over anyone who dares to cross their path – but, you know, I’d say a fair few fit that description.

Siam's favourite place to walk is in the forest or out in green spaces where she's surrounded by nature (until a runner comes to disturb the peace).
Siam's favourite place to walk is in the forest or out in green spaces where she's surrounded by nature (until a runner comes to disturb the peace).

As with many other public interactions, the pandemic has only exacerbated the tension between road runners and us folk who like to take their daily constitutional at a more leisurely pace. Where once my only concern was being knocked off my feet, now I’m also fearful of being struck down by the ‘rona every time a space-invading runner pants in my face (something that happens worryingly frequently).

The narrow canal paths – a lovely place to take a leisurely stroll, you’d hope – are particularly treacherous, with runners and cyclists flying at you like walker-seeking missiles. 

And therein lies the crux of the issue for me; when it comes to outdoor running etiquette, runners should observe the rules of the road and give way to slower moving ‘traffic’. And no, my bitterness has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that my body is physically incapable of running unless the ground beneath me is moving too (yes I’m a treadmill stan, what of it?).

The runner – Dottie Fildes

When it comes to pounding the pavements, whether it be a slow-tempo run or mixed-speed intervals, there are often many external factors to take into consideration; weather, route plan, junctions, traffic lights, the general public… I know I’m not the only one who’s huffed or tutted their way past a seemingly innocent stroller who just so happens to be in the way, but what exactly are the rules and etiquette of the pavements? Where’s the Highway Code for those?

I am all for the consideration of others, but there is nothing as infuriating on a run (that requires a hell of a lot of motivation and willpower just to get out the door in the first place) than finding your path obstructed by a group of pals taking up the full width of the pathway.

I know, I know – it’s annoying when you’re taking a casual Sunday walk with a bestie and you’ve got to spend the majority of it in single file, talking over your shoulder to one another, but it can be more frustrating than having to constantly break your concentration and cardiovascular exertion to plead: “Excuse me, sorry, can I just get past…?” every few yards.

Let’s be real here: runners love chatting about running above all else. We’re always trying to encourage our mates to start jogging. Most of us are virtually running evangelicals – so to suggest that we make the pavements an unwelcome place for people to move is laughable. But walkers could offer the same level of encouragement by giving us just a smidgen of wiggle room on the side of the pavement.

Let us know which opinion you side with on Instagram (@StrongWomenUK).

Images: Getty/Siam Goorwich/Dottie Fildes

Share this article

Miranda Larbi

Miranda Larbi is the editor of Strong Women and Strong Women Training Club. A qualified personal trainer and vegan runner, she can usually be found training for the next marathon, seeking out vegan treats or cycling across London on a pond-green Tokyo bike.